Are You Trying or Experimenting?

I experiment a lot. I attempt something, measure my results, use those measurements to see what’s going on, reassess and change my attempt for the next time. I do this with my weight training at the gym, my writing, my book writing and production, and my work. When I experiment, I can inspect and adapt. I can refine. I can improve.

I did this when I was a developer. I noticed the kinds defects I wrote. I kept a log. What kinds of infinite loops did I write? I used a log to keep a list. That is a kind of measurement. As a writer, I notice what my copyeditors notice. I keep a list. As a speaker, what kinds of feedback do I receive? I keep a list. These are measurements. I can experiment with my work, get the feedback, and try something else.

As a writer, I experiment “internally”, too. I’ve experimented with writing fast and writing slow. I discovered that writing fast, getting the words out without editing is faster and better for me. I do a better job at getting my ideas across to my readers when I write in Markdown, just getting the words out. When I write in a text editor, I am slower, and I tend to edit as I go. My results are worse.

At the gym, I often think, “I can’t.” That’s my default position. (I keep saying I’m a work in progress :-) But I have learned that I probably can. I have learned to think of the first set as an experiment. “If I experiment with this first set and see what happens, I can use these results to inform my second and third sets.” That’s also the growth mindset.

But notice, I said experiment, not try. I said I measured, and used the results of those measurements to reassess and change, based on the results of my measurements. That’s how I know I’m experimenting.

If I was “trying,” instead of “experimenting,” I wouldn’t be measuring. I wouldn’t be adapting based on my measurements.

When we solve problems, sometimes we try—an effort-based approach. Sometimes we experiment—a measurement-based approach. I find it useful to discriminate between the two.

Trying is an attempt without measurement behind it. Experimenting adds the idea of measurement. We will inspect, measure, assess what we have completed. We might even adapt what we do, before we abandon it.

If you’re eating, trying is fine. You don’t have to experiment when you eat. But to learn, to change, to grow? You need to experiment. How else do you know what works, as opposed to what you think works?

This week, I’m at Agile 2014, the big conference about agile. Some people are confused about whether they are trying or experimenting. They call what they do experimenting, but they aren’t measuring anything. They aren’t using measurements to assess and change, based on their results. They try something, declare it a success or failure, and continue. But they have no data.

The problem is, you can’t inspect and adapt without knowing your data. Well, you can. That’s called randomness. You can do anything you want. But if you want to experiment, based on reality, you need data.

Trying new things is great. Experimenting is great. Let’s not get the two of them confused. When you try, you make an attempt. You don’t necessarily have any data to back you up. With experiments, you have a hypothesis, you collect data will explain your hypothesis. Let me rephrase Yoda, “There is no try; there is only experiment.” Okay, my geekiness is showing. Experimenting is a form of doing.

I met someone briefly yesterday who said, “Our developers always lowball their story estimates for an iteration. They can’t break their tasks down enough. How can we help them to not do that?” (For my non-software readers, stories are the requirements, and the iteration is a one- or two-week timebox.)

I asked, “Did they talk about this in the retrospective? Because this is not an estimation problem. Well, it might be. But it’s almost always a story-is-too-big problem. I would start by looking at the stories, and not by breaking down the tasks. What experiments have you tried?”

She looked at me with that Oooohhhh look. You know that look, the one where someone says something to you that you know you should have thought of yourself, but you didn’t. One of the big transition problems in agile is that teams have trouble making small stories. We know this. Teams need to experiment with their right way to break the stories down.

Try is one way. Without data, you cannot win. Experiment is better. Measure and improve. Inspect and adapt.

So, gentle readers, the question of the week is: Are you trying or experimenting? If you know the difference, your adaptable problem solving could improve.

Are Your Default Choices Costing You More Than You Think?

I just read this article about drivers on the Tobin bridge. There are still 28% of the drivers who do not have the E-ZPass, to pay the automated tolls.

I got my pass at least ten years ago, back when it cost me $20 to buy a transponder. It was worth it. My time, to avoid the toll lines, was worth the money. I chose to automate. In case you are wondering, you can use the E-ZPass all over the toll roads in New England, and—I believe—wherever there is a toll road in the US. Don’t quote me on this, because I haven’t done the research. But in New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York,  these states have reciprocal agreements with the E-ZPass. In this case, it’s worth automating. Your time is literally worth the money.

Not all automation is worth it. For example, I bake my own baked goods. Partly because I low carb, and what I can buy that I am willing to eat is too processed, too expensive, and frankly, what I cook tastes better. The time I invest is worth it. Yes, even with my vertigo. I choose to not automate my baking.

But, I want to consider the value of my time against the value of the end product. Will I receive the value that is worth my time investment?

We think about this a lot when we think about test automation, certainly at the system test level. You have to think hard about when is the right time to automate a test, and where. I say, automate everything underneath the GUI. I know, not all of you will agree with me. So be it.

But what about at a personal level? What is the cost of automating your gutter cleaner? How about your electronic toll paying? How about having your house cleaned for you? That is a form of automation.

I’ve automated part of my backup strategy. I have an automated backup that backs up to a site on the internet whenever I’m connected to the net (Backblaze). I don’t have to think about my backups.

Once you do the hard work of automation, it works for you repeatedly. It’s the decision and setup that’s difficult.

Not making the decision is a decision. And, that is the problem. If you have a default mode of not making a decision, you might never automate.

I wonder about those people who drive the Tobin Bridge, day after day, who don’t have an E-ZPass. Oh, sure, some of them might be from out of town. Maybe some of them are car rentals, where the rental agencies want an arm and two legs, and maybe somebody else’s first born child as a deposit just so you can pay the toll. It might be easier to see if you can skip on not paying the toll. Or see if you can pay cash.

But, I bet a bunch of those people just haven’t made the decision. “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” “Maybe someday.” “I’m kinda busy.”

It’s a default choice to do nothing.

So, I spent $20 a decade ago, to not have to wait in line at the tolls. I have more than made that return by not having to think about cash for the tolls, by not having to think about the problem. I have prevented this problem from occurring.

I have prevented the backup problem from occurring. I have risk insurance if my hard drive dies. I hope I never need it. But if I do? I have it.

When we solve problems, we don’t always solve a problem that occurs right now. Sometimes we solve problems that have not occurred yet. We manage risks that might happen.

When we don’t think ahead—just a little—and make the same default choices, they can cost more than we think. We don’t automate. We don’t manage risks. We don’t give ourselves choices. We just take the same old ways, the same defaults that we always have been.

Gentle readers, this week’s question of the week is: What are your default choices? Have they cost you more than you think?

Have You Updated Your Mental Map?

When Mark and I moved, we didn’t move far. Less than two miles, to the “other” side of town. But those two miles has changed how we drive everywhere.

Our routes have changed: to the grocery store, to the Post Office, to the gym, you name it.  We changed everything about the default way we started and ended our drives. That means we have to update our mental maps of the town we have lived in for the past 30+ years.

You might think this is easy. Ha! We might as well have moved 50 miles away instead of the under two miles we moved. We are on the “wrong” side of my map for everything. I need my GPS to know the right ways to get places. None of the  landmarks in this neighborhood are “right” yet.

Does this sound like one of your projects, or does this sound like you, when you are deep in learning? It might. You don’t have your bearings yet. You don’t yet know what to expect. All you know is that the old ways don’t work. But the new ways aren’t comfortable yet.

That’s exactly where we are. The new ways aren’t comfortable yet. But going back to the old ways? That would be nuts. It would add much more time to my driving. I don’t want to do that.

We have to update our mental models, our maps of our problem solving. We have to adapt our old rules to integrate new ones. We are learning to do so. We are still in practice and integration.

Satir Change ModelHow long will it take until the driving is second nature? I don’t know. I suspect I will just drive one day, realize I didn’t think about how to get to where I was going, or how to get home, and say, “Oh, I did it!” I will know then, that I have finished learning my way around this neighborhood.

Learning a new map takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Learning any new skill takes time. How long? As with any really good question, the only adequate answer is, “It depends.” It depends on how often you practice. It depends on how purposefully you practice.

Esther Schindler once told me that once you had written 100,000 words, you were a writer. I have amended that to once you have written and received feedback on 100,000 words, now you are a writer. For those of you who are not sure, 100,000 words is about the size of one published novel or 100 short articles. Either one of those will make you a writer.

When people transition to agile, my rule of thumb is that it takes 5-7 iterations. It doesn’t matter how long the iterations are. Why? Because it’s all about feedback. That’s why I urge teams to use two-week iterations. Short iterations provide you feedback that much more often.

Are you trying to learn a new natural language? Practice with another person. You get the feedback.

Trying to learn a new computer language? Write short programs. Compile often. I tell you this from my experience. Once you have mastered short programs, then you create longer programs. Even better, integrate practices such as test-driven development or behavior-driven development. Why? Because those practices are not about testing. Those practices are about design and thinking in the language. If you do those with other people and pair or mob/swarm, you will get more feedback even more often. Why? You have the benefit of more people suggesting “Do this here, do that there.” Or, “What about this here or that there?” It’s constant design and code review. Feedback, all the time. It’s your programming GPS talking to you, all the time. And, you talking back. Much better than your car GPS.

Here’s a link to the article that says we make ourselves into experts (HBR registration required). I like that article, because it says we use the growth mindset. It’s all about feedback.

And, the 10,000 hour rule? What Malcom Gladwell said was if you have the innate talent and interest, and you deliberately practice, then 10,000 hours seems to be the right amount of preparation. Maybe. Here is a quote from Outliers: The Story of Success that I think is even better:

Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.

It takes time for us to update our maps. I don’t think it will take me 10,000 hours for me to learn how to drive to and from our new house. But, it will take longer than a week. BTW, I started drafting this post a couple of weeks ago. I now have updated my mental maps.

So, dear adaptable problem solvers, the question of the week this week is: Have you updated your mental map?

What Does “Have It All” Mean?

I read Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All a while ago. I was stunned. Why does anyone think they can have it all, at the same time?

I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged—and quickly changed.

I have never believed that. I don’t believe in nonsense such as “work/life balance” either. I say this in Manage Your Job Search:

There is no such thing as work life balance. There is only life. Live it.

You need to decide for yourself what “having it all” means to you. You have to have your own personal definition of success.

When we decide on success, when we know what “having it all” means, then we can make our choices. Each of us has to decide on our personal project portfolios. We have to decide when to say yes and when to say no. Many of those decisions are difficult.

What you need to decide for yourself is what you want for your career, your family, and your legacy. These are not easy questions.

What do you think is your legacy?

I work hard enough that my books and articles will be my legacy, in addition to my family. However, it was clear to me, that my family was my primary legacy. I am ambitious. My achievements matter to me. I want to do the best job I know how. And yet, what matters the most to me? My family.

When it came time to make decisions about what to do for my jobs, I made decisions that would allow me to be able to give my babies their baths. I helped with homework. I only volunteered once in the classroom, because I don’t have the patience. (You’re not surprised, right?) I volunteered to be on the after school program board. I walked/drove the girls to the camp bus and picked them up.

In the 22 years that both of us traveled and the girls lived at home, we had three times that we had to get someone to stay with them, because the work was too important for one of us to say, “No” to the travel. Just three times. Those were our choices. They are not yours. These choices were difficult, at times.

My choices are mine, and not yours.

Could I have been a different consultant? I’m sure. What if Mark had made different choices? My goodness.

We chose to live our lives so that we maximized our family life, and still had great careers while we raised our children. It wasn’t fashionable to do it that way in the last 20-25 years. It won’t be fashionable in the next 20, either. But here’s one thing I have learned:

You cannot have it all, not at the same time.

I have leaned in, as Sheryl Sandberg says, my entire life. I’m still leaning. (Yes, that’s a vertigo joke :-)

If we want to have great careers and great families, we all need to adapt—businesses, families, marriages. And, we definitely need to adapt our expectations of ourselves and what is reasonable.

Over your career, you will want different things at different times. You can think of your career as a problem to solve, a little at a time. Don’t think you will want the same thing over the course of your life.

In my 20′s, I learned about software engineering, software development, bicycling, and kissed many frogs. I found Mark, and married him just before I turned 30. In my 30′s, I learned more about the dynamics of software project management, software program management, software management, how to raise children, how to be a partner and spouse. In my 40′s, I learned how to balance my needs as a person with my family’s needs (which was not easy!) when I started my business. In this decade, I am learning how to balance my condition’s needs with my desire to work.

Life is a balancing act.

So, think about what you want. Only you can define success for yourself. Do you know what “it all” is? Do you know why you want it? Once you do, you can make your choice, for now, and re-evaluate later. Doesn’t this sound like project portfolio management?

Gentlewomen, gentlemen, you fine adaptable problem solvers, there are two parts to the question for this week: What is “it all?” Do you think you can arrange your life so you can have it? That is the meaning behind “What does “have it all” mean?

Where Is the Manual?

We are still learning the ins and outs of our new house, including the HVAC system. We have a nifty heat pump system.

Now, I know what you are thinking, because I thought it, too. “You live in New England, Johanna. A heat pump? What are you thinking?” We have backup radiators for when the temperature gets below the teens in the winter. This would not work for northern New England, or the midwest. But it should work here. (Famous last words.) The people who installed it assured us it would work. (Famous last words.)

One of the things they told us is that the house would be balanced. The entire house would be the same temperature. I looked the guy cockeyed. “How are you going to do that, with all three bedrooms on one zone, the kitchen/family room on one zone, the living room/dining room on one zone, but all those zones are only for the radiators? The heat pump is all one zone for the entire house, right?”

“Of course. The heat pump works on the entire house.”

“We have windows all over the house. We have different size rooms all over the house. But each room has the same size vent and we have three returns. I’m not an HVAC person, but I do not understand how the same size vent and three returns in different size rooms will create the same temperature in each room.”

The guy gave me the “little woman is too stupid to understand look.” He said, “Believe me, it will work.”

I read fantasy. I read science fiction. I read paranormal romance. I suspend belief for those. I want to live in this house and not believe in magic.

I didn’t tell him I have a Master’s degree in Systems Engineering. Maybe I should have. But I don’t have any courses in HVAC. I don’t understand HVAC. I do understand flow and return. I do understand systems. I am a terrific problem solver. I don’t understand if you put the same amount of coldness or heat in the same pipe into different size rooms, how the system “understands” how to cool or heat them. It’s magic. Yeah, right.

Our first two weeks here, I had a terrible head cold, so I walked around with my winter jacket, because the house was so cold. In my office, the temperature was 70 degrees. (Everything here is Fahrenheit. Sorry, my Celsius readers.) But, the kitchen/family room was 75 degrees. The thermostat was set at 73. Something Was Wrong.

Mark and I started to fight about the temperature. I kept turning it up, because I was freezing. We finally closed the vent in my office. My office was still freezing, if I left the door open.

We went on a family vacation to Key West last week, where I finally got warm. (Ah, the temps were in the high 80′s, low 90′s, and it was humid. I felt great. Everyone else said it was oppressive, but I only felt oppressed in the sun. My cold finally cleared up. Ahhhh.)

When we returned, the house was at 69. 69!!!! Clearly, the magic thermostat had magically gone haywire. It’s not just me being cold. It was Broken. Mark agreed. The Magic thermostat was Broken!

That night, the AC stopped working, and I woke up at 2:30 am hot. Great, the one time I need to be cold, and I wake up hot. The program was not working. Darn software.

I decided the thermostat that was supposed to determine the temperature was not calibrated. I was either going to calibrate it, or I was going to take it offline. I was going to reprogram the thermostat. I took control. (You are not surprised, are you?)

I sent an email to our builder, asking for the manual. Mark had been programming the thermostat, but it wasn’t working. “Auto” was clearly not working. What happened if we used “Cool”? The thermostat has Auto, Cool, Fan, and Heat. I want the manual, so I know what I’m doing.

The very nice guy calls while we are eating dinner. Mark thinks he’s going to intercept the call. Ha! No chance. I’m the one who works out of the house. We both need to be on the call. I want the manual. Believe me, I want this manual.

First, this nice guy talks us through bypassing the thermistor in the thermostat. He has the manual. Of course. I want his manual. But it’s the tech support manual. I can’t get it. But his manual is so bad, we get an error code. He has to call the manufacturer tech support.

Ten minutes later, we get a call back. Here is the right way to change the settings to avoid the thermistor.

We think we have a handle on the thermostat now. We think we have programmed it correctly, although, I’m not sure. I still think the thermostat is out of whack. The thermostat is located in the internal hallway. That hallway might be the coldest part of the house. I have a travel clock with a thermometer, which I will set out later today, to see. The thermostat is acting as if it’s the warmest part of the house. Why? Because there are no vents. (Aha!) There is one return.

We could have avoided all of this craziness with a fine manual. (As in “read the fine manual”.) Those of us in the software business will recognize this as RTFM. Some of you may choose to translate the F as something else. That is your choice, of course. This is a G-rated blog.

If you have embedded software, YOU NEED A FINE MANUAL. If you sell a product to a consumer, YOU NEED A FINE MANUAL. If you are a product owner or a product manager, YOU NEED A FINE MANUAL. If you are a product development team, agile or not, YOU NEED A FINE MANUAL. I hope you heard me.

I have a scale that allows me to choose up to four people to record their weight. It comes with a manual. I have a food scale, so I can decide how much food I consume. It comes with a manual. (Yes, I have those manuals. I read them.) I paid a lot less for those products with embedded software than I paid for this HVAC system. I have a new Viking oven and microwave. They are embedded software products. I have been reading the manuals (and enjoying them!).

There is no excuse for not having a manual.

If you are a product owner or a product manager and your product team has convinced you that your product does not need a manual, they are Wrong. Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. If I had a manual, I would be singing the praises of this system. Right now, I’m pissed. It’s the middle of summer, and I’m wearing a winter coat in my office because in order to keep the rest of the house cool, my office is still freezing. Why? Because we cannot figure out how to use our own HVAC system. This is nuts.

If you are a product development team, and your product owner thinks you don’t need a manual, show him or her this post. Every consumer product needs a manual. It doesn’t have to be a large manual. I shouldn’t have to mess with the field settings, as I did this week. We still have some problem solving to do. But, with a manual, I could do some, before I call the manufacturer or the sales rep.

Do you develop software? Do you develop embedded software? Keep the customer happy. Where is your manual?

Do You Have Something to Share?

Last week, I had a chance to talk at Boston SPIN. I’ve been involved at Boston SPIN for more than 20 years. So, speaking in front of a home-town crowd is a great thing.

I had a chance to try my new version of my Creating An Adaptable Life talk. (The link goes to my new slideshare.) Here’s the talk:

I was pretty funny in person, telling stories about why single sided deafness is socially awkward, but I’ve slept better now since I’ve had it. Just roll over onto the hearing ear. I never hear Mark snore. (Go ahead, laugh! I do.) You can’t tell the stories from the slides. Oh well.

One of the participants asked me why I’m so open about my deficits/handicaps now. I’m paraphrasing what I said, but this is the gist of it:

We all understand what it’s like to have broken legs or arms. Even with a problem broken bone, you set it, and it’s better in a few months. At the outside, maybe a year. With a traumatic injury, you often better inside of a year. But with a brain problem, you are almost never the same. You are changed, forever.

Vertigo is a brain problem. I don’t have cognition problems, but because I sometimes use all of my energy to maintain my balance, I sometimes appear to have cognition problems. I slur my words. I have trouble walking (that’s the “vertigo waddle.”) With my medication, I can choose between the vertigo stupids and the Topamax stupids.

I sometimes need help knowing when to drink water. Or, sometimes to stand up or move. I get stuck.

As a society, we have trouble responding to brain problems.

Let me add this now:

As a society, we don’t know how to respond to permanent loss, ours or others. If I can help people understand and empathize—not sympathize—with people who have permanent loss, then I will have made the world a better place.

We all change in the face of permanent loss. We can survive. We can thrive. We can become more resilient. Maybe not on the very first day. There is no timeline for dealing with permanent loss. But, if we don’t start discussing these issues, we can’t have much empathy with each other.

I know how to take a small step, get some feedback and learn from it. It is my hope that you do the same.

This week’s question of the week is a little different. Do you have something to share?

What Did You Learn This Week?

We moved into our new house just over a week ago. We have all new appliances: a new vacuum, new washer and dryer, new oven, new microwave, new counters (granite!), new everything. We are the same old people :-) Oh, our toothbrushes are old. Otherwise, everything is new.

I have to tell you, I have wanted a new kitchen for years. At least four years.

I have been cooking my low carb muffins like there is no tomorrow. We have used our new gas cooktop (five burners!) as if we have new toys.

This new kitchen is such a treat. So far, I haven’t had to throw any food out. Not all of it is up to my normal standards, but it’s all edible.

I have learned plenty. I must be burning new neural pathways by the second. I’m experimenting with every step I take in this house.

I have finished plenty of things, although not so that you, my readers could tell. What I have finished is inside the house, in terms of cooking, laundry, and boxes. I did laundry, without feeling as if I was going to fall over, for the first time since I had the vertigo. What a relief. Small successes.

I am learning how to live in my own home again. It feels great.

I am also learning how to drive to all the different places I normally drive to. We now live on the “other” side of town. That means we need to learn all new ways to drive everywhere. I have to turn on my GPS to know where to go: the grocery store, the bank, the post office, the mall. We only moved about 1.5 miles away. It’s as if we moved 10 miles away. Everything has changed.

When was the last time you set out to specifically learn something new, and carved out time to do so? Remember, change takes time.

I decided that this week was time to learn my appliances, so I would be comfortable with them. I wanted to get the learning hump out of the way, so all the appliances would be second nature after this week. They almost are. I need a little more practice.

I decided I would take time this week and experiment with learning new ways to drive to and from my house. I need to learn the neighborhood. I don’t want to be stuck in old patterns from my old neighborhood. I want to make this transition.

I have learned many new things this past week. More than I could imagine. I have had some confusions: how do we set the timer on the oven? How do we make the muffins brown? Where does this street go? Why are none of the streets straight in this neighborhood? (None of them are. I swear. None of them.)

I have had the growth mindset. Try something. Learn from it. Try a little something more. Keep experimenting. Don’t be stuck on my past “failures.” They are all part of me being a work in progress. Keep inspecting and adapting.

You might not have all of these changes in one week. It is many changes in one week. For you adaptable problem solvers, today’s question of the week is: What did you learn this week?




What Surprises You?

We moved last week. We thought we had purged—donated, tossed, recycled. We had. But we discovered that we missed a key item in our past life—freezer things.

We have taken many car rides with kids that involve bringing food with us. We have taken food for the day, food for weekend, and food for the week. We have many kinds of freeze-its. Big ones, little ones, the kind I received when I bought food online, you name it, we have it.

Because we had two freezers (upstairs and downstairs), I had no idea how many of these we had. No idea. When we moved in, this is what we discovered.

freeze-it1 freeze-it2Two boxes of freeze-its! Is this nuts? Yes.

This surprised me.

It’s the same thing on your projects or in your life. What surprises you might be a good measure.

The question for this week is “what surprises you?” Maybe you don’t have many freeze-its the way we did. (They are gone now.) But, I bet you have something that surprises you.

If you are developing a product, how long does it take to release? If you are in support, how long does it take to escalate? If you plan events, when was the last time a vendor surprised you, and how?

Surprises can be good, but they often aren’t. I’m trying to remember the last time I was happily surprised by something at work. Our move came in under the estimate—that was a happy surprise.

Problem-solving, adaptable leaders can go with the flow. But sometimes, too many surprises knock them for a loop.

What surprises you?

Why Ask Questions?

I write a newsletter for this site, too. Subscribers received this on May 1, 2014. Want to subscribe? The sign-up form is on the right hand side of the page.

Create an Adaptable Life Vol 3 #1: Why Ask Questions?
May 1, 2014

Why Ask Questions?

If you’ve been reading my CreateAdaptableLife blog, I bet you’ve noticed that the posts since January have mostly been questions for adaptable problem solvers.

Why have I been doing that?

Because questions change how you look at a problem.

If you allow me to go “meta” for a minute, the questions you ask, and how you ask them determine the way you might solve your problems.

I’ve asked questions such as Is Anyone Using This? to see if anyone is using the work you are doing.

I’ve asked myself Which Problem-Solving Picture Are You Seeing? when I want to remind myself to look at the details.

I asked about perfection rules in Do Your Rules Prevent You From Solving Problems?

When I write these questions, I turn them around in my head, and they spark something different in me. From the comments, they spark something different in my readers, too.

When you change your questions, you can change your mindset. If you are stuck, go to the blog and look at the category questionoftheweek. You might find a new way to see your problem.

“Manage Your Job Search” is Available!

My newest book, Manage Your Job Search is available everywhere, both the ebook and the print version.

If you’re looking for a job, you need this book. If you think you might look for a job sometime in the future, you should buy the book. If you think you might want to know how to network, you should buy the book. Some books you buy because you want to adapt before you desperately need them, right?

If you’ve read Manage Your Job Search, please leave a review somewhere and let me know. I’ll blog about it.

Read More of CreateAdaptableLife

If you only read the newsletter, you may want to read the blog, where I write more. Do join me on Create an Adaptable Life.

And, if you only read this newsletter or blog, you might want to read my other blogs, Managing Product Development and Hiring Technical People.


© 2014 Johanna Rothman

When Is It Time to Replan?

If you’ve read any of my project management writing, you know I’m a huge fan of replanning. We had a chance to do that with our house remodel.

I have a space in my new office that used to be a closet. We planned to open it up and create what I call a “nook,” an open storage space. I will be able to see all of my storage boxes.

I have many storage boxes. I have index cards of various sizes, stickies, markers, printer paper, supplies for various simulations, the list goes on and on. I need to be able to access these boxes. I want things clean and neat. This is the part of my office that is already organized. Everything has a box. The boxes all are where I can reach them.

However, my new office has a different aspect ratio. Okay, that was kind of geeky. My new office is a different size and layout than my current office. (That was better.) I need to organize differently. I want everything in my nook.

Our kitchen and bath designer was supposed to design my nook. Mark and I met with her back in March. We had a start of a plan.

We didn’t hear from her in April. I was worried. We had emails back and forth, but no plans. In early May, Mark received a plan, but it had no dimensions on it. Well, I can’t tell anything with a plan with no dimensions. I pulled the plug. I told the builder I was no longer willing to work with the designer. There were not enough antacids in the world to allow to me to continue.

The builder came over, saw what I have for boxes. In 30 minutes, he designed my office nook for the new house. Two days later, he emailed me a plan with dimensions, and explained that the counter had to be 30 inches off the floor in order to accommodate my boxes. I could not get both storage and pack-my-suitcase capability in my nook. Okay, I understood. I accepted the design and asked him to please go ahead.

They are halfway done building my nook. It is a thing of beauty. It will be just what I need for all of my stuff. I am very happy.

At some point, when you solve problems, you often have a decision point. You need to decide: do I continue as I am? Do I change course?

This time is sometimes called the “most responsible moment.” Some people like to call it the “last responsible moment.” I don’t like to call it that, because when it’s the “last” responsible moment, people leave until past the last moment, and it turns into a crisis.

Instead, you manage the risks in your project. You look at the trigger dates. You ask yourself, “Is there a date by which I need to act, so I don’t create a crisis?” That date, or some time before it, is your most responsible moment.

Too far in advance, and you’ve cut off other people’s possibilities to act. Too late, and you have a crisis.

You have to see your current reality. You have to see possibilities. I was frustrated with our designer, but I wasn’t yet angry, because it was not yet a crisis. Do you see the difference?

Projects—and life—almost never go according to plan. Being able to consider Plan B, Plan C, and even Plan D (remember your Rule of Three) will help you replan.

So, that is this week’s question of the week. When is time for you to replan?