Sunday, December 30, 2007
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.”
“One is EVIL. It’s anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
“The other is GOODNESS. It’s joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather. "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Saturday, December 29, 2007
is the eponymous title of the work that describes a method refined by the author, Robert Brinkerhoff, for quickly finding out what’s working and what’s not.
I was attracted to it while reviewing the different methods for conducting case studies. Case studies attained respectability as a tool for understanding, diagnosing, and solving (or attempting to) real world situations. Harvard University’s graduate-level programs (its MBA, for instance) legitimized its use as a management tool.
"The Case Program at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, is the world’s largest producer and repository of case studies designed for teaching about how government works, how public policy is made, and how nonprofit organizations operate."Case studies are widely used by management and boutique (niche players) consulting firms. McKinsey & Company, one of the most prestigious ones, employs it not only for client work but also during their hiring process.
"We use case studies to assess your problem-solving skills. They can also give you insight to what we do."The Success Case Study Method (SCM) is a straightforward method for evaluating a change. The term, “change management,” is a discipline that grew from the need to understand and manage changes. I’m not trying to make you dizzy with circular reasoning here but as management tools go, it couldn’t have been named any better. Change management is about managing change! One practicing change consultant, Fred Nickols defines “change management” as:
- The task of managing change.
- An area of professional practice.
- A body of knowledge.
- A control mechanism.
One meaning of “managing change” refers to the making of changes in a planned and managed or systematic fashion. The aim is to more effectively implement new methods and systems in an ongoing organization. The changes to be managed lie within and are controlled by the organization. (Perhaps the most familiar instance of this kind of change is the “change control” aspect of information systems development projects.) However, these internal changes might have been triggered by events originating outside the organization, in what is usually termed “the environment.” Hence, the second meaning of managing change, namely, the response to changes over which the organization exercises little or no control (e.g., legislation, social and political upheaval, the actions of competitors, shifting economic tides and currents, and so on). Researchers and practitioners alike typically distinguish between a knee-jerk or reactive response and an anticipative or proactive response.Typically, when a change is introduced, some aspects of the change’s consequences will work. Others will fail. Management-speak for introducing a change is a “change initiative.”
Management-speak, by the way, is our generation’s way of getting even with the younger generation’s use of text message phonetics.SCM seeks to understand why some aspects worked while others failed. Would that information be useful? It definitely would especially to the decision makers as well as to everyone who has a stake in the success of the change initiative.@mosFER = atmosphere or l8r = Later
Incidentally, the latter are referred to as “stakeholders” in management-speak.SCM’s usefulness is particularly effective when you apply it to partially successful initiatives or to initiatives that cost a lot of money and time to plan and implement. Why? It’s because SCM, when properly used, can ferret out the facts and present its findings about the initiative’s results. Other case study methods may do so as well but SCM is a structured and proven method of accomplishing this. This is SCM’s niche.
SCM and other case study methods lay in the middle of the fact-finding spectrum. To the left are hunches, guesses, and tidbits from the grapevine.
I trust everyone 12 years and older knows what “grapevine” means.To the right are formal reviews, audits, and studies. The methods on the left are too casual and leave too much room for error based on incorrect information. The methods on the right are expensive and time-consuming. They also tend to provide too much information and take so long that their results may come too late.
How does the Success Case Method (SCM) work?
First, it uses inquiries (e.g., surveys and interviews) to answer four basic questions:
- What’s really happening?
- What results, if any, is the change program producing (in other words, what consequences are occurring)?
- Are the results of value?
- Could the change initiative be improved and, if so, how?
Why is it called the Success Case Method (SCM)?
It’s called that because it studies the successes (i.e., the success cases). These are the groups or individuals that appear to have reaped the most benefits of the change.
SCM’s first task is to identify the success cases. Its second task is to learn how and why these parties succeeded relative to the rest of the population. Part of the second task is also confirming that the parties initially identified as success cases are indeed successes.
Success, in this context, refers to achieving the results that the parties who planned and introduced the change intended.
How do you conduct the SCM?
Five major steps are involved:
- Plan the study. Define the purpose and scope of the question that needs to be answered.
- Create a model of the “ideal,” in other words, what success should look like.
- Design and conduct the fact-finding process (typically a survey) to search for the best and the worst cases.
- Learn their reasons for being the best and worst cases. Document your findings.
- Communicate your findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
Under what circumstances is SCM best used?
- When the findings must be discovered quickly, relatively inexpensively, and be supported with verifiable evidence. In short, to dig up enough information to make a decision about the change initiative.
- To highlight results and accomplishments
- To provide models and examples that can motivate and guide others.
- To identify best practices and add to the organization’s knowledge base.
- When the findings rely heavily on quantitative measures. There are many quantitative survey methods that are more effective. SCM, however, can be used to supplement (not supplant) the quantitative results.
- When all of the participants or subjects must be surveyed. In fact, step 3 of the five major steps, requires you to limit the study to a particular subset of the participants.
- When the timing for doing the SCM is inappropriate. In many instances, the appropriate timing will depend upon the nature of the change initiative and the manner in which it was deployed. Obviously, some time must pass after an innovation has been introduced before you can expect it to have an impact. On the other hand, it makes no sense to conduct your SCM years after a semi-annual bonus program, for example, was implemented.
- The interviews. This is typically the most expensive and time-consuming component. It also requires the most skill and professionalism.
- The actual survey. This is second to the interviews in terms of expense and, frequently, time consumption.
- The scope of the study.
- The identification of the subset.
- The documentation.
I used SCM to evaluate the feasibility, for a struggling residential homebuilder, of using auctions to liquidate his growing, finished inventory. At the time of this writing, the construction industry (residential homebuilders in particular), has been contracting for the past 18 months. At this time, conventional wisdom portends another 12 to 18 months of drought before demand catches up with supply.
My client, the homebuilder, was roughly in the $10-million dollar revenue range. As of September 2007, he had 20 unsold finished homes at an average price of $250-thousand each. These homes started accumulating nearly 12 months before I conducted my SCM. When you do the math, it’s plain to see that he was in dire straits. Fifty percent of his previous year’s revenue was stuck in unsold inventory! (20 homes at $250-thousand each equal $5-million!)
It took only three weeks to complete my SCM. The findings pointed to an unambiguous recommendation of yes! Auction the homes. And do it before Thanksgiving!
Unfortunately (for him), he chose not to. As far as I know, he’s holding on to those empty homes and meeting his obligations through a short-term line of credit. Maybe he knows something I don’t. Maybe he withheld some information. Maybe he doesn't realize how risky it is to use short-term capital to fund long-term debt. Oh well...
Regardless, SCM proved itself to me.
Read the book!
In no way am I being compensated by the author, publisher, or any other party. As a matter of fact, neither the author or publisher know that I'm posting this entry. They will, after it's posted.
Speaking as a consultant and change agent of many years, I believe that SCM is a versatile tool that belongs in the toolbox of any management consultant or business analyst.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Diabetics probably shouldn't. however.
Several months ago, I read this article about the benefits of fasting. These are:
- it provides your pancreas and liver a chance to "rest,"
- it forces the body to consume the body's fat reserves since carbohydrates aren't available,
- psychologically, it encourages reflection on what it means to go hungry and on one's good fortune to be able to eat at will, and
- for many people, it brings a feeling of tranquility.
The pancreas and liver, two of our seven vital organs, produce essential chemicals that allow the body to convert food into fuel the body can use.
The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes (including the all-important insulin) that metabolize food. The liver, you may know, is our body's primary chemical factory. One of its primary roles is to assist the metabolism of food. What is metabolism? It's the set of chemical reactions that maintain life. Digestion is one of them.This week, I came across an article about a scientific study that confirms that Mormons benefit from fasting. Mormons belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). The scientists who conducted the study presented their results at a recent American Heart Association conference.The Mormon church encourages believers to abstain from food on the first Sunday of each month. The study found that Mormons have less heart disease (about 40 percent are less likely to be diagnosed with clogged arteries than those who did not regularly fast).
Muslims enjoy this benefit too. During the month of Ramadan, except under certain circumstances, Muslims may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. They feast before dawn and then again after dusk.
Regardless of religious beliefs, it appears that regularly taking breaks from food helps improve the odds to develop clogged arteries.
NPR (National Public Radio) ran a recent article entitled "Retune the Body with a Partial Fast." I've quoted and then summarized it below.
For thousands of years, beginning with philosophers like Hippocrates, Socrates and Plato, fasting was recommended for health reasons. The Bible writes that Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days for spiritual renewal.Most endocrinologists think that fasting doesn't hurt the body and may, in fact, help it by resetting its digestive mechanisms.
To understand how the body reacts to a lack of food, you could start by looking at what happens to newborns. Newborns can't sleep through the night because they need to eat every few hours. They don't produce enough glycogen, the body's form of stored sugar, to make energy.
Glycogen is necessary for thinking; it's necessary for muscle action; it's necessary just for the cells to live in general
Endocrinologists are specialists that diagnose diseases that affect our glands. Glands are the organs that make hormones. Hormones control reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development. They also control the way we instinctively respond to stimuli and help regulate the amount of energy and nutrition our bodies need.These mechanisms make the digestion possible. The primary internal organs that are involved are the pancreas and the liver.
Fasting suppresses insulin secretion and, ultimately, reduces our craving for sugar. During a fast, the body burns up stored sugars, or glycogen. Since less insulin is required to digest food, it rests the pancreas.
There are two additional benefits to fasting:
- Digestion creates free radicals as a byproduct. Free radicals are one of the primary causes of cancer, oncologists believe. Free radicals attack proteins, our DNA, the nucleus and membranes of our cells.
- Reducing our calorie intake, especially as we age, seems to reduce the incidence of disease. Lab studies of rats and mice, at least, confirm that.
Oncologists are specialists who study, diagnose, and treat cancerous tumors. Cancer is a catch-all term for the diseases in which cells multiply abnormally. These cells run amok, if you will. They do not follow the life cycle of normal cells.All told, it seems there are more side benefits associated with fasting. I encourage you to read the article.
Incidentally, do you know why cancer is called that? The Greeks named it. Cancer has afflicted mankind since time immemorial. The Greeks observed that it was impossible to remove cancer once someone developed it. It was as tenacious as a crab. It wouldn't let go. Cancer is the crab.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Passwords are proliferating in our daily lives. How can we create strong but memorable passwords? This post suggests a method.
Most sites suggest several basic guidelines for creating passwords. Most or all of them are covered below.
1. Passwords must never be a single word or concatenation of words:
To "concatenate," by the way, means to link together in a series.
2. Passwords must never be a familiar number or word to you (especially your Social Security Number):
3. Some sites require passwords to meet certain requirements:
- It must begin with a letter.
- It must have at least one uppercase letter.
- It must contain at least one numeral.
- It can't be your name, birthday, social security number, street address.
- It can't be the word, "password."
- It must contain at least one special character, e.g., $ or # or ^ or &, et al.
- It must contain between six to eight characters.
4. Many people deal with their passwords in two ways:
- They use one password for all sites, like Ekn60126.
- They use one password for most sites, except for a few special ones. Their usual password is Ekn60126 and their special password, which is reserved for their bank accounts, for instance, is Alm7opp.
HERE'S A BETTER WAY
There is a better way. The two preceding methods have one major flaw. If somebody learned your usual (or special) password, s/he will be able to access your account. (I'm ignoring the username at this point since I'll cover that in another post.)
Is there a better way to handle this proliferation?
Yes, there is. Before we go on, let me clarify that the term, "character," refers to either a letter or numeral. In other words, letters and numerals (and even special symbols like $ or &) are characters.
The following method allows you to create a dynamic password that changes with every site and, yet, remains easy to remember. In addition, you can modify the principles outlined below to create your own algorithm. An "algorithm" is a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem. These are the steps.
First, create a sentence memorable to yourself. This is a sentence that you know you can remember. Let’s say your name is William and you live at 322 San Carlos Rd. Your memorable sentence could be:
- William lives at 322 San Carlos Rd.
Second, take the first character of each word in the sentence:
This becomes your root word.
Third, create your algorithm. You can create any rule(s).
You decide that the rule would be to use the first character of the website to sandwich your root word. Furthermore, you decide to always make the first character of the website uppercase.
- Site: www.yahoo.com................. YWla3scry......... 9 characters
Your root word, Wla3scr, is sandwiched between an uppercase Y and a lowercase y. The “y” came from “yahoo.”
Is nine characters too long? Then drop the last character of your root word before using the first two characters. Change your rule to accommodate the length limitation.
- Site: www.gmail.com.................. GWla3scg........... 8 characters
Still too long? Use a shorter sentence to create your root word:
- Larry is 18.
This creates two possible root words; one with one numeral (Li1) and the other with two numerals (Li18). Longer passwords are more difficult to break.
This dynamic method of creating passwords has five benefits.
- You have a different password for every site.
- Each password is based on the site's address.
- Recalling the password is easily done by applying the algorithm.
- Changing the password is as easy as changing your root sentence and / or your algorithm.
- Even if two or three passwords are compromised, it's still difficult to crack the algorithm.
As stated earlier, you should use these principles as starting points for creating your own algorithms.You could, for example, change the rule to always capitalize the second character of the website and insert that between the first and second characters of your root word.
- Larry is 18.
You decide to create a root word that starts with a lowercase L and ends with two numerals: li18.
- Site: www.yahoo.com................. Yli1A8................. 6 characters
- Site: www.gmail.com................. Gli1M8................. 6 characters
Note how your password changes for every website. Even if two of your passwords were learned, it would still take time and effort to break the algorithm.
You could also, for instance, use two memorable sentences to create two passwords: one for regular sites and the other for special sites.
An infinite number of possibilities exists so use your imagination and create strong and easily-remembered passwords. Good luck!
Finally, here are two sites that contain more password creation and password cracking (!) guidelines.