Book: The Phoneix Project

clip_image001[4]Well, I have finally reached the holy Grail of DevOps—The Phoenix Project business novel. Only to realize once again that everybody has already read it except me. Therefore, I guess I will just briefly cover the points that got my attention or looked unclear/funny.

An interesting approach: to unroll a functionality but not to activate it. Thus the code is in production and everything works. Or to activate it but not for all users/scenarios. Or do that only for testing purpose. Alas, this doesn’t work with all types of software. But we should use it where we can.

 

There are “three ways”:

1)      No local optimization. Work in small batches, never passing defective code down the line. Toolkit:

a.       Continuous build, integration and deployment.

b.       Build environments on request.

c.       Limit WIP.

d.       Build safe systems and organizations that are safe to change. This point is a bit vague. I guess, I will grasp it when the time comes (or when I finish reading DevOps Handbook J).

2)      Building feedback. Not quite clear how to do this in my situation. Have to sort it out yet.

a.       Stop production line if tests and builds fail. A relatively simple one if one learns to understand 1 and 2d.

b.       Keep improving your work even to the disadvantage of your everyday routine. Everything is clear, but it takes political will to achieve. Can you lend me some? =)

c.       Create quick autotests to make sure your code is ready for deployment at all times.

d.       Create common goals between Dev and Ops.

e.       Omnipresent telemetry to signal whether everything is all right. A sad one: in our situation, this is going to be expensive, lengthy and difficult to accomplish. But there is progress.

3)      Building a culture to foster constant experimenting and learn from one’s wins and losses.

a.       Create a culture of innovations and risk-taking. So much to learn here yet. For me.

b.       Earmark at least 20% of time for continuous improvement. As I saw from one experiment, it takes more than just “you have 20% of your time dedicated to work on improvements”. We may also need to address the previous item and possibly other missing things.

Even though “break the silos” is a dominating rule in the book, this story is about greater responsibility on the part of the product code writers. Release automation just doesn’t leave us any other option. Manual deployment by Ops does balance out poor coding or testing in some degree (assisted by developers, admins can roll things back or fix them on the go), but a fully automated system must be able to do it all by itself. Well, of course, one can still wake admin up to fix things, but that would mean extra downtime. This is somewhat set off by the fact that now Ops’ responsibility for code/environment delivery infrastructure becomes very high. In fact, this component is expected to be incredibly robust. Nearly more so than product availability itself.

It is not even about cost saving; automation is needed for developers to be able to get productive-like environments all by themselves. To really turn stage-environment tests into a quality mark, meaning that the actual deployment will not fail. And to reuse the expertise for different development teams.

Questions:

According to the book, the main work streams are: business projects, technical projects, changes, repairs/firefighting. But I am not quite on to it:

1)      Why business and technical projects are listed separately? Is it a technical project to update a mail system? One featuring business functionality, let’s say. This division looks a bit arbitrary to me.

2)      Projects consist of changes; why are these separate, again?

Funny stuff: once again, there is Russian mafia seeking to buy your clients’ data, stolen by hackers. I guess, we have one more national brand to go with the Bear and the Balalaika. =)

Ease of reading: Yes, it’s both easy and interesting. After all, it is more of a fiction piece, quite well written, too.

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Usefulness: above average. A breakthrough is still way off, and I don’t have all the answers. I need to read more. But I cannot call it time lost, either—certainly a useful book.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Rush Job

clip_image002[6]As strange as it seems, I managed to get a bit relaxed before the New Year (even though I joked on my corporate messenger’s status about fancying New Year more like a deadline than a date). While I was a bit lazy-minded, I all of a sudden have found one more reason why we favor working under strong deadlines.

What do you mean, “I don’t like it”? Please, remember the last “all hands on the deck” situation. Wasn’t it as if you could pull several all-nighters in a row? Wasn’t it at least a bit fun to work on the problem this way? What is the reason, except for Panic Monster? Yes, I remember that working under such stress is, well, stressful. Still, there is something attractive to it too.

Ok, if you do not feel that way when you are bound to do the 5-days job in a couple of hours, probably, you don’t have to read the further bullshit. For others, I have an idea to think over: what if (I don’t know for sure, haven’t seen any researches on the topic) we like doing it this way because of clarity of the situation? Look, when you have just screwed all the terms, you usually have only one task left. Sure, no one removed the other tasks from you backlog, but, hey, we have THE MOST IMPORTANT TASK ON OUR HANDS! It is also a clear one, because instead of “I should spend some time brooding over the task” you just do it.

Therefore, for some time, we may be sure, that it is the only one we have to pay attention to. Sure thing, all those others will catch up with us soon (nope, not all, actuallyJ), but right now and right here we do not have to choose anything: just do it. In addition, it is much easier to work, when you have only one thing to do. It is much easier to get into flow-state: nothing diverts your attention. I believe that makes us happier, too.

Unfortunately, it does not make us better workers: if the job takes 5 days, fulfilling it in one night won’t make it the best. We often screw things up, or just do not work up to our own standards.

However strong effect on us have the adrenaline and Panic Monster, we are tired after adventures like that. Especially, if we do not follow simple rules of [AT1] recovery.

Anyway, keep in mind, that there is possibly one more reason why we like deadlines. Knowing that may sometime tip your conscious to not procrastinate something is more valuable than not knowing it.

P.S. if you know a research paper, which supports or denies the idea, please let me know.

1)      Ссылка на статью про авральный режим

2)      Поискать ещё среди своих статей что-нибудь на тему понятности цели и авралов

3)      Да, цель едина, она кристально чиста, как правило, это погружает в поток. Даже не то, что это очень важно.


 [AT1]В русском тексте ссылку на блог по авралу и питанию.

Tooth/Dollar exchange rate

imageIn Russian we have an idiom “Zub dash?” or “Zub dam!”, which means roughly: “will you bet your tooth on this?” and “I’ll bet my tooth on this!”, correspondingly (both ways, it’s not exactly posh). We usually ask the first question, when we want to know if our companion is serious about something. And usually the answer is “sure!”, without even shadow of doubt, so we go away, reassured that we’ve got the deal.

Sometimes, though, nothing happens. I’m not sure, why. It may be because no one thinks I’m going to pull out their tooth for this (they’re right, unfortunately). Or there is some other reason, but it seems like the answer “yes” to the idiom isn’t taken too seriously.

But I found a solution. I just changed the price: instead of tooth I ask for, say, $100. And now they’re thinking before the answer. Which is, if you think it over, rather strange, because a tooth is obviously more precious thing than $100. But then, I will definitely not go for you tooth (see the previous paragraph), as for the $100, there are chances I will.

Or maybe the question isn’t too familiar and wakes our consciousness.

Anyway, that’s the trick I use now a lot and if you have similar problems, you may use it too.

Free book: The one minute to-do list by Michael Linenberger

imagePlace all your actions in one place

The author

Just a short review of a free (yep, it is free) book on the productivity topic (the author: Michael Linenberger). I, somehow postponed it, though I read it several months ago, on my vacation.

Most productivity systems have some common ground (that comforts: I hope there is something to them if they agree on major points =) ), so I’ll just list some major ideas I like or dislike in the book:

·         Be careful while creating “Important” category. I always repeat, that there should be only “do it now” (the less tasks the better, the best result will be with just one), “do it someday”, “don’t do it”. Else you’ll find yourselves with a lot of “important” stuff on hand.

·         Once more: spend several minutes to plan your day. It is worth it. At least you won’t find out that despite your promises you won’t be able to spend 3 hours on a report today, because you have 6 meetings and one long call. And not achieving your daily goal may frustrate and demotivate you. I just wrote some thoughts about how bad it is to plan to do more than you actually can.

·         I also found in the book a very interesting idea about “magical” 10 days (which usually translates into 2 work weeks): the author’s observations show that most people “tend to relax their anxiety about a big task or project if its deadline is beyond one or two weeks out”. That’s interesting, because it somehow correlates with my own observations, from which I see that most people cannot make solid plans extending the same term. And some practices recommend start planning with two-week chunks. Coincidence? I wonder if there is some research on the topic.

·         A bit on what I call consciousness (Going home test as the author calls it). That’s not about meditation, rather about making some things being fully turned on, without autopilot. If I have something urgent, I should ask myself: will I be willing to stay at work overtime today to do that. If not, then it is not that urgent.

·         Also there are references to limiting work in progress. BTW, what to do with a manager’s tasks? A manager definitely has more tasks than his subordinates. At the moment I treat as my own tasks only those I do myself and do not delegate?

·         But there are stupid in the book, too. Like having your to-do list visually close to your emails. It’s a behavior which easily may lead you to spending all day in your mail without doing any tasks.

·         The book also would be twice shorter if not for description of some software. I don’t like such stuff in books: your tool is almost irrelevant, if you know what to do. But even so it’s quite short.

Usefulness: average. It will increase if you are just starting working with to-do lists.

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Is it easy to read? Yes.

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Get it here.

Time’s math

imageIt’s absolutely unavoidable to rest if you want to work.

Ok, I officially admit, that I’m not a hipster. I’m absolutely mainstream. They’ve been talking for years around me about how one should treat themselves better and give them more space and sleep well… Ok, here I am, after many books on anti-procrastination, getting things done, making yourself productive, you name it.

As a result, I understood some things, among them a very stupid one: you don’t have 24 hours a day. No, not even on Friday. And, no, you don’t have another 48 hours at weekends. And the more you act like you don’t know that stupid thing, the less good it does to you. Ok, say, you’re one of those mindless zombies, who sleeps 4-5 hours a day (you sleep less than that? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU!?). Like I was just several years ago. You still have 19 to 20 hours a day, do you? Of course you do! That’s the math, it cannot lie. Unless… Unless you’re eating, telecommuting, going to bathroom, drinking, just stalking around because you don’t have the slightest idea what you were doing right now (4 hours a day sleep makes wonders) and all other stuff. And you definitely don’t do fun. Just not to be forgotten: meetings. I know, they also are your job, but usually you have some work other than meetings, and when you say “job” you don’t imagine some meeting. Usually it is getting ready for the meeting, or writing a report, or investigating something. So, actually, you don’t have 24, 19 or even 12 hours a day for your job.

I understood that, when I tried to map my own day on work (and, mind you, I worked more than 10 hours a day at the time). Actually, I was trying to find out, how much continuous time I do have throughout a work week. I started with jotting out my lunches. Then I took some time every day for doing my emails (quite a chunk of time, I dare say). And a bit more for the weekly reviews of my productivity system. And for my weekly report. After that I put into the schedule (and removed out of my life!) some regular meetings: with my direct reports and my boss, change advisory boards, and Change Management Post Implementation Reviews. And some more things. And it looks like from 40 hours a week only 19 are available for anything what haven’t been planned yet. Wow.

Now I’m taking my calendar and peek into it looking for non-regular meetings, which arise ad hoc, or are necessary to move some tasks forward. I’m counting how much of them do I have on average week and I remove them from my budget too. What I’m left with is mind-boggling 8 hours a week. Yep. 8 hours.

What should any sensible guy do after such a discovery? Of course work MORE. That solves the problem, doesn’t it? Work more – do more. It’s actually, self-explanatory and self-evident. Well, I don’t know. There are times, when one should work 20 hours a day. I’m a lucky man, last time I did it for some time was last year. I even found out, that during such times you need to take proper care of your body and your mind and thus it wasn’t worthless. So, it is a solution, sometimes. But what if we don’t take it to the extreme, if we just add a couple of hours to our work schedule. It’s just 10, not 20. Like, “I’m not ruining anything everything, I’m just working a bit more”. But then, stop and think about it again:

·         You work 10 hours

·         You sleep 8 hours (lucky us)

·         You commute 2 hours a day (in my city it’s counted as good time)

·         You eat, say, an hour (three meals a day, one at your office’s canteen with a reasonable line)

·         You have to spare at least an hour to your hygiene

·         And after all that you scarcely have ego left to miss your chance to “just look” at your social network. For two hours if you were counting with me. And, even more, if you decide, that this particular “tomorrow” will be ok with just 6 hours of sleep.

How’s that for “I need to fix this plumbing” or “I’d like to draw at least an hour a day”?

As far as I understand from my own experience, some forums and books, it is a common problem: people just don’t leave themselves time to live. My own problem was greatly diminished by what I pictured in the previous lines. I haven’t resolved it completely, but I sleep 7 to 9 hours a day, I do sports 3 to 6 hours a week, I write my blogs more or less regularly, I read (and not only in a bus), I play games, I doodle, I bake sometimes and even do my home chores. I’m not yet into something dramatic, as you see, but it is much more than what I had just a couple years ago. So, it worked for me and why don’t you try it if it is a problem for you too?

If you want to make even more impact on yourself, you may follow Neil Fiore’s approach (he calls ithappy-o-meter счастьемер Unschedule) from the book I read just recently. He says that putting all your day-to-day activities into your schedule is not enough. On contraire: you should start from putting there all you want to get from your life and what’s absolutely necessary to have one (no, it is not you weekly report): sleep, sport, fun, games, meditation, food, leisure and everything else. And only after that start with all your job activities. That’s almost my idea, I explained earlier, but in its ultimate form. Start with that if my idea doesn’t work for you. Live for several weeks with such unscheduled. And then just look back and compare your emotions, your physical state and your level of happiness to the previous levels (it may be necessary to keep a diary for some people to make real comparison). I hope, you’ll like new you better 😉

A book: The Now Habit by Neil Fiore

clip_image002Now, let’s talk about the last book about procrastination, I’ve read to procrastinate other stuff 😉 Why the last? It seems to me, that I’ve seen the major ideas behind the topic. Now it’s the time to just reflect on them and tune my own life so that not to have to procrastinate anything.

What were we talking about… Ah! The book. Ok, Neil Fiore seems to be a big guy in the field, but, to be honest, the book was to me less appealing than the book of Peter Ludwig. I haven’t written about it in the blog, because the English version hasn’t come out yet (it’ll come out soon and you can subscribe to the news about it at the page linked above, though). Anyway, the reading got me some fresh ideas to think about, so it is worth looking into some of it.

The core idea as I got it is that the more discomfort you are anticipating from your job, the more active will be your evading of it and finding your salvation in something more pleasant. The more you feel that endless work deprive you from pleasure and amusements of life, the more active you will be your run from the work.

So, the author just tells you to make room for what is worth living for first, and then fill everything else with the “bad” work. And to put up with the latter, probably even trick yourself into liking it. That’s the spirit. I somehow approve, actually, but believe that working on what you really like may be even better. Why? Because some approaches, the author suggests don’t exactly work for me. Say, rewarding myself with something pleasant after doing something I procrastinate, make the reward even more attractive and the job itself even less so.

 However, there is a revolutionary (for me) thought in the book: procrastination isn’t a problem itself. It’s a manifestation of other problems. Their visible and palpable trace and consequence. One of the most problematic chain from the author’s point of view is something like: wanting an ideal result (THE ideal result!) -> fear of failure -> procrastination -> self-criticism -> anxiety and depression -> loss of confidence -> ever enlarging fear of failure -> PROCRASTINATION! It seems obvious now, in retrospective, but I swear, I somehow didn’t happen to word the thought so exact and clear.

That’s how perfectionism and feeling that everything in our life is important makes us not doing anything in time. And yes, I strongly believe that in everyone’s life not everything is ultimately important. And, the worst thing which happens if you fail fast is not this:

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No, this never happens because you’ve failed at something (I hope I’m not being read by any nuclear country’s president). Mostly, if you fail fast you recover fast and learn even faster. But isn’t it hard…

What even more important (for me, at least), is to understand, that not only fear of failure is the problem in some cases, but also fear of success. That kind of fear stopped me at least couple of times in my life. And probably, I postpone some things right now because the success will mean I will become someone else. And I will have to change. And nothing will be the same again. It’s scary as hell, but it’s, at the same time, exciting. And it’s being procrastinated, nevertheless.

The book, sure, offers some instruments, I like, and some approaches I’m not so sure, are worth to employ.

Say, “Unschedule”. The idea I’ve been using for a while, but in an ultimate form. I’ll describe it in more detail in some later blog, here I just say that the instrument will help you to stop thinking that you have 24 hours a day and, if you somehow need it, 48 hours a weekend. Such concepts are ultimate “procrastinagenes”, because no, you don’t have that much time. You’ll be surprised how little, comparing to those figures you really have for your work.

Another instrument – “Reverse calendar” – is to map al your activities from the finish to the beginning, so that you know when you have to start something to have at least some chances to finish in time. It’s also self-obvious, but the idea here is to map the same instrument to the bigger activities, projects, etc.

And sure enough, there wasn’t a chance to miss out Pomodoro techniques and other “power hours” which, after reading at least two or three books on personal productivity and anti-procrastination just become what you expect in a decent book 😉

What I’m not sure about are methods which, in general, just make you believe that your job is more pleasant than it is. Well, I’ve mastered the behavior myself, that’s normal when you don’t like what you don’t know how to do at the beginning, but later, when your proficiency at the stuff increases – you start loving it. But, as far as I understand, Neil Fiore suggests some tricks to like what you still don’t. Not sure, it’ll work every time, but probably it could at least mend some situations.

Anyway, if it’s not the 5th book on the topic you’ve read, I would rather recommend it, though my absolute favorite, as I already said, is the book of Peter Ludwig.

Usefulness: slightly above the average. But I had read some books on topic before it.

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Is it easy for reading? Sure.

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Book: Essentialism by Greg McKeown

clip_image002Not sure – throw it out.

Pascal Dennis.

What should I eat to lose weight?

Usual dietary question

The next book is not about doing stuff. It’s about not doing stuff. Yep. The author tells us that the only way to be really successful is to choose what not to do. You know what? I totally agree.

WE

CANNOT

DO

EVERYTHING.

Like in “quit saying yes”. Because if you take on every challenge you meet, then you face “priorities”. And it is quite new a word: you haven’t seen much of it before, say, XV or even XIX century. Before that it was only one priority in every situation. That’s very close to what I believe my tasks may be divided on:

· Do it right now (only one task).clip_image003

· Do it one day (many other tasks).

· Don’t do it (the more tasks, the better).

So, chose what you want to do, set your priority and don’t touch anything else.

Brilliant idea, isn’t it? Of course there are some tough spots. Say, I decided to sell something I don’t need. And 5 years later the spot shows the Fountain of Youth in it. Wouldn’t it be awful?!

But still, I see application for this. Moreover, some things I do in my job (though, I definitely need to improve the practice). Say, if I’m working on something and someone is requiring my time, but cannot say that his deal is urgent, then I’m just saying “I’ll call you later”. There is, for sure, one important ingredient in this: I will really call them. =) And your “no” shouldn’t translate into “get lost”. It may, if you wish, but it’s usually unnecessary.

So, I definitely approve the approach. I just need to think of what and how to do with it, because the book isn’t a text book. It’ more a manifesto, then a manual.

There are useful things, like zero-based budgeting: you don’t look what you planned yesterday to do today, you just gather as many commitments for today as you possibly can do. First – what is more important. And if all the important stuff doesn’t find the room in your day – you must not plan for it (remember: 24 hours a day minus 8 hours for sleep minus 8 hours for work minus 2 hours for food minus several hours for commute minus… your day is one small amount of time!). You may plan as your next absolutely important goal (only one priority, remember?) increasing your performance, but never try to do twice as much as you really can.

Yep, important stuff is all over the book. But remember how I just told you it’s not a textbook or manual? The structure of the book is weak and it has little instruments to start with. At least, I see it this way: you’ll have motivation from the book, but it’s up to you, how to apply this motivation to your life. There are some advices, but they either don’t have anything to do with essentialism, or are trivial, or plain impossible to do. Example? Easy. Suppose you are a perfectionist. You’re trying to make a report, and, sure enough, the report must be perfect. And you have dozens ideas how to improve it. But right now you have to do at least a draft to start with. But you cannot, because “draft” is opposite to “perfect”. And you’re just stuck! What should you do? Greg suggests that you just change your motto from “perfect or nothing” to “better something than nothing”. Easy like that! Just change your core idea, what you really are to the opposite and it will solve everything. You have two minutes, I believe it will be enough.

And one exceptionally bad in most corporate environments advice: put at least 50% time buffer in everything you do. Ok, the task should last a day. I’m adding a day more, to create the buffer, my boss adds 1 more day for his buffer and his boss adds 2 more days “just in case”. Now we have 5 days for the task which lasts a day. And, considering the student syndrome, it’ll probably last 6 to 7 days, actually. I’m far from saying that buffers are unnecessary, but in complex environments they should be controlled so that no such chain effect occurs.

So, the book is ok if we consider it a motivational manifesto and not trying play it as a textbook. The author even put some Theory of constraints passages into it, and it’s nowadays almost a quality sign 😉

Usefulness: slightly above average. I’d prefer more instrumental book. Still it’s the vNext idea for me.

книга полезность выше среднего

 

 

Is it easy for reading? Yes. There is a bit more pathos then I’d like, but it’s ok.

книга нормально читается