Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Requirements, objectives and achievement

P1010021thumbKnowing what you want for yourself is the absolute prerequisite to making it happen. True for people as it is true for organizations. And I know it seems like a pretty trivial statement. Only it is so rare in reality that I thought it useful to post a few thought on that.

The human mind is a great tool. A compass that will guide its owner depending on what the owner asks it to look for and to build. When several people belonging to an organization, be it a company or a project, have a clear picture of what they jointly want to achieve and what each individual is in charge of delivering, then the collective (un)consciousness will help the team achieve the objective. And what teams really need is specific objectives as well as stories and visions that can appeal to their imagination, to their hearts and to their souls. It is all part of work and project design... and I personally feel design is the all-important factor of success today.

Requirements are really important in IT and properly formulated personal objectives make a world of a difference for the individual. Only the exact picture of the required result cannot be built overnight or in one iteration. And it is not solely confined to the field of analytical thinking. Imagination, creativity and dreams are also core ingredients. That is why agile development methods, iterative processes and approaches like the V-model make sense in IT. That is also why the criteria for proper formulation of objectives (see previous post on this blog) as defined by NLP make a lot of sense... and actually help people be who they really are, achieve what really matters to them and overall be happy with the life they choose to live.

Manifestations of clear objectives and requirements built with heart and mind are…

  • outstanding product or service design,

  • talent > procedures, rules, rigid hierarchies,

  • software can be tested and works amazingly,

  • people feel they are on a track that is a true reflection of who they really are,

  • companies achieve the extraordinary potential they have and amaze us (see Skype),

  • big companies keep moving and creating as if their existence was at stake... which is of course the case IMHO,

  • parents trust the path chosen by their kids,

  • democracy works,

  • countries sometimes achieve extraordinary rates of development (e.g. Singapore thanks to the clarity of vision of Lee Kuan Yew, or post-WWII germany with Konrad Adenauer’s policies, or France in the 1960s with de Gaulle’s ambition…)

  • ... and much, much more... stuff that is mostly the exact opposite of what we get in the evening news

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cool bank

Befr_logoIn one of my current projects, I have the privilege of working for a very special customer: a bank that strives to make a difference on sustainable development. Yes, the words "bank" and "sustainable development" are in the same sentence here!

This is the kind of profiles I love: passionate commitment, unusual paths, universal ambitions, action for the sake of something that makes sense for more than just a few people, the aim to include rather than to exclude... Triodos have been around for the past 25 years and a quarter of a century ago they were a start-up doing something radically different in the amazingly selfish, sharkish and self-satisfied world of financial services. This is some cool bank!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Quote of the day

"There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self." - Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Question of the day

Ap_qmsymbolWe live times in which self-righteous, self-appointed defenders of freedom and democracy and self-proclaimed promoters of a peculiar type of order, try to convince us to abandon our individual freedom in exchange for more "security". These great men, whether they are called Sarkozy, Blair or W. Bush, offer to be on watch for us... but they claim they need a clear mandate...

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Who will watch the watchers? as Aldous Huxley put it over half a century ago.

And this question can be subdivided into several other questions... of course!

Were NATO assets used to jail people illegally in Kosovo? Did the defenders of human rights and international order violate elementary human rights? Do we feel safer with their flying prisons, their concentration camps and their expensive war? Is a blow job in the Oval Office worse than a blunt violation of every single value the free people of the planet stand for? ...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Very cool company

Sp3220051126211851A couple of weeks ago I tried a new service of electronic ticketing provided by Mocom, a start-up from Luxembourg.

What a cool experience this is!

Imagine buying your concerts online whenever you like (24/24, 7/7, 365/365) and having them delivered almost instantly to your cell phone. Imagine that to get inside a concert hall, all that is needed is for the screen of your cell phone to be scanned at the entrance. Well, all this is now reality. That is what Mocom lets you do and to them a ticket can be nothing else but an m-ticket. The whole system works beautifully well: it took me less than a minute to have 6 m-tickets scanned.

Really cool service from a very cool company I met at Technoport, the tech incubator of Luxembourg. The way they've developed their platform allows them to handle single tickets, group tickets, loyalty cards, membership cards, blocks of tickets for a limited number of accesses to a service (underground, gym club...) and much more... So, I would not be surprised to see m-tickets powered by Mocom in a number of places in Europe over the coming year or so.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Funky business

Funkybusiness This is definitely an interesting book to read. The authors convincingly outline the dynamics of today's economy as it edges closer to a market driven, knowledge hungry space shaped by the combined forces of cooperation and smart competition, where you and I are freelance agents, autonomous companies, brands. Me Inc. as the authors like Tom Peters claim. And Me Inc. has to be a brand that generates powerful positive emotions. Me Inc. must be an experience customers love.

On the negative side of the book: the extremism of the authors in making their case of a society of individuals who are fully in charge of their fate and who "are what they do", who "are their projects", who "are their contracts".  It does make sense to question the ways in which labour relations, contracts, business deals, employer-employee dynamics were organized for the industrial age. However, that does not necessarily mean that welfare systems should disappear or that as a society we should stop caring for those of us who are impaired temporarily or permanently to take care of their interests alone. In addition to that, as an NLP practitioner I have hard time accepting that people can ever be what they do. A projet, a professional activity, human behaviour are not tantamount to identity. And while I agree that our jobs will be more and more project based, temporary, uncertain, changing and defined by the benefits they bring to the customer, I think there is a way to be passionate, committed, valuable to a project, loved by the customer and to have tons of fun without necessarily reducing the extreme and unique beauty of the individual to that individual's activity.

There are a few other things in the book I feel skeptical about, like for example the assertion that the role of Government is more or less irrelevant, that the nation state's ability to influence events is more or less negligible and the creation of an elusive factor called "the forces of funk" to justify phenomena that would be worth studying.

Overall though it is an excellent read and good food for thought that should be a good introduction to the Information Age and the knowledge economy.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


In one of my very first posts on this blog, I wrote about this Brussels based lawyer who does not believe the Internet changed or will change anything to distribution of content, products and services.

Every single thing that was predicted in the late nineties about the effects of the Internet will happen if it has not already happened.

Everything. And more. Period!

Earthcover If you are interested in a good projection of how the world could look like in terms of uses of technology (digital cameras, wireless telephony, content distribution over the Internet and overinformation), and also in terms of ecology, you should read Earth by David Brin. It's brilliant because it's science fiction with a time horizon that many of us will hopefully live, just 60-80 years in the future. Earth was written in the early nineties and it speaks of a world in which just about any individual has a digital camera and is able to trasmit images anywhere on the globe; it tells of a world in which there are thousands of different sources of information which are ranked by its users for credibility. Earth is about a word in which people are aware of the fact that no news can be taken for true without some sort of verification. A world in which Fox and Murdoch cannot manipulate a nation of 200 million souls without being punished. A world in which the potential for a million small manipulators of information is present. And that triggers the creation of a process of permanent review. Very interesting...


Od_anim_logo_strapopenDemocracy is a news site about global politics that applies the principles of open-source to journalism. The publication is an open forum with contributors in many countries, offering original viewpoints from which to see events shaping global politics. The way in which the site establishes logical links between past events such as the Nuremberg trials and current affairs and its way of challenging generally accepted truths make openDemocracy a very interesting source to use.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Free trade, fair trade and human development

Gardenia_00006_1Why do we have global negotiations on free trade and nothing on fair trade? After nearly half a century of free trade agreements, most of us have come to understand the benefits of free trade for economic development. However, free trade should be a two-way street in order to foster development for all participants. And development is more than just growth of GDP and GDP per capita. Development is also and perhaps mainly schools, hospitals, concert halls, theaters, books, libraries, universities, freedom of speech, free press, a fair government, limited influence from big corporations, social protection systems, health care, high-quality public schools, secure neighbourhoods... And the best system to have all that is the European model of development, regardless what the neoconservative extremists claim. Only we have to find news ways to fund such a development model on a global scale.

I have not seen anything serious written and communicated about how social welfare frameworks and labour legislation could be included in free trade negotiations so as to make international commerce a bit more conducive to human and social development. For example, there could be a worldwide development fund which would receive taxes on imports from nations that do not have any form of social care; taxes would be such as to impose on the products exported by such nations a burden equal to the one they would have to bear if their governments were interested in protecting their people in at least a very minimal way... Only we would have to make sure the minimum is more than what the US neocons consider adequate in their belief that the poor, not the powerful, are to blame for the existence of poverty, at least in the world's most developed nation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Change management

SandChange management often puts companies and project teams in shifting sands. It requires discipline, commitment, skills, resilience, creativity, people / soft skills and a hell of a lot of common sense.
The October 2005 issue of the Harvard Business Review contains an article about "The Hard Side of Change Management". The authors report the findings of a research project they started in 1992 showing that there are four "hard factors" to take into account in any change management endeavour: project duration, integrity of performance (capabilities of project teams), commitment of senior execs and staff, effort required of employees over and above their usual activities to execute the change initiative. They call their framework DICE and it's been used by the Boston Consulting Group in 1000 change initiatives since the mid-nineties to assess change management initiatives.

What I found extremely interesting was the statement that one of the most damaging assumptions companies make in dealing with change is that if a change initiative takes a long time then it is bound to fail. The authors argue that it is rather the time span between project reviews and the managerial discipline to take the lessons / the feedback from each review that are actually more significant than overall project duration. This reminded me that GE, publicly known to be one of the best managed companies in the world, undertook no more than 5-6 change initiatives in the past quarter of a century. And while the authors recognize the importance of soft aspects of change management (which I think are fundamental), they were able to isolate the significant dimensions of the "hard side". The article also makes a very valid point on the commitment of senior execs and people. I know first hand how a change initiative fails when commitment is insufficient because I took part in a major project of this type at MasterCard Europe.

Definitely a "must read" for anyone interested in change management, which I suspect is every manager in today's world.

An unusual medium for NATO communication

NatoThis image is a scan of an advertising  postcard I found in a restaurant of Brussels. It says "feeling protected | se sentir protégé". I was surprised to discover on the back-side of this postcard that it is published and distributed on behalf of NATO. And NATO is asking people to use the postcard to mail their input / opinions. I know that security and protection are fashionable values these days. I know that the media keep injecting regular doses of fear reminders in the news. So my question of the day is simple: what is the purpose of this communication campaign?