Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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    Welcome to a Silicon Valley State of Mind, thoughts tips and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Operational Excellence

For the second time this week, I’m typing this blog while the power is out. The last time came as quite a surprise; however, this time, I was more prepared as our electric company left a notice on the door yesterday stating that they would be doing planned maintenance at this time. I made a note on my calendar to that effect, and when planning my day last night, started considering how I would be impacted by the power outage. Not much came to mind, so I scheduled it like any other day. To be resilient, you must break dependencies.

In my practice, I’m not bound by continuous power. Even if my Uninterruptible Power Supply gives out, which keeps me 95% functional, I can still operate at close to 90% productivity for the rest of the day. I’m typing this entry on a MacBook Air which still has plenty of battery life, and I have a battery powered wi-fi device to get to the Internet if I need to. Most of my operational data is in the cloud, so as long as I have Internet access, I’m in business. My cell phone is fully charged, so no issues with calling people. The only thing I can’t really do right now is crunch large sets of data on my server—and fortunately that can wait.

There’s a concept in agile design called low coupling. This means, for your solution to be agile, it should not be bolted into other components of the system. This is what makes agile systems resilient, and it can make your business and your life resilient as well. If you like to play Jenga, you know exactly what I mean; removing one small block can bring the whole tower down. You don’t want or need these blocks in your organization or in your life.

When going through your improvement cycle, focus on decoupling strong dependencies. Don’t allow the power to go out on your business just because there’s no electricity.

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Posted by on in Program Management

Happy Friday, everyone!

As we’re wrapping up another week, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on—wrapping up. There are lots of things you could wrap up: a conversation, meeting, client engagement, project, program, or even a large-scale strategic implementation. In all cases, it pays to intentionally spend some time in review of what happened. In Deming’s classic Plan, Do, Check, Act management method, this would be the Check phase. Six Sigma, in true form, has formalized this process and it’s called a Plus Delta.

Although more structured than an ad-hoc review, the Plus Delta is really a loosely defined construct. The Plus part attempts to discover what went right, and the Delta part attempts to discover what could be improved. Notice that there’s no Minus, this is intentional.

Concerning yourself with what went wrong has three problems. First, it’s negative. Call me a typical, California bliss-head if you must, but negative talk is just not empowering. Second, it encourages ratholes. For some reason people love to complain about what went wrong. It’s easy to have the discussion devolve into a huge moan and groan session if you start going down this path. Third and most importantly, there’s very little value in what went wrong. It’s like telling a restaurant server who’s taking your order, “Well, I don’t like lima beans or liver.” Okay, but it doesn’t say much about what you would like to eat now.

Exploring a Delta, or what could be improved, is a much more constructive conversation. However, don’t let you or your collaborators spin this into a Minus conversation. After the Plus, it’s easy for people to assume it’s time to talk about the Minus, even if you call it a Delta. This is not clever management-speak, Deltas and Minuses are two different topics.

Finally, if this session has a title, please don’t call it a post-mortem. As you probably know, this is latin for after death. What kind of cynic came up with this crazy term? I’d rather call the session a post-victoria!

So, the next time you hold a post-victoria, try the Plus Delta format. You’ll find it sets you up nicely for the next time around.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Posted by on in General Comments

It’s opening day for my new blog, and we're off to the races! Are you ready? I am.

After talking with my wife Kim for a while, we came up with the perfect title: “A Silicon Valley State of Mind,” and it couldn’t be more appropriate for how I’m feeling today.

It is awesome in Silicon Valley today; this is truly God’s country. As I’m writing this seminal blog entry from my cozy abode in San Ramon, California (a little east from all the action, but close enough feel the energy from both Silicon Valley and San Francisco), The Weather Channel on my iPad tells me it’s a sunny 91 degrees with no chance of precipitation, and a soothing, gentle breeze of 13 mph cooling things down to a “feels like” temperature of an amazing 88 degrees.

We’re going to have great fun on this blog. Unlike the previous blogs that I’ve written which carried more of a vertical focus of compliance or information strategy, this blog will be applicable to a wider audience. This blog will truly give you the perspective of a Silicon Valley insider, on topics ranging from high-level strategy to cooking the perfect meal.

To kick things off, I want to share with you what I’ve been up to for the past few months. I wrapped up my third major project with Visa back in February, where I worked with the head of Global Loyalty to strategize, prioritize, and launch their major initiatives for the fiscal year. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to focus on renewal—everything from my internal branding to my website to well, this blog! It’s been an absolutely terrific exercise in revisiting my priorities, making necessary adjustments, and reinvigorating my approach.

So, here’s the first takeaway for my new blog. You absolutely, undoubtedly, unequivocally must pause once in a while to refactor your business and your life. Refactoring comes from the world of agile software development, where you take some time to improve the codebase, without adding functionality. Coders know what happens when you don’t take time to do this—spaghetti code. Sure, the program works, but nobody (including the original programmer sometimes) can understand how!

It’s critical to reset like this, not only for your own sanity (i.e. you have to take a break sometimes), but also for the objective at hand. Staying myopic in execution phase precludes you from seeing the bigger picture. That’s the whole point of the second half of Deming’s famous PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) model.

In deference to the recently departed Dr. Stephen R. Covey, it’s vital that we take heed to his seventh habit of highly effective people—sharpen the saw. I was listening to an interview this morning between Tony Robbins and Dr. Covey, where he was talking about this and the other habits. In the interview, Dr. Covey uses a great metaphor—sometimes people are too busy driving to get gas.

I’m an execution nut like the rest of us, so I know how hard it is to pull away from what’s staring you in the face. When I was leading a critical data migration project for Visa (my first intervention there), it was non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal—sometimes for many days in a row. During the actual cutover, I was running calls with the team at 3 and 4 in the morning. It was brutal; but you do what’s necessary to get the job done. At some point though, you need to pull away. If you’re too busy driving to get gas, you’ll eventually run out. Fortunately for me, I get to refill with a Silicon Valley state of mind.

Hope you enjoy the blog—stay in touch!

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