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The Power Of Qualitative Team Health Metrics

2014-03-07-14.18.59_thumbI’m seeing a lot more burnout at work for many reasons, all of them very disturbing.  It’s bad for the employer because people become disengaged, productivity suffers, stress increases all around, sickness levels increase and retention suffers.  It’s clearly bad for the individuals and their families and it’s also bad for the team as a whole, burnout spreads.

I’m a strong believer in team working, a good team makes work a joy, but unfortunately many teams fail to achieve their potential mostly because people confuse teams with people who sit together, or do the same type of work, work on the same project, or talk on the phone one a week in a team call.  Even when a team is real it’s often not given the right tools to help spot, manage and prevent the early signs of problems and then to go way beyond problem solving to create a healthy environment where all team members are flourishing.  There are dozens of things that contribute to a great team, but for this blog post I’m just going to pick one, qualitative team health metrics.

I think it’s a great idea for a team to get together and design a set of qualitative metrics that they think are important to helping them flourish as individuals and as a team. In a company with many teams it’s best to start out with a template, and then let individual teams innovate from there.

So lets get started with considering what might be included in a template, keeping it simple we might ask all team members to score how they feel week each week in a number of areas on a scale of 1-5 :

  1. How stressed are you feeling?
  2. How is your health?
  3. How frustrated are you?
  4. How over worked are you?
  5. How under worked are you?
  6. Is work improving?
  7. Do others in the team support you?
  8. Do you know what’s expected of you?
  9. Do you need more skills/training?
  10. Are you happy with your working environment?
  11. Are you happy with your IT/phone equipment?
  12. Are you unhappy with quality of the service you are able to provide to your customers?

It’s important that the team takes ownership of this list, it’s the things they feel are important for them to thrive and the team to succeed.  When I’ve instigated reporting on similar areas weekly the individuals have generally found it very useful and leaders even more so.  You can make the reports actionable by saying:

  1. A score of 3 or less can be managed by the individual/team or during routine reviews
  2. A score of 4 needs proactive in the next few weeks 
  3. A score of 5 needs action this week

This sort of reporting starts to get incredibly valuable when it’s aggregated into a spread sheet so that you can see everyone’s results at a glance and see trends.  You can then see issues developing in the team long before you see them reflected in other metrics or being surfaced in discussions.  For example:

  1. At the start of a project you might expect to see low scores for question 8 but if this persists for more than a few weeks, or worse increases then you have a project with poor requirements, architecture or design
  2. If you see high scores for question 7 then your culture needs work 
  3. If you see stress levels and frustration increasing then watch out

Managers often claim that they know their teams, unfortunately they often miss the soft issues and people don’t like talking about them.  Providing them with a quick and simple way of quantifying their satisfaction and providing them with a way to cry for help makes a difference.

image_thumbAlso important is the insight that senior leaders can get with a single glance into the ‘health’ of a function or project, using the people as a lens.  They can see a project manager putting a team under too much pressure, they can see a team start to worry that quality is slipping, they can see one team progressing at the expense of another.

In all the big teams I’ve run have tacked these indicators onto the end of a traditional weekly highlight report, everyone in the team sends a copy to their peers and to their team leader.  Team leaders send aggregated reports to other team leads.  A business administrator updates the master spread sheet each week, the results get pinned to the wall.  Of course a web site might be more efficient, but regardless of the way the metrics are captured they take less than a couple of minutes a week.

Depending on the culture aggregated reports might need to be anonymised.  The spread sheet for a team within a project going off the rails would look like this, something is very wrong in Team A.

I wrote the first version of this post in Caffe Nero in Kendal, the picture at the top right is of the bridge over the river Kent.  I took the picture from my bike as I was returning from a week long break in the North Lake District and reminiscing about how to manage big teams well.  This is a new version of the post, updated and refocused a little so that it’s relevant to all types of teams, not just project teams.

Another Way To Look At Individual Performance Metrics

2013-02-21 14.44.25Unfortunately most of us have come across metrics that are used to measure individual performance, to provide a quantified ‘stick’ with which to beat the under-performing individual, I hate them with a passion.  Whilst they might have some validity in an assembly line, they have no place where I work, with knowledge workers.

There’s another way to think about metrics though, as a way for people to understand the work they are doing better to provide insights into how they are doing it, so that they can take ownership of and improve, their own performance.  Managers then have a very different discussion with their staff, it’s no longer do more, it understand more.  Once the focus switches to knowledge about work and how work gets done, improvement flows naturally.

By refocusing metrics in this way we help people understand why some jobs take a long time, while others are quicker.  Provide the team with insights into why some people do the same job faster than others, without the assumption that speed is always better.

Metrics need to become more like the fitbit that I wear on my belt, my wife doesn’t check up on my daily step count and use that to decide whether I get dinner or not, instead it’s a tool to help me improve my fitness, one of many inputs that provide me with more understanding of how I move each day, to give me with insights, to encourage me to move more.  It’s a tool for self improvement.

Let’s take the example of a service desk environment where people are traditionally managed based on their ability to meet or exceed a target number of tickets.  Throughput is easy to measure, but difficult to correlate with good performance:

  1. Tickets associated with one service might be more complex than tickets for another
  2. One person might more reliably diagnose the problem than another, he gets less tickets done, but the customer is much happier with the result
  3. Another might document the resolution better, so he’s slower too, but the next person trying to solve the same problem will be quicker
  4. Another might solve a problem in a way that takes a few minutes longer, but minimises the disruption for the customer
  5. Yet another might capture more useful meta-data resulting in more accurate reports and improved analysis of trends
  6. The last example might be the person who calms down the frantic, angry customer and turns them into a fan

These additional dimensions of good performance are lost when throughput if the primary criteria.  Of course defocussing on throughput and re-focussing on a broader definition of quality might result in less throughput in the short term, or more variability, but variability is inherent in most systems anyway.  The way to deal with that is by building slack into a system.  Instead of dividing 1000 tickets a day by 10 tickets per person and so having 100 staff, you have 105.  This might seem crazy at first sight but take a read of the book Slack and you will seen see that companies with slack consistently outperform companies that don’t.  Queues don’t build up, teams have the ability to cope with unexpected peaks, staff don’t burn out, sickness levels reduce, innovation increases, improvements can be sustained and customers are happier.

I’m no expert in service desk in particular, but here are a few random ideas that might be better than the throughput stick:

  1. Group people into teams of 4-8 and give the team a target ticket volume.  Encourage the team to discuss how to tackle the challenge together.  Maybe 5 people will cover the sixth person while she does some cross training.  Maybe 2 of the people are better at complex tickets than the others.  Maybe one member of the team seems consistently slower and the team can work together to figure out why and provide some coaching.
  2. Provide the team with more insightful metrics, metrics that really help them do their job better.  Make it possible for them to compare throughput when solving different types of tickets (problems, requests, how do I questions).  Let them see whether their throughput is affected by the time of day, because the team’s not managing their energy well.  The possibilities are endless.
  3. Set-up competitions between teams, to see who can clear the most tickets each week and then get the winning team to share as many hints and tips as they can think of as to how they did it.  For each tip they provide give the team £10

The point of this list isn’t to provide really good ideas, it’s to change the mindset away from measuring individual performance in a crude way and then using it as a stick, instead use metrics to help individuals, or even better teams, take ownership of improving their own performance.

Critically assume people want to do a good job, but to be motivated to do a good job your need to find ways to give them autonomy over the way that they do it and some control over what ‘good’ means to them.  They want to improve their performance, not simply their throughput, they want to become craftsmen/masters of their trade.  They want to understand and engage with a higher purpose than clearing 10 tickets a day:

  1. giving the customer a good first impression
  2. reliably diagnosing the customers problem
  3. fixing that problem quickly
  4. minimising disruption to the customer
  5. minimising the chance of the same problem happening again
  6. explaining to the customer how to help themselves
  7. capturing information that can be used to analyse and spot trends
  8. capturing knowledge so that if the same problem happens again others will be able to do everything better
  9. leaving the customer calm, confident and happy
  10. keeping their energy levels high so they do a great job all day
  11. not getting burnt out to the point where they go off sick
  12. enjoying their work and their team so much that they want to stay
  13. making sure they do the follow up research that arises from some incidents
  14. helping out a team member who who didn’t get much sleep because of a sick child

You can’t easily measure all of these things in a quantified way, but you can in a subjective way, but that’s the subject of another post.

I wrote this post with my legs up on the sofa in my conservatory office.  I don’t normally work on a Friday but I started discussing this topic with a friend of mine on the phone this morning and I wanted to clear my mind of the resulting swirling thoughts.  I’ve one more blog post to write and then I’m off to walk on the sea front, so this post’s picture is to remind me of what I’m missing.

More On Waking Up And The Humanist Community

2014-10-22 09.37.23A few days ago I read the book Waking Up after also reading about a new kind of Christianity.  Both books started me on a journey of self discovery.  I’ve always been an atheist, so hearing others describe atheism is interesting but not mind expanding.  What’s really interesting is discovering how atheists can also experience spirituality (Waking Up) also live a good life based on a rational moral code (Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe) and that inquiring Christians are really struggling to make sense of their faith (A New Kind of Christian).  I also read the excellent 10% happier that made it abundantly clear that secular spirituality is just as hard work as religion would be (for me).

My atheist life though has always been lonely, I’ve mostly grown up surrounded by Christians, most social gatherings I attend are Christian, the school my kids went to was a church school and they all attended Christian clubs.  The self discovery though is that there are others like me, a billion apparently, maybe intellectually I already knew this, but until I actually discovered the Humanist movement it never seemed real. 

All of a sudden I’ve discovered groups all over who think like me.  People who want to do good in the world, who want to improve themselves, but don’t expect God to help out, it’s liberating.

I strongly recommend this 100 minute video that explores many of the topics I’ve touched on in this post, it’s really excellent.

Sam Harris and Greg Epstein

The photo today is what I woke up to.  I have almost no ability to recall memories from my childhood now, but as I drifted out of sleep this morning I remembered my very laid back high school RE teacher telling me “you’re a humanist Steve”, it’s taken me nearly 40 years to understand what he was talking about!

Just One Of Those Days

2013-01-27 10.31.38Yesterday was one of those so very rare days, when everything in the world seems to line up and progress becomes effortless.  I woke up mostly free of pain, dodged the showers on my walk to Caffe Nero, had a great time reading before heading home just before 10am.  The plumber arrived on time to fit the new fire in the living room, which is rare enough, but he was a great guy jovial and full of stories.  While he worked I worked, energised by his example to fix a half dozen nagging jobs around the house that had been waiting for months.

In the afternoon, glowing from all these accomplishments and well fed with smoothies I spent the afternoon writing a strategy paper for work and then jumped on the exercise bike to catch up on my Instapaper ‘videos to watch’ queue.

The day finished off with a family dinner and TV around our new glowing fire.  Perfect.

Progress is so hard at work now days that I sometimes forget how wonderful it feels, especially when it’s framed by good food, good company, relaxation and meditation.  Of course it didn’t last, today has been a trial.  I’ve had a migraine most of the day which I’ve tried to battle, with only limited success, in order to let me finish the document that started with so much promise yesterday.  Still there’s always tomorrow.

the photo today is of the bleak windy sand dunes that decorated this mornings walk, as I was trying to listen to a podcast by the overpowering Tony Robbins who I’m sure has important things to say, but he’s an extroverted extrovert and too much for my introverts ears to cope with.

Awesome Evernote

2013-10-09 09.10.53I’m exposed to a lot of start-ups, flooded with VC money and trying to make their mark on the world, or get bought.  Evernote rises above them all, it’s been the foundation of my personal knowledge management system for many years, but more than that it’s been an inspiration to watch as a company.  From the beginning Evernote seemed different, it was so centred around my long term needs, not some social networking addiction, but a deep investment in making me more productive in the long term.  It’s saved me dozens of times when we’ve lost an important document, bill or receipt and a scan of it has just been a few clicks away, it’s kept me organised, it’s kept my life simpler and easier.

This post isn’t really about Evernote the product though, it’s about Evernote the company.  Lead by a leader who’s deeply committed to the Evernote mission, a CEO who appears to be there for life.  A management team prepared to create a podcast that let me listen from the side lines as the team described both product and company and who shared their excitement about both. It’s a team that from the outside seem to have executed their strategy flawlessly:

  1. Create a geeky service and give it away for free
  2. Embrace the cloud, long before it had that name
  3. Engage with their power users, to create a deep bond of trust, essential for a product that’s meant to store your life, your memories.
  4. Find a few features that these power users will pay for, but won’t cripple the product for everyone else
  5. Create a community around the product, leverage passionate users as ambassadors for the product and give them a platform to share that passion.
  6. Develop best in class mobile apps better than anyone else, make sure those apps really exploit each mobile platform’s strengths
  7. Once the geeks have helped you refine the service, grow like crazy
  8. Make Evernote a platform and integrate with IFTTT and Zapier
  9. Buy and develop apps that plug into that platform and encourage developers to do the same
  10. Create a business version of the same product, an easy sell because so many of your users are already using it at work anyway
  11. Extend the eco system to co-designed and co-branded best in class physical goods that Evernote users will love and can buy with confidence
  12. Don’t focus on the competition, focus on the needs of your users
  13. …..

I’m so excited to see what they do next as they try to move from personal knowledge management into knowledge creation!

As a place to work Evernote seems to be as innovative, well thought through, and flexible as it’s products.  Great offices, great benefits, retained start-up culture. 

There are lot’s of great companies out there, Google, Apple, Microsoft, but in my view Evernote leads the pack, it’s truly been a joy to watch the strategy unfold.

I wrote this post in Caffe Nero where I’m spending a few hours before work.  My Mum is joining me soon.  When I’m 71, like her, I’m hoping that Evernote will still be with me, along with all my tweets, blog posts, everything I’ve read, every document I’ve scanned, photo I’ve saved.  The photo that illustrates this post celebrates ‘memories’ and this is one that I treasure, watching a seal pup scamper across Filey beach for the safety of the sea as I walked past.

Exploring The Evolution Of Christianity

Steve’s _IMG_8107As an atheist Christian books are not often on my reading list, in fact I’ve probably not read more than a handful of religious books in my life.  This month though I’ve been tempted into reading one, A New Kind of Christian which was recommended by Debbie’s pastor as one of the top ten books that changed his life.  It’s not great literature, but that’s not it’s purpose, it’s designed to challenge much of the baggage that’s grown up around the teachings of Jesus in the last 2000 years and get back to his core message.  It recognises the bible as a book of it’s time, that needs to be interpreted for the modern world, but also read through the filter of Jesus’s teachings. 

As soon as you accept these things many of my concerns about Christianity fall away:

  1. Christianity’s inability to accept and embrace what we learn about the world if it’s inconsistent with the bible (evolution, age of the planet etc)
  2. The Christian concept of heaven and hell as distinct future destinations, rather than ways of living today.  Living according to Jesus’s moral code is ‘heaven’ the further we depart from that code the closer our lives approach ‘hell’.  To my mind the core of what Jesus teaches is about how we live now, how we act, not so much about what myths we believe. 
  3. The idea that everyone in the world who’s unfortunate enough not to discover Christianity is damned, an idea that is so far removed from Jesus’s teachings as to be abhorrent to me
  4. The inability to see some of the parables and other sections of the bible for the powerful moral stories that they are, rather than as factual accounts.  Once stripped of the supernatural I think they are more inspiring not less
  5. Cultural baggage can be disentangled from the moral code, for example attitude towards women, gays, other religions, non-believers
  6. The fatalism “it’s Gods will” that Christianity encourages, rather than promoting self responsibility to fix our own problems, deal with our own challenges

The book doesn’t prescribe a new Christianity, it sketches out a new kind of Christian and points such a Christian in a direction that will result in a new kind of Christianity that’s more fluid in how it evolves over time, but also grounded on a smaller consistent core philosophy.  It presents a vision for Christianity that would be much easier to live with than a version that somehow has to reconcile all of the contradictions that exist within the bible as a whole.

There’s another side to the book though that’s just as interesting.  It provides a glimpse into the life of a pastor trying to reconcile the need to drive change with the need to keep his congregation on side.  Many people who have the ‘religious gene’ get deeply attached to their beliefs to the point where they become inseparable from their sense of self.  Challenges to these beliefs must shake such people to their foundation.  These deeply held beliefs must be a great comfort to people at times, but their need to defend them against pervasive and mounting evidence that contradicts them must make them tremble inside.  It’s no wonder that this internal turmoil spills over into negative behaviours and worse (love thy neighbour quickly being forgotten). 

I’ve considerable experience of driving change at work so I know how hard it is, even when challenging weakly held beliefs. In fact just moving people outside their comfort zone is hard work. So I have renewed respect for religious leaders who have the strength to make much needed change.

As an atheist I found the book mostly satisfying.  It de-emphasised religiousism, challenges myths, promoted rational Christian philosophy, encouraged respect and the search for common ground between faiths.  It placed more emphasis on right action on this life, rather than focussing on life after death.  It also made me realise though just how wonderful being an atheist is:

  1. I’m able to live a life guided by the best thinkers in the world rather than being constrained to a single source of truth
  2. I don’t have to deal with all of the inconsistencies presented in the bible, I’m able shape my own consistent code for living and adapt it to circumstances
  3. I’m able to embrace the wonders of the universe without fear that those wonders might conflict with some ancient belief
  4. I’m able to change or refine what I believe as new information presents itself.  It’s exciting to always be learning, rather than for key beliefs to be locked in the past
  5. I’ve no fear of going to hell, I never worry about God striking me down
  6. I never get disappointed when God doesn’t answer my prayers, I have to take personal responsibility for sorting out my own problems, I know where I stand

I’m a little sad though that the wonderful community that common religious beliefs promote isn’t available to me without me being forced into living a life of hypocrisy.

My spiritual life comes from appreciating the awe inspiring wonders of our universe, being in nature, surrounded by my family and friends, helping others.  When I walk along the beach I often close my eyes and listen to the surf as I walk, the feeling of being one with the world is all the ‘worship’ I need.  The picture I picked to illustrate today’s post is a great example of what I see when I open my eyes.

Meditation (experiences, progress, promise and books)

2013-05-31 10.17.46I’ve been meditating in one form or another for 40 years, I first discovered it as a kid through yoga and I didn’t think of it as meditation then, just conscious breathing.  Fifteen years ago this occasional anonymous practice became more systematic and got a name, Vipassana Meditation, now a few years on I prefer to just call it meditation.  I don’t want my meditation practice to have any hint of religious affiliation. Even though I think religions have much to teach us as codes for living, they have even more to avoid (religious people by contrast are generally great).

For me Meditation is both easy to describe (focus on the breath, watch thoughts arise and return to the breath) and practice (sit still and breathe), but fiendishly difficult to sustain.  Sitting for 30 minutes a day seems hard to justify at first, there seems to be little progress, what progress there is appears to be invisible and all those bubbling thoughts that keep drawing my attention away from the breath are frustrating!  Fast forward a decade and I now see significant progress though, my autistic brain is more empathic, I find it much easier to calmly see situations from other people’s perspective, I can relax myself with a breath or two. 

Most important of all though meditation has allowed me to separate ‘me’ from my physical pain, to experience the pain but not react to it, to be an impartial observer.  This separation allows me to do physical activities that hurt a lot, to the point at which natural endorphins (pain killers) kick in and give me temporary peace.  These natural endorphins are important because I can only do this separation ‘trick’ when I’m single tasking,  I’m not yet able to separate myself when I’m trying to read, watch TV, focus on work, or sleep, so I need chemical help.

In the last ten years science has embraced the study of meditation and studies abound with evidence of benefits:

Meditation improves immune function, lowers blood pressure, and cortisol levels; it reduces anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and emotional reactivity. It also leads to greater behavioural regulation and has shown promise in the treatment of addiction and eating disorders. Unsurprisingly, the practice is associated with increased subjective well-being. Training in compassion meditation increases empathy, as measured by the ability to accurately judge the emotions of others, as well as positive affect in the presence of suffering.

Pretty impressive.  Gradually as I’ve practiced meditation I’ve become more interested in understanding my mind and the minds of others, in finding a kind of secular spirituality.  I’ve been reading more books on religion and trying to understand the religious perspective which for decades has mystified me.  I’ve been following the work of Sam Harris (brave guy) the author and campaigner who’s challenging the worst of religion and digging deep into the secular nature of humanity, to find the best of ourselves.

I’ve been progressing from one session of meditation a day to two sessions, one 20 minute session of Yoga Nidra focussed on relaxation and the mind/body connection and 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation focussed on compassion and understanding the nature of self.  I’ve been loving it and seeing progress (the great motivator) I’m planning some DIY meditation retreats next year.

I’m now at the point where I can unreservedly recommend meditation, but I’ve struggled to find a book to recommend.  Most of the books are written from the perspective of a master meditator, providing vague advice to a struggling pupil.  Last week though I discovered a book that really captured my reality of meditation, the ups and downs, the promise and the challenge.  It’s written with a mix of humour and respect (and a little swearing).  I chose to listen to the audiobook, read by the author, it was fantastic.  I highly recommend 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.

Here’s a video by Dan Harris summarising the experiences he delves into deeply in his book, which is worth a watch, even if you’re not interested in reading the book or even meditating.

If you want more intellectual rigour and don’t mind religious ideas being challenged then Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion by Sam Harris is also excellent.

I wrote this post sitting in Caffe Nero, I’m mid flare at the moment suffering from pain, fatigue and fever but I dragged myself out of bed and to my favourite writing spot for ice cold coke and a slice of chocolate.  I’m looking forward to meditating when I get home and ‘bathing’ in the pain.  I chose a picture of the path to Watch Wood in Lytham, one of my favourite local walking routes.

Reinventing The Modern Workplace

20130403_064408000_iOSI’ve been passionate about workplace design for over 20 years, in fact I think my interest started way back when I redesigned my bedroom in preparation for my GCSEs.  My Dad had bought me a large office desk that was surplus to requirements and it transformed my home working environment.  It was my treasured companion for 10 years as I moved all over the country, this desk saw me through, my a-levels, degree and masters programme.  It finally went to a good home when we needed the room it occupied for my new born second daughter.

I’ve been reading about and experimenting with designing offices ever since.  I did my first full design to improve a portakabin that I shared with 6 other people, then I designed a whole building floor for 200 top engineers, and a large temporary building for 50 people engaged in an intensive 6 month training course.  When I finally got a building floor of my own, my team and I designed a ground breaking space that allowed me to prove many of my ideas, which I later transplanted into a traditional office.  My friend Graham Chastney who shared in these last two workplace adventures has been writing a series of great articles on workplace design and I’d wondered whether there was more to say.  I’ve been mulling it over and I’ve decided there is.

I’ve been pondering writing a series of books when I have time.  For now I’ve decided to start sketching out my ideas for these books through a series of web articles.  One of the books I want to write is about workplace design.  This post serves as an introduction to this series of articles.  It will provide a rough outline of the content that I’m hoping to cover.  I’m going to go beyond the physical workplace in these articles, considering people, culture, technology, environment, change and much more.

I will be revisiting this post regularly as I update my ideas and to add links to additional articles and refine my ideas, so expect this list of topics to change significantly:

  1. The history of workplace design. Before I get stuck into the future of the workplace it’s worth considering the past and the lessons we can learn from it.  In fact many of the ideas we think we’ve invented, for example, working in coffee shops has a long history
  2. Why people come to work. Unfortunately a lot of workplace design today seems to be more about the ego of the architects than it does about the needs of the people who work there, this article explores the reasons people come to an office to work an important issue now that there are alternatives
  3. The ROI for good workplace design, workplace design needs an ROI, what are the costs and the potential benefits.  is the future of the workplace more expensive or less?
  4. People centric workplace design. The workplace should serve the people who work there, not the convenience of the facilities managers, the health and safety bureaucracy, the blinkered accountants or the ego of the CEO
  5. The basics workplace design. The basics of modern workplace design have been well documented for 20 years, but largely ignored.  Some companies think they have just discovered them which is unfortunate because the state of the art goes well beyond the basics now
  6. The role of the home office in the modern workplace.  More and more people are working from home, does that mean the modern workplace is no longer needed?
  7. The role of the coffee shop in the modern workplace. Many home workers are deserting the spare bedroom for the coffee shop, can we replace the expense of the office building with a Caffe Nero gift card?
  8. The role of co-working spaces as an inspiration for the modern workplace. When people outgrow coffee shops they are being tempted into dedicated co-working spaces, can we outsource the workplace, or learn from them?
  9. Do people need physical workplaces when they have virtual workspaces. We often here people say my laptop is my workplace, I can work anywhere.  Virtual workspaces are important but they are only part of the story.  Good workplace design considers mobile workers, home workers, visitors and office workers as part of an integrated whole.
  10. Isn’t the future of work mobile? Why all this talk about workplaces, isn’t the future of work mobile?
  11. Not all workplaces can be like the Googleplex. The tech billionaires have funded dramatic, bold experiments in workplace design.  There’s something the other 99% of the world can learn from them, but should they try to copy them?
  12. The trend to co-locate, recently there has been a trend to return to co-location, as the optimal workplace model, after a decade of encouraging home working, this is often linked to new management practices like agile. 
  13. Architects and internal designers.  All too often architects start with the fabric of a building, trying to make a bold statement that appeals to the CEO, the people who work there have to fit into the architects concept.  Good workplace design starts with the people and makes the fabric serve them.
  14. The effect of workplace design on culture.  It’s worth considering the culture you want to develop before you design the type of workplace that will enhance it.
  15. Designing for the future of work, the way we work is changing, with less hierarchy, virtual teams, small agile teams. How does this new way of working affect the design of the workplace?
  16. Principles of modern workplace design. Let’s get stuck into thinking through the principles of the modern workplace, now we have all the essential background.  A workplace is not the same as a work space, people have different work styles, peoples needs for s workplace change over the short, medium and long term, virtual workplaces have a role too
  17. A suggested workplace strategy. A workplace strategy needs to be more like designing a city, than designing a building.  This post tries to tease out a suggested strategy, much like a city master plan.
  18. Details matter in modern workplace design. Workplace design needs to work at the macro level, but it’s the details that really matter, how do we get those details right?
  19. The future of the workplace. Workplace design will continue to evolve, what’s on the horizon that might effect our decisions today.

The photo above is of Cleveleys beach with the mountains of the Lake District in the background.  This is the view from one of my favourite summer work spots,  The lovely Cafe Cove and Rossall Beach where I like to work from my car.

Windows 10 Score Card

imageBack in April I wrote a blog post outlining what I was hoping for in Windows 9, well Microsoft have started to reveal the feature set of ‘Windows 10’ skipping 9 in the hope that they will convince people that they are really making a huge leap forward from Windows 8.  So far I’m not convinced, Windows 10 seems like a solid improvement over Windows 8.1, but I’ve not seen anything revolutionary yet, except maybe the simplification of information rights management, finally bringing it into the mainstream.  To be honest though Microsoft don’t really need a revolutionary product, they need a solid upgrade from Windows 7 for enterprises, and they need an appealing platform for consumers who are still on the fence and not wholly committed to Android or Apple already.

I’m on holiday this week, with little/no internet access to I’ve not got any hands on experience of Windows 10 yet but I have enough information after a morning’s reading to update my April post to see how much of my wish list has been delivered in this very early build:

So there are a few areas that Microsoft seem to be addressing:

  1. I want to be able to send my apps, desktop, audio and video to other PCs and set top boxes quickly and simply, in the same way that I can with my iPad using Airplay.  << Miracast, already in Windows 8.1 provides some of this capability (remote screen display) but it’s not as reliable and capable as Airplay.  Microsoft have their own reference device for this now as well so there’s hope that lots of displays will soon support it.
  2. I want updated app experiences for music, video, image and video editing that work well for desktop users as well as touch users << very likely
  3. I want a seamless transition between desktop experiences and touch.  What I mean is that if I’m using Microsoft Office on my laptop and I unplug the keyboard and transition to tablet mode I want to use the touch optimised version of Office open with the same document at the same place, same for browsers  << Windows 10 now manages these transitions well, so I’m hoping that applications can hook into the same transition detection events and also handle the change
  4. I want desktop management APIs built into Windows 9 natively, so that BYO devices can be just enrolled for management in the same way that Windows RT devices can  << Yes!

Unfortunately there’s a lot still on my wish list that there’s no sign of yet and I’m not hopeful:

  1. I want traditional Windows applications in the Windows Store.  Microsoft can deliver that by building App-V into Windows 9 and allowing App-V sequenced apps into the store.  << no sign yet, still possible
  2. For these traditional Windows Store apps I want their user state preserved in OneDrive, in the same way that WinRT apps do.  Microsoft can do that by mandating that in addition to App-V apps define their roaming settings using UE-V. << no sign yet, unlikely
  3. I want to be able to connect into my home network using Direct Access, just by having a single PC running Windows 9 on my home network. << no sign yet, unlikely
  4. I’d like to see a backup to and restore from Onedrive option, now that cloud storage is so cheap and bandwidth so plentiful << no sign yet, but it’s interesting that OneDrive now supports very large files, so it’s technically possible
  5. I’d like to see remote desktop everywhere, so I can RDP into my phone, my Tablet.  RDP easily and securely into my home network.  I want this for apps and desktops. << no sign yet, it seems to me that Microsoft really don’t understand the power of RDP for consumers
  6. I want an advanced search interface, exposing some of the power that’s currently hidden away in statements like “name=windows, type=pptx” << no sign yet, unlikely
  7. I want the transparent tiles effect that’s in Windows Phone 8.1 << no sign yet, I don’t really care that much

I’m going to be interested to keep track of progress over the next few months, currently 4/11 is a good start.

I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero, in Hull, I’m on holiday in Filey, but a lot is happening so I’m spending the morning catching up.  I prefer to work for a few hours every day of the year, rather than for large blocks of time 5 days a week.  The picture illustrating todays post is of @thedoc located next to the old dry doc, opposite The Deep. It’s meant to be the anchor development that stimulates the Fruit Market area to become “the digital, cultural and creative centre of Hull”. It’s in a fantastic location with water on three sides providing great views of the Humber.

Are We Wrecking Our Working Lives

2013-05-17 07.11.34We tend to think everything’s improving all the time, and that only grumpy old folks (like me) think things were better in the past. But with problems like information overload, the decline in conversation, obsession with smartphones and lots of other disruptive change it might be worthwhile to look back in time every now and then, to see just how much improvement there really has been. I’m not reporting on any kind of rigorous study in this post, I’m just using my own experience and I’m being intentionally provocative by being a little selective, but here goes, 10 years ago:

  1. I was using a small light weight Windows tablet, that allowed me to change batteries without hibernating it, had a great desktop docking station, a 4:3 format and a Wacom digitizer.  It was attached to a big second screen on my desk, but in my bag everywhere I travelled, of course it had mobile internet.
  2. I was using a fantastic Blackberry that was perfect for ploughing through the emails. With it’s excellent clicky keyboard, large outdoor visible screen, and superb thumb wheel for scrolling and selecting I was never more productive while mobile.
  3. I had an mp3 player for podcasts to keep me entertained
  4. I had a Nokia 6310i mobile phone which still works fine, it lasted for days on a single charge, still gets a better signal than my iPhone today and had an excellent car kit (I still use this phone while travelling so I can make extended free calls to my wife and kids)
  5. My laptop was fast and had an excellent 1400×1050 display that’s better than the laptop I use now.  It ran Windows 2003 which was rock solid and allowed me to run a couple of virtual machines with no problems
  6. I didn’t worry too much about laptop battery life because every desk, meeting room and easy chair had a charging cable built in.  It even let me swap the DVD drive for a second battery.
  7. I didn’t get too much email, because most of my work was done by a focussed collocated team who all new each other and saw each other every day
  8. Everyone in the team could easily share files with each other
  9. Conference calls were something that happened at most once a day and were only for the type of meetings that required discussion and debate with the extended team
  10. We had plenty of meeting rooms and breakout areas so most of the time no one was disturbed by other peoples phone calls
  11. Meetings had associated meeting minutes and action lists, so if you missed a meeting it was easy to catch up
  12. Everyone (including the leaders) in the team wrote a weekly highlight report, so everyone new what everyone else was doing, who was struggling and needed help and our health metrics helped us look after everyone
  13. Our team had members from every disciple working together without any political stove pipes
  14. Our main source of information came in the post in the form of carefully curated magazines, so information overload was much less of a problem
  15. People answered the phone and we actually enjoyed talking to people that way
  16. You could always reach team members by phone, because everyone had a mobile and people weren’t on conference calls all day
  17. Everyone in the team had a laptop, even the admin support staff so we had a fully flexible office
  18. We didn’t need instant messaging most of the time because we could easily glance across the room to see if people were busy and if not pop over for a chat
  19. We still had instant messaging though for keeping in touch with virtual team members and other contacts and in some ways it was better than we have now
  20. All of our meeting rooms had projectors installed and most of the whiteboards supported eBeams which allowed to record the meetings and also allowed virtual participants to see us drawing on them in real time
  21. We could share our screens with other team members with a few clicks using NetMeeting, but not outside the company
  22. Of course we had Wi-Fi thorough the office

We got a lot done, but unfortunately our bags were HEAVIER!

Note: some of the above recollections were drawn from a period 10-12 years ago, but I’ve pooled them all at 10 years just for dramatic affect.

I was mulling over this post while on my evening walk last night, it’s worth noting that 12 years ago I would probably have still been in the office.  I wrote this post in Caffe Nero in an easy chair and it’s also worth noting that we had lots of easy chairs and even a library in the office so that people could chill out throughout the day and we had a great coffee machine. I chose a photo from an evening walk a few months ago.