Seth Godin writes:
Is "I accept responsibility" the new "Your call is very important to us"? Probably.
Is that because some people have to be told by a marketing guru that taking responsibility is worth the effort? Probably. Shame, that.
I just read this news article about a girl who is 6'4" and only 13 years old. Sad story of being teased (that word is probably not harsh enough to describe the ordeal) because she is so tall and thin. I can somewhat understand juvenile teasing in regards to some things, but teasing someone for something they have absolutely no control over, like a hereditary disease, is just crap. It's really sad how people feel a need to tear down eachother. Twisted human condition.
The article has a picture of the girl standing next to her dad, who is much shorter. Hopefully she can get past this without too much baggage and become even stronger.
This past week, our Team Leader Team has met twice to talk about Coaching (with a capital "C", which means it's a Platonic ideal, or academic discipline, or a system, or maybe a product). What is it? How do we do it? What does it look like at Amor Ministries? It's a new concept for most of us, and even for those who have some experience with Coaching, we're having to work at it, trying to collaboratively map the "Coaching at Amor" space.
During the conversation, the topic flowed over into Performance Reviews (paraphrased):
A: What are we saying? If part of Coaching is "building relationship", how do we avoid crossing over the line from Coaching to counseling? B: We stick to talking about "performance". A: But then we won't be addressing our company's values. One of our values is that work will be fun. If I'm only being talked to about my "performance", I'm given license to be grumpy every day as long as I get my tasks done. B: That's why our Performance Reviews have 3 components: company values, core competencies, and meeting your goals (what most companies call "performance"). C: I know that's what mattered in my last job: bottom line--did you get those tasks done? A: But again, if I can only talk about "performance", I'm not addressing the other two components. B: Sure you are. They're all "performance".
Did you catch it? We just obliterated a concept—maybe two. Nuked, taken off the map. If you don't immediately see how, let me tell you another story:
Last year, I wanted to go backpacking in the Los Padres National Forest, just south of Monterey, CA. I hadn't ever been there, and was interested to see what coastal backpacking was like (it was great!). But before you can hike the trail, you have to choose the trail, and the Ventana Wilderness has several. We chose the "Big Sur" trailhead on the West side, but I was just as interested in the "China Camp" trailhead from the East. Both of them provide access to the "Pine Ridge Trail"; they are its endpoints, about 15 miles apart.
But imagine for a moment that Bill is the first English speaker on the Pine Ridge Trail. He only knows about the "Big Sur" trailhead, and as he walks (or creates) the trail, what does he call it? Taking the path of least resistance, he probably calls it the "Big Sur Trail". From his point of view, it's only got one endpoint, so there's very little difference between "Big Sur" (the trail) and "Big Sur" (the camp at the head of that trail).
Now, imagine a second person, Chris, starting at China Camp. She's going to call her journey the "China Camp Trail". After they each thoroughly walk and map the territory, they meet by chance in the middle. Will they decide on a common name for the trail? Perhaps, perhaps not. But if they do, what will it be?
What happens if Bill "wins", resulting in the common name being the "Big Sur Trail"? There are many repurcussions of this decision, but the one I want to focus on is this: the name "Big Sur" does not mean what it did before their meeting. Reread that until it sinks in. Oh, in Bill's personal world, it seems nothing has changed, but Christine doesn't see it that way—the name "Big Sur" is brand-new to her. But there's an important third party we haven't thought about yet, and that is "everyone else". Now that they've decided on names, chances are that those who follow in their footsteps will use the same names, and those names will confuse them. Here's how:
Those people who follow Bill will have no problems. They can use the term, "Big Sur" as he did, to mean "the trail that starts at my trailhead"; that is, "Big Sur" refers to the trail and the trailhead at the same time—they are not divisable.
Those people who follow Christine have no problem, because "Big Sur" means the trail, and "China Camp" means "my trailhead". They never use the term "Big Sur" to talk about the opposite trailhead, because they never use it.
But those people who follow both of them, who are equally familiar (or unfamiliar) with both camps, have a problem. When I talk to Bill and Christine about "Big Sur", they mean different things:
Me: So, I'm planning to hike Big Sur this weekend. Bill: Great! Make sure you get a good picture of the ocean. Me: Oh, I won't have time. I'm only going for one day. Chris: Makes sense. You might get a good picture of the South Ventana Cone, though. Bill: Huh? The cone's at least two days of hiking. Chris: Huh? It's only a day from China Camp. Bill: Oh, I thought you meant "Big Sur". Chris: Huh? That's what we're talking about. "Big Sur". Me: Huh? I'm lost, and I haven't even left yet.
Of course, a real example scenario would be much longer. It might take several days for one of the participants to realize that we aren't all using the term "Big Sur" the same way. Explaining to (and even convincing) the others that this is so is a lot of work. It's so much work that it usually doesn't occur; if I'm the one with the epiphany, then I've solved the problem "for me" and can go on my hike, shaking my head at how silly Bill and Christine are with their parochial uses of the term "Big Sur". Obviously, the term means "the trail" or "the trailhead", but never both. Bill always means both, and Christine always means "the trail".
Fortunately for us, the powers-that-be called the actual trail, "Pine Ridge". They used a name that is different from the name of either trailhead (but there is a camp in the middle of the trail called "Pine Ridge", on a ridge called "Pine Ridge"). So Bill and Christine and I can all talk about it safely now, without saying, "Huh?" every other sentence.
But our fictitious example happens just as often in reverse. In our "Big Sur" example, the name of the part was inflated to also be the name of the whole. Often, we can find the name of the whole coming first, and then being subverted to mean one of the parts. Take the word "politics" for example. Its "original meaning" can be localized around the phrase "the profession of governing". But to hear the word as many people use it today, it can mean "giving up something in order to gain something else", or it can mean, "all talk and no action":
Joe: We sure needed a liberal judge. Sue: Yes; but in the end, it was "just politics". Good thing, too, or we might have ended up with a conservative. Joe: Huh? We did end up with a conservative judge. It was "just politics". Sue: Huh? No we didn't. It was a political decision. Me: Huh? Isn't it all politics?
The meaning of the term "politics" has therefore been changed, from "governance" to a technique or facet of governance. This is no less of a problem than our "Big Sur" example.
Back to performance
Let's wrap up and return to our first conversation. What concept did we nuke and how? If you recall, speaker B said, in effect, that they were defining the word "performance" to mean "the whole": all 3 parts of the Performance Review. This differed drastically from person A's definition: that "performance" only meant one part, and even if Person A could be swayed, Person C had a lot of history backing up the use of the word "performance" to mean only the one part.
If person B somehow convinced them all to use the term "performance" to mean the whole, then we have a new problem: what do we call the part that we used to call "performance"? If we continue to call it "performance", then we've landed in Big Sur country. One name refers to both the part and the whole, and persons A, B, and C will struggle mightily to be understood in every future conversation about performance. Those who follow person B may never know what "performance" used to mean, and may never be introduced to that concept; simply by re-using just one word to mean something larger, we've potentially wiped out the old, smaller meaning—nuked it. If our people are really on the ball, they might notice this and choose to call the part by a new name, maybe "accomplishment of goals" or "completion of tasks", to distinguish it from the "performance" whole, and let it live on.
But that's not good enough. Although we may be exploring this space for the first time, we're not true pioneers. Someone else has been here before, has already staked their claim to these ideas and terms, and has told everyone else and sold lots of maps and travel guides using these names. Consider: if we redefine "performance" to include corporate values and core competencies, we have now introduced a perpetual translation step. Whenever we bring in a Coaching expert, we will all become confused when they use the word "performance" differently than we do (this happened to us recently when we brought in a process-management expert—total communicative disconnect in both directions). When we hire a new employee, we will say, "I care about your performance" and they will hear, "I don't care about you, just outcomes".
Given the large body of literature on "performance" and the widespread common meaning, we would do ourselves a great disservice to redefine "performance" at Amor to mean something larger than its commonly-accepted meaning. Thankfully, our conversation turned elsewhere immediately, and person B used the word "performance" from that point on as we had always used it. I don't think anyone is going to start using "performance" in the broader sense.
But I was sweating bullets, there, for a little while. Let's hope the question, "what does Coaching 'look like' at Amor?" does not reach a similar point.
After months of planning and years of anticipation... it is here.
This is the photography showcase of my friend Justin and I. The site is still going through a few changes, but it's in working order.
Please take a look, leave a comment, do whatever. Photo's will be added on a daily basis. The site should be completely finished in a week or so.
(RSS is up and running, so add aesthetic-mindset to your sage feeds!)
The job posting is pretty tame: we need a Python web developer. But I thought I'd add my personal point-of-view, and say that we really mean "developer" and not just "coder". You'd be responsible for producing working web apps, but that involves a lot of design work and architectural decision-making.
You would also be expected to contribute to the CherryPy HTTP framework and to Dejavu (my Python ORM), since I'm a core dev on both those projects and use them heavily already. In other words, if you have or want exposure to the full stack of modern web development challenges, this is the job for you. You'll be a full member of an IT team of 3 serving an energetic staff of 50.
You'll also get something that's hard to find in most programming jobs: warm fuzzies. We build homes for the poor in Mexico, simultaneously "building" the church in Mexico, the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. We are not on the cutting-edge of world missions--we are defining that edge. If you've been thinking about "doing more for Jesus", but would rather write code than dig ditches in Uganda, give us a call (619-662-1200 ext 11).
You might have heard of the drug tunnel that was found that leading from Tijuana to Otay Mesa (only a few miles from my office). The authorities found at least 4200 pounds of marijuana when they found the tunnel. Peoples' first thoughts may be of astonishment, fear, or relief that it was busted. I have spoken with a few people who said they are very happy about the bust, as am I. But beyond my relief that the drug trade took a big hit lies is a bit of sorrow within me. What a lot of people don't realize is how many people who were working in that operation will be murdered because of the loss of "product". Sure we can say that they were connected to the drug trade and it was their choice, so who cares if they pay the price with their lives. But, they are still people, who God loves, many of whom I am sure did not desire their line of work. I still feel for the families of those who will now be hunted down and killed because the cartels took such a big hit. Someone has to be responsible and punished, and for those people I feel great sorrow.
Another perspective I have encountered was the business end. I was talking with a friend of a friend of mine who smokes dope. We discussed the tunnel a bit. The first thing I mentioned were the deaths that would now take place and the first thing that he mentioned was that the price and value of dope went up about 20% after the bust. I totally didn't even consider that the drug trade had a working business model, so to speak. It just fascinated me for a bit to see something from someone else's viewpoint.
You may have noticed I haven't been blogging much. It's due to a combination of factors, and those of you who support me financially deserve at least a quick writeup of those:
- My position at work has changed dramatically in the last 3 months. I used to have a wonderful person between me and the Chief Operating Officer—now I answer directly to him, which means I have to do all of the things that Wendy used to do for me. Unfortunately, it seems "all of the things" amounts to another 10-15 hours of meetings every week.
- There wasn't any room in my schedule to begin with. Monday and Friday nights I'm supposed to work out with Ryan (the other half of my IT Team), Tuesday night is Praise Band practice, Wednesday is spent with the High School group at church, Thursday night is College group, Saturday afternoon sees me at a High School Bible study, and Sunday includes High School Sunday School (that may change to College/Young Singles this Summer).
- I've been working on CherryPy and Dejavu quite a bit, but I don't even have time to document that as I should. I need to release Dejavu 1.4, but I don't have the time to do it right. So blogging is taking a back seat to work I'm not even doing.
- I'm finally putting a real shower in my apartment after 10 years of using a tub and a metal hose, stapled to the wall. It's been a week and I'm about half done.
So, I have to apologize for being more of a doer than a communicator. I'd write more, but it's time for Bible study. :/
At work, we are running out of space everywhere. We have probably 10 too many people for how much office space we have. So, until we are able to do some real changes, there are a lot of minor changes going on. One of the changes is that both of our main printer/copier machines have been moved into my office. My supervisor and I talked quite a bit about this and how it would affect my work. I didn't think it would bother me at all, and he thought it might present a problem (I'm not exactly the most social person at all times). Anyhow, he was right. Today is the first day that both of the printers are in my office, and I almost went postal once already.
It's the little things.
I figured the printers would be in my office. People would come in to pick up their print jobs or do their copying, then they'd leave. WRONG. Instead they come in, talk to me while I am trying to work. Ask me to fix the printer's paper jam. Take print jobs that don't belong to them AND PUT THEM ON MY DESK? Ask me to fix their print settings on their computer because their stuff didn't print as they expected. Ask me to fix yet another printer jam. Then if all goes well, they feel a need to say something as they are leaving as well. They even moved some of my personal items around in the room (took stuff off of my desk, and put it elsewhere). Oh and this is all over the course of about 3 hours.
This is way to much interaction for me, especially leaving crap on my desk! So now I have to talk to my boss again to see if there is a way to convince the staff to leave me the hell alone when they come into my office/the printer room. The best part is that my co-workers are all very emotional people for the most part, and if I ask them not to talk to me they will be offended and hurt.
fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun fun!
Yesterday I framed my first print. The one you see here is a simple 8'x10' print in a wooden frame. The photo is one of my favourites and was taken at my friend Scott's backyard while I was waiting for him to get off the phone ;)
Anyhow, I am really excited about finally framing a print, and hope to start doing so more and more as gifts and eventually maybe making a bit of $$ with it. The first print went to Scott since he has told me numerous times that he liked the photo, and he is the one that reared the beautiful plant.
I should have my photoblog, which I am co-producing with my friend Justin, up in a couple days. It's a project I have been planning in my head for about six months and it is about to come into fruition, so that will be yet another milestone.
So, here's to milestones!
We've (hopefully) all seen C# 3.0's fantastic new feature called LINQ. I think it's a great idea. It makes it easy to query differing data sources using an embedded query syntax. Wouldn't it be great if we had something like this for Python?
We do. It's called a list (or generator) comprehension. For example, it lets you rewrite this LINQ example like this:
numbers = [5, 4, 1, 3, 9, 8, 6, 7, 2, 0] lowNums = [number for number in numbers if number < 5]
The problem is, we can only run these comprehensions inside the Python application, which is inefficient if you want to talk to a SQL RDBMS with a huge amount of data to filter.
Enter SQLComp. SQLComp breaks down the ASTs and translates your list and generator comprehensions to SQL, and automatically queries the database and gets the result. It also allows simple, safe variable interpolation. The wiki page has a few simple examples on it.
Please note that SQLComp is experimental, and I intended for someone to perhaps pick it up, hack on it, and make something cool. Shoot me an email if you're interested in collaborating.