Strategy vs Utility

Martin Fowler, one of the most influential people in the IT area, voiced once again an interesting opinion. You can read the full article here:

In short, he says that you should be aware whether an IT project is just a utility or an strategic differentiator. The part that made me write this was his opinion on utility software. He phrases it like this:

My view is that for a utility function you buy the package and adjust your business process to match the software.

I haven’t heard it that radical. But after some thinking, I agree. I guess in many cases it is easier and cheaper to make changes to your processes than to develop the perfect software for your current process. I would even expect that utility software is designed to support best practise. You might implement best practise in an non-strategic area just by adjusting your processes around standard software. 

Moving On!

Yesterday, I left once again Oxford. Four years of time spend in Oxford are finally history. No further visits planned.

I took my chance of this last weekend and had once again a close look. It is such a lovely town. A great place to live. My life took some great turns there… Thank you Oxford! And of course a big “thank you” to all the great people I met there. I learned so much from you.

Oxford is one of these amazing places where people are coming together. So many people are coming for a few months or years. They are eager to meet other people. They come with so different backgrounds and ideas. Some stay and add to the mixture. Others lived in Oxford all their lucky life.

I also enjoyed the rich cultural program. I personally loved the Catweazle Club ( best. It has now even spin-offs in NY, London and Brighton! Do I need to say more?

So, it is time to let go. Take what was best, learn from the not-so-good and relax. It is not so much about where you live, it is about how well you know yourself. As long as you know yourself, you will be happy. But it helps when you like where you live: Copenhagen, here I am! 🙂

Creativity Methods

While my MBA we discussed the relationship between innovation and change in the context of our module “Organisational Innovation and Change”. The module discussed concepts like paradigms ( and the difference between difficulties and messes (see TROPICS Test from McCalman and Paton (2000): Change Management: A Guide to Effective Implementation).

One element that kept stuck with me is that change does happen anyway and you should embrace it to your advantage. In case you are interested in creativity techniques have a look at this page:

I got the link today from Christine. Thanks a lot!

New Mindmap on Crucial Conversations

Just uploaded my mindmap of “Crucial Conversations”. I wish I would have read the book years ago. It is one of these books that connects so many things together that you already know. Hardly anything of it is new. And still it is the first time these “no-brainers” are collected and put into context. And suddenly it all makes sense. Give it a try!

Project Management Mindmap

I use MindMaps to structure my thoughts on a regular base. Sometimes I use them to summarise books I like. I decided that I will share a few of these. Please keep in mind that I usually don’t intend to map the full book, but only what I think is really helpful. Use them on your own risk.

I will start with a small mind map on project management. It is my understanding of a small book from the “Pocketbook” series (Management Pocketbook Ltd.). I really liked the book because it connected of so many useful models.

The mind map in PNG and PDF format can be found on my homepage

Today I had a defeating experience. And as so often, I can learn a lot from it. I thought I created an programming setup that would allow others to use my work easily and efficiently. Well, it didn’t work out. Today, I had to see how somebody without my level of expertise was able to screw the whole setting up, causing me up to two hours trying to get it working again. I apologised a lot. I felt very much ashamed. The other one will never use my setup.

How did it get so far? I forgot all the pain I had while becoming an expert. Like learning to drive a bike. It becomes so easy you forget how difficult (and even painful) it was to reach that level of expertise that allows you to drive everywhere. Clearly it’s easy from there to transport stuff on the bike if that person provides you with the right equipment. But you still need to be able to drive that bike from A to B. No way around.

What did I do in the last months? I added complexity ot my company. I created something that nobody will ever use. It is too difficult to even start with. I shouldn’t do anything that is too complex. Small steps. Understandable steps. I can’t stand it. I can’t make big leaps…

… unless I really teach everybody exactly how to use my stuff. But how? It demands a lot of effort. How to convince others that it’s worth to do so?

Teach “How to think”, not “What to think”

I read something interesting today. It was a story about a guy who tought the chairman of Intel Andy Grove about a problem that Intel faced. The interesting bit is how he tought it. Instead of telling the chairman the problem he explained first a model that he uses. In a second step he showed how to apply the model in a different sector (steel sector). The chairman understood the consequences for Intel on his own as a third step.

The interesting part is that the author (Clayton Christensen) is convinced that he wouldn’t have been heard if he would have told Grove directly his message. For anyone who wants to read it as well, look at “Making Strategy Work”, from the Lessons Learned series, 50 Lessons, Boston, pp. 31-38.

This links in with everything else I learned in the last months. It is quite similar to the persuasive funnel from Gillen (Terry Gillen (1999): Agreed! Improve your powers of influence, IPD). Both avoid to influence through direct teaching.

There are lessons everywhere. Today on the menu: dancing

Today, I tried again to go dancing. A while ago (about 2 years ago) I decided it’s finally time to learn dancing. It fitted well and -to be honest- it helped that my friends had a similar idea. So I went Salsa dancing for a while. Every week. It was fun, but to be honest, I liked the social bit more. And that bit got more difficult, since the course was up to three hours. Beginners started, the next hour was for intermediates, the third hour for experts – at least from my point of view, since I never made it. Eventually, I started some other private things and had no time anymore.

Obviously, if I would have liked it better, I would have continued. But I didn’t really made progress. Neither in Salsa (difficult to start with), nor in Ceroc. Ceroc is much easier than Salsa. But even in Ceroc lessons I always reached the stage where I felt odd. I couldn’t do the same moves over and over. For two simple reasons:
* it’s boring, I guess as well for my partner. Somehow, I even loose the order of the moves, I’m that bored/unconcentrated/not into it. And I have no clue how to get back in track. Strange situations are the result.
* as soon as the partner knows the move as well (or even learns it as well), she is already moving as she should, not as I lead her. Therefore, I wasn’t sure whether I led her or not.

Today, after nearly half a year without dancing lessons, I tried it again. Similar feelings. But today I left before it got really awkward. Instead, I thought about my dancing for the very first time. I thought about whether it was good to leave once without feeling ashamed. I thought about that I tried today to ask an experienced dancer to show me how she really knows what I intend for her to do. That was good. I felt a bit like a quitter. That was bad.

And then I realised something. I read a blog a while ago about learning from Sources of Insight. In that article is a brief theory on learning based on two dimensions and two different ways of learning for each dimension: abstract or concrete and sequential or random. And now, it’s so simple. These dancing lessons are not fitting to my learning style! All this time, I try to learn dancing by examples. The lesson is concrete practise and the moves are more or less in random order (maybe selected by difficulty, but more by how it looks like). Instead I need an abstract introduction. I need an overview of all the possibilities first. Otherwise i can’t really use it and forget everything what I learned until the next week.

The positive result for me is instantaneously. I have a plan what to do next lesson. And once again I learned two important lessons.
1) If something doesn’t work out, think about why it doesn’t work. It’s that simple.
2) To have a framework in the back of your mind is helpful. Too many things are not processed in my mind, because I don’t have a hook to grab them. They pass by unnoticed. Once I heard something on a topic, I get sensibly. Once I’m sensibly for something, I can include it in my thoughts. In this case, I’m still not sure what class I fall into for the learning. Definitely the abstract learning, but I don’t know yet whether I need random or sequel data. But that doesn’t matter. I will find it out or will ignore the second dimension of the learning framework eventually if it doesn’t matter for me. But what is important, it made me think the next time I had a problem form that area.