Posts Tagged ‘computers’

Flexible Focus #67: A-Chart vs B-Chart

by William Reed on September 1, 2011

In this series we have introduced two levels of focus for the Mandala Chart, the 9 frame A-Chart 3X3 Matrix and the 64 frame B-Chart 8X8 Matrix, developed by Matsumura Yasuo, the founder of the Mandala Chart Method. You might compare them to two different levels of magnification in a telescope or a microscope, where the shift of focus instantly transports you to a new world. Only in this case the same lens can take you to either the microscopic or the telescopic view, in any mindscape you can imagine.

Moreover, like the longitude and latitude lines we impose on the earth for navigation, the Chart can help you get your bearings and understand the relationship of the parts to the whole. Without this you are like a mariner set adrift at sea without compass, map, or sextant. No wonder so many people are lost in life.

The difference with the Mandala Chart is that instead of a GPS (Global Positioning System), it serves as an LPS (Life Positioning System).

Lessons in Flexible Focus

Most people have great difficulty with flexible focus, perhaps because they lack such a tool. The history of civilization is filled with fascinating examples of people who were unable to see or appreciate new points of view. Sadly, the response has all too often been destructive, leading on a mass scale to war and genocide at one extreme, and intolerance and redundancy at the other.

Racism clings to a single and arbitrary view of other people, as if to say that one frame in the square is right, and all of the others are wrong. The only perceptions that are allowed in this limited view are those which reinforce the bigotry. The two sides are reduced to a black and white view that allows no room for color. Against that background read the fascinating research, Genetic Studies Show that Race is Not a Scientific Concept. The genes which affect our external appearance amount to a mere 0.01%. Under the skin we are 99.99% the same.

While hindsight is 20/20, foresight appears to be almost legally blind, particularly among experts and people at the top of their field. This has been true in the fast evolving world of computers, where people have made some embarrassingly short-sighted predictions, such as the Chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation saying in 1977 that,

“There is no reason that anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer in the invention of radio, was thought by some to be mentally unstable for suggesting that voice could be transmitted through the air over great distances. Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962 saying that,

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

Read some of the laughable bad predictions experts have made in the past. And yet predictably even ten years from now people will laugh at what today passes for common sense. So it has always been.

Why Stop at 64 Frames?

Clearly the Universe doesn’t stop at 64, so why should the Mandala Chart stop there? Theoretically you can drill down forever, but you will find that the deeper you go the more you return to the 3X3 Matrix view at that level. Mentally, it is similar to the process of juggling. It is easy to toss one ball between two hands, but more of a challenge to toss two three balls between the right and left hand. Only a handful of professional jugglers can to juggle as many as many as 8 or 9 balls at a time. Apparently in juggling the human limit breaks down quickly past the number 8.

The I Ching, or ancient Chinese Book of Changes, also starts with 8 Trigrams, which are combined into 64 Hexagrams, reflecting the same structure of the Mandala Chart. Wealth Dynamics, which is based in part on the I Ching, is also based on 8 Wealth Profiles, which combine into 64 possible partnership patterns. And of course the Mandala itself stems from the Buddhist description of consciousness, using the same number of frames. Apparently as in juggling, our consciousness reaches its limits past that number, and tends to revert back to the simpler Matrix view when pushed past the limit.

A-Chart eMandala

B-Chart eMandala

There are also time limits in working with the Mandala Chart. An A-Chart can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to fill out carefully, and a B-Chart Mandala can take up to 90 minutes. Beyond that it becomes impractical from the time management perspective. Nevertheless, in contrast to the unidimensional view of inflexible focus, a 2×2 Matrix or 3×3 Matrix already has 4 to 8 more degrees of freedom, and is well worth taking the time to explore.

As an exercise in expanding your awareness of the many dimensions to a task, try taking the time to complete a B-Chart Mandala. A good place to start is with the Template for a 100 Year Life Span. It is easier to do when the subject is you.

Budget Season! Time to Start Thinking about 2012

by Matthew Carmen on May 23, 2011

Well here we are in May. 2011 seems to be flying by – the year is almost half over, and in the corporate world you know what that means:

Time to start planning for 2012.

This is that time of the year everyone dislikes. For operations and the overall business, it is essentially time away from what they want to focus on, and for the finance teams, it is that time when they find themselves refereeing battles between operations and business for the finite amount of dollars.  All in all, this time of the year is where the challenges of the year ahead are discussed, strategized around, and hopefully addressed.

The three distinct groups – business, operations, and finance teams, each play a role in ensuring a successful budgeting and planning season.  In the case of the business, each area – whether a business unit, product line or service; needs to have its strategy fully developed by the executive team and communicated to all levels of the business.  By doing this, each person – from the lowest level all the way up – will know:

  • What the corporate strategy is, going forward,
  • How their work will help move the company towards the goal, and
  • It will provide management teams the direction in which to plan programs and projects.

By establishing a clear direction across the board, the business will be able to have conversations with the operational areas (such as IT) to make sure that the needs of the business are top priority for everyone.

No Personal Agendas

In my experiences, which have taken place in each of the three distinct areas, one thing has always been paramount to success, “Don’t come to the negotiations with a personal agenda”.  The more emotion that is brought to the table, the longer and more drawn out the negotiations become, and feelings are hurt at the end of the process.  Many times these feelings carry forward and the working relationships between people, groups and departments can be irreparably harmed.  This definitely does not help the long-term growth of a company.

The IT Operations View

In the case of the IT operations groups, this time of year is typically focused on two major things;

  1. The planning of programs and projects that benefit the business, and
  2. The planning of the IT organization.

In the case of the second point, IT has to weigh the benefits to the business versus the needs of the IT organization.  This means that with a finite amount of budget dollars available, the IT department needs to find the right mix of dollars for the benefit of the business while having enough budget to make sure the IT department is able to do the things it needs to do to ensure the business survives long term.  This internal IT spend will likely include: disaster recovery, continued infrastructure modernization, replacement systems for facilities, server and storage growth and refresh, etc.  These areas of spend need to be voiced to the business and discussions need to take place at this time of year, at times, the business seems to forget that ongoing operations need to be sustained and this costs money. May and June are critical communication months in the budgeting and planning season.  Communicating now means that once the finance team is ready to open the budgeting tool, usually right after the July 4th holiday, the whole budgeting project goes more smoothly.

The Finance Team View

The finance team always hopes for a smooth budget season.  Depending on the work they do in these early stages of the process, this smooth season is possible.  At this time of the year, the finance team needs to make sure that its message is communicated as well.  The finance team needs to make sure that all of the business and operational groups know and understand the process by which the budget will happen, what the key dates are, what the budgeting system will include and what business and operations will need to add to it.  These are all very important, the more the business and operational groups understand about what they are responsible to do at this point and throughout the whole budgeting process, the easier it becomes for everyone.

Another area that the finance team needs to be working on at this point is the final testing for its budgeting system.  Changes to the system from previous years may have been done due to upgraded equipment and upgrades in software functionality.  If a completely new system has been implemented (Hyperion and Cognos-TM1 are the two largest systems currently in use by midsized and large companies), the work becomes even more challenging.  Lastly, on the finance side of the budgeting triangle, training the usage of the system must be planned for.  All planning sessions need to be calendared, and anyone who will use the system including: cost center managers, department managers, executives and financial representation should be included in the training. (Either a complete training on a new system, or in the case of the use of the same system, a refresher course will be needed as well as complete training for new users.)

Plan Ahead for Success

Just like most endeavors, the more work that is put into the early phases of the annual planning exercise, the easier it become to achieve success.  The easier the complete budgeting process is, the less evasive to all areas involved it is.  Remember, for most people involved, the budget process is an addition to their “regular” job.  Remember, throughout the whole process, nothing is personal, it is all about moving the business forward…the right way.  Lastly, there are professionals, like myself, that can help with anything from questions to process and system integration.  We are here to help and make your business grow.

The Blinding Task Orientation

by Himanshu Jhamb on October 12, 2009

Task OrientationThere are countless instances in my life when I have wondered why my hard work has not paid off the way I had expected it to ‘coz I had heard so many times (from so many people) that it really pays to work hard. Evidently, I was missing something. My quest for solving this mystery led me to investing in my education (after a drought of almost a decade), finally, and I learnt why hard work, by itself, is not enough to get the results that we are after.

I realized that the way I was working was self-defeating in itself. Yes, I was working long hours (very long hours), I was tired, sweating-it-out and simply slogging it out. I was doing what I was told and I worked really hard to finish it in time and when I was done with that one thing, I went to the next task. What totally escaped me was that in “task-orientation” i.e. my single-mindedness of completing the task; I was simply blind to the overall purpose of what I was doing and in the process, did not end up producing much although it felt like I had moved a mountain (or two!).

If you can identify with this feeling… keep reading…

As an example of what “Task Orientation” looks like (or shows up as) in real life, a recent event comes to mind. I was working with a team member on a project where we were figuring out a piece of software on how we can make it work for using it to deliver some audio/video content. My astute colleague figured it out pretty quickly and I requested him to send out an email with detailed instructions on how to use the software to the rest of the team so that everyone can start utilizing it to do their work more effectively. My colleague sent out the email in the next 15 minutes with 3-4 brief steps and the final step (which was where the meat was) was garbled (perhaps a result of a shoddy cut/paste attempt). 3 out of 4 team members responded for clarifications and a flurry of emails followed to rectify the situation. Imagine how easy it would’ve been if my dear colleague would’ve given just a little more time to thinking of the PURPOSE of the request rather than treat it as just a “Task” that had to be taken care of quickly. The difference is admittedly, subtle, but the consequences, unfortunately, are not.

I have been culprit of many such emails in the past… (and I apologize now to all those who received those emails from me that added “Cost” to their life) and have learnt to take care by following a few simple rules to take care of my natural inclination to the “Task orientation” in my work and not get trapped in it. Here are a few of my simple rules:

  1. Know the recipients of your emails: Who are you writing to? Are they aware of the context of your email? If not, provide some background before you dive into what you have to say.
  2. Know your recipient’s proficiency in what you will be talking about in your email. So, for example, you will be writing a very different email if you are giving technical instructions to a group of developers vs. a group of managers.
  3. Make sure the links or any references you provide in your emails, WORK. Test them out yourself before sending the email out. It is “Very Costly” for the recipients to click on the links you provide in your email that do not work.
  4. Cutting & Pasting (especially software code or configuration stuff): If you are cutting/pasting anything that you want others to take “as-is”: Cut/Paste it in the email body and also cut/paste it in a simple text editor (e.g. notepad); save the file; attach it and then send the email. The attachment serves as a backup plan. It takes care of the situation in which any “hidden” or “Special” characters inadvertently find their way in your email and gives your recipient a “second-chance” to receive what you wanted to send them without them going through the trouble of sending you another email asking you to resend the cut/paste text. That’s a HUGE Cost Saving!
  5. Include your signature at the end of your emails: How many times have you received emails from others, had a question you wanted to speak to them about immediately but could not get in touch with them because all you saw at the end of the email was a “Thanks!”? Do your recipients (and yourself) a favor – Do not be that person.

Imagine the assessments you trigger at the other side of the email with your recipients in your everyday communications. Imagine how you’d show up for them in your emails  if you “took care” to write emails with these rules. You will show up as someone who really “cares” for their time and your time. On the other hand, “Task orientation” only produces lots of activity… not necessarily productive and leaves people with quite a few negative assessments about you.

The choice is yours… and so are the consequences of it!

Choose with care!