Friday, 7 September 2001

Newsletter Issue 31, September 2001


Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 31, September 2001
Hi guys,
This time I am back on the Time Management round again - this time five common sense tips that we have all heard 20,000 times before. Check out That Time Management Thing Again below.
Our second topic this newsletter is  Ten Tips for Cultivating Collaboration. While this is aimed more at the larger organisations, the same principles apply everywhere.
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

That Time Management Thing Again

Every horse race has a winner and an also-ran: a second. The winner's prize money is usually two or three times as much as the second place getter. 
And we all know, without thinking too hard about the physics of it, that the number one horse did not have to run twice as fast or go twice as far as the competition to get three times the money. That horse only had to be a nose ahead of the competition to get more than twice the rewards. 
Success in life can be the same deal. To get twice as much in life, we do not have to double our effort and input... we only need to be a nose ahead of the competition. 
So how can we increase our edge over the competition? Obviously through better management of our resources. One resource that most of us are a bit short on is time. 
The following ideas are all common sense. You will have, like me, heard all this before. Just try to read with fresh eyes, and you might be amazed by what you can do... how these tips can help you to get that "nose ahead." If you apply them, of course! 
  1. Plan your day, every day.  Do it the night before. Then, when  getting to your desk there is a plan of action to direct you forward. Without a plan, we get sidetracked into silencing the loudest voice rather than being effective. A simple plan is a list of all the items we would ideally want to accomplish during the next day. Prioritise the items in order of their importance (#1 for most important, #2 for next most important, etc). You won't complete all the items on the list; success is not how much was left undone at the end of the day, but how much was actually DONE. 
  2. Overplan your day to take advantage of "Parkinson's Law". Parkinson's Law states that, "a project tends to take the time allocated for it." If you give yourself one thing to do during the day, it will likely take all day to complete it. Twelve things to do, and you may complete seven or eight. A healthy sense of pressure will enable us to become better time managers. We become more focused, we suffer interruptions less, and so we delegate better. 
  3. Work with a clean desk and work environment. There is truth in the saying, "Out of sight; out of mind." Equally true is the reverse, "In sight; in mind." When items are cluttering up our view, we are distracted and likely to  "major in the minors", busy all day long, but accomplishing nothing of importance. 
  4. Restrict meetings. During any typical business day, there are reportedly 17 million meetings being conducted in the United States alone. A meeting is two or more people getting together to exchange common information. Always ask, "Do I contribute anything to this meeting?", "Do we need to meet in person?" and "Do I get anything of value from this meeting?" If the answer to the questions is "no," try to find another solution. Email is often a goodie.
  5. Handle each piece of paper only once. Get out of the "shuffling blues" when paper is looked at again and again while deadlines slip through the cracks as we get buried under a ream of paperwork. As you encounter each new piece of paper, if it can be responded to quickly, in a minute or less, respond then and there. If it will require a longer effort, schedule it for a time when you will get to it and then put it away. And do that when you are planning.
Good luck amigas & amigos

Ten Tips for Cultivating Collaboration

These days you can get software called "collaboration technology". This is designed to share ideas amongst a variety of users - like set chat rooms or discussion boards. You can pay some reasonable dosh and get some pretty sophisticated set ups.
And the ten tips for cultivating collaboration in your workplace are...
  1. BEFORE implementing ANY collaboration technology, communicate clearly and consistently with your team to determine what business problem you need to solve. Then look at what fits the need that you have
  2. Don't make the new tools compulsory. Positively reinforce the early adopters by cultivating a small group of first-time users/expert testers to encourage others to follow their lead. Handpick that group to include any gatekeepers 
  3. Start the project on a small scale, and keep it simple, until your employees and business partners adopt the technology. NB: don't start too small tho' as successful collaboration projects have to have "critical mass"; if you don't have enough participants, the conversation dies and people go back to their old ways (or stop communicating altogether)
  4. Don't erect barriers to communication. Don't impose access controls to discussions or documents unless absolutely necessary. Set rules then trust your people to do the right thing
  5. Make public statements to let the team know the purpose of discussion forums is to open up communication, innovate, align bits of the organisation, manage documents virtually and support the team's work
  6. Assign a leader/moderator/devil's advocate to be active online: asking questions, responding to topics and requests, reading postings and acknowledging the contributions being made and being available online, especially during the introductory period
  7. Work with managers to jointly use the technology to better solve their business problems: show and tell
  8. Once a couple projects have been completed, communicate the business benefits of collaboration to individuals, teams, the company, and business vendors/partners
  9. Listen to people's feedback and let them participate in the decision-making process for how discussion forums will be used
  10. Encourage users to populate the collaboration space with content that is meaningful and/or useful to others: for example, suggestions for a project, or documents that require input/approval from colleagues.

Dinosaut├ęd Defrag

I know it is terribly bad form to quote someone's work without acknowledging the author: well in this case, this entire article is the work of the Ozzie author, "Defrag".
Defrag writes intensely witty columns for InfoTech Weekly. What follows here is the first half of her weekly set piece from a couple of week ago. It was such a laugh that I thought that I must share it with you all. If you get the Dominion on a Monday, you must turn to InfoTech & at least read Defrag. The woman is a biting, rabid, satirical and cynical journo with no conscience and some very strange habits. Quite aspirational, in other words!
Enjoy..
"Hey yo, Defragettes, have the vomit bags, the electric cattle prods and a ripe orange at the ready, because today we're going to be talking about Barney the dinosaur. 
For those of you thinking "Whatney the what-o-saur?" Barney is a big ole dinosaur which, along with these annoying children - the likes of which we all pray never to give birth to - appears in an execrable American children's show called Barney and Friends
Defrag has long-suspected Barney is a conspiracy by Ritalin manufacturers who hope preschoolers pumped full of sugary television will get hyperactive, leading to over-diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. We also hope that, one day, Dorothy, the Dinosaur from The Wiggles, kicks Barney's big, fat arse. 
At this point, the rest of you are probably thinking "Defrag you reekazoid, the Dinosaur is like so like 1990s, dude. What's your plan for next week? A scathing outburst on the 'topic' of New Kids on the Block?" 
The reason that we mention the Mesozoic reptile of purple hue is that it has apparently only just come to the attention of Lyons Partnership, the company that owns the rights to Barney, that people hate their character, more than Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein combined. 
According to Wired, lawyers representing the Lyons company have been sending letters to hundreds of anti-Barney sites such as "Is Barney Satan?" at www.graceweb.org/Laugh-A-Lot!/Barney666.html threatening legal action if they don't remove the offending material - which it has apparently taken them four years to be offended by. But what really impressed Defrag about the cease-and-desist order was the wording. 
"We have viewed your website and have concluded it incorporates the use and threat of violence towards the children's character Barney without permission from Lyons Partnership". 
What we liked was the suggestion that it was okay "to threaten violence" against Barney the Dinosaur, provided that you first asked their permission. 
"Dear Lyons Partnership, I would like to threaten to shoot Barney in the head with a nail gun, pour petrol all over him and set him alight. Then I would like to take the ashes, pack them into a bullet, load the bullet into a gun, fly to outer space and shoot it into the inky void. Is this okay with you?" 
Still, the news does have some worrying implications for the notion of free speech and Defrag thinks a world in which you are not, allowed 'to make overtures of harm' towards a fictional character is not one we want to inhabit. We have some pretty firm plans on what we'd like to see happen to Vicki the robot from the 1980s sitcom Small Wonder
So, as a show of solidarity with those being persecuted, we'd just like to say "Die, Barney, Die!!"

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's slightly tongue-in-cheek TLAs for you;
  • PhD, Piled Higher and Deeper. Refers to the piles of excreta that have to be piled higher and deeper in order to obtain advanced degrees. Commonly misheld to be "Doctor of Philosophy"
  • BA, Bugger All. Once all the vogue in degrees, now the poor relation. Commonly misheld to be "Bachelor of Arts"
  • BCom, Bloody Competitive. Very recently the vogue in degrees, particularly accounting, until over-saturation of the market. Now likely to be in actuality "Com-B" (i.e. living in a combi van)

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short & Hot Keys... and now tips
Another Function key for you - this time it's all you can do in MS programmes with F7
  • F7: "Check spelling" in Access, Excel, FrontPage, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher & Word
  • SHIFT & F7: "Look up a word in the Thesaurus" in FrontPage & Word
  • ALT & F7: "Find next misspelling" in PowerPoint & Word 
  • Alt & Shift & F7: "Open Dictionary" in Word
  • Ctrl & Shift & F7: "Update Source" in Word
Hot Linx
Visiting the UK shortly? Going "up" to Cambridge? Then this site is a must for you. Two computer PhD researchers at Cambridge have created a pub guide at http://www.bluesplodge.co.uk/cambridge/pubs/ 
And another great site for the word smith is Ask Oxford. Quotations, word power and more: check it out at http://www.askoxford.com/
Fancy yourself as a bit of a genius? Then take some of the tests on this site for a reasonably intense mental workout at http://www.mensa.org/ 

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here