The truth about “To”, “CC” & “BCC”

The Origins
800px-karbonkopia_2008Carbon copying is the technique of using carbon paper to produce one or more copies simultaneously during the creation of paper documents. A sheet of carbon paper is sandwiched between two sheets of paper and the pressure applied by the writing implement to the top sheet causes pigment from the carbon paper to make a similar mark on the copy. More than one copy can be made by stacking several sheets with carbon paper between each pair. Four or five copies is a practical limit. The top sheet is the original and each of the additional sheets is called a carbon copy. The use of carbon copies declined with the advent of photocopying and electronic document creation and distribution (word processing).
(source “Wikipedia”)

The Rules
It is still common for a business letter to include, at the end, a list of names preceded by the abbreviation “cc:”, indicating that the named persons are to receive a copy of the letter, even though carbon paper is no longer used to make the copies. The contacts that are listed as adressed “to” are required to read the mail and take further actions (if needed), where those listed in “cc” are only assumed to read the mail (when the time allows it). The aspect of the “blind carbon copy” (bcc) adds an extra perspective where one could be informed without any of the other contacts to even know!

Practically Spoken : Privacy
Need to mail a bunch of people? Add yourself in the “to” list and -all- the other contacts as “bcc”. This way you avoid to violate other people’s privacy by exposing their private email accounts!

Softskills obtained by gaming

Games are not good. Or at least that’s what many people would have you believe. In English idiom, the exhortation to “stop playing games” implies manipulation, prevarication, even procrastination.

Yet many games teach us very good softskills. Some form of conversation is always necessary for a game to progress. Many games take social interaction to new heights by placing a premium on negotiation. In Monopoly, deals to waive interest, exchange property and form strategic alliances are common in multiplayer games.

For example : No player can win – or even hope to survive – without engaging with others and learning to smell false promises in military games. Its central attraction lies in the negotiations, alliances, betrayals, poker faces and backstabbing that follow.

Read more? Collect life lessons as you pass go!

Freelancing during the lesser times

Freelancefolder.com features “8 Ways Freelancers Can Survive In A Troubled Economy” ;

  • Be a Bargain Hunter. Whether you’re buying routine office supplies or making a capital purchase, make sure that you get the most value for your dollar. Check sales flyers and compare costs to maximize your purchasing power. You can also look into barter arrangements to reduce your costs.
  • Don’t Spend Everything That You Make. I give this advice during good economic times as well. The advice to save some of your earnings is doubly important in an uncertain economy. Whenever you are paid make sure that you set some income aside for times when your business is slow.
  • Moonlight on Your Freelancing. You may have started your freelancing business by working a corporate job and moonlighting as a freelancer. There’s no reason why you can’t turn the tables and moonlight on your freelance business now. Consider taking a part-time job to bolster your monthly income.
  • Ask Past Corporate Employers for Gigs. Many employers have hiring freezes, but their workload remains the same. While they may not be able to hire a new employee, often they are allowed to hire temporary help to meet a deadline. (I’m told that the money for contractors comes out of a different “bucket.”)
  • Consider the Do-It-Yourself Question. Are you paying others to do tasks for you that you could actually do yourself? If your cash flow is slow, then you may want to consider whether it’s more cost efficient to continue outsourcing as you have been doing, or to start doing the tasks yourself.
  • Make Sure To Consider Your Tax Liability. Even if the economy is slow, it is likely that you will still owe taxes at the end of your tax year. To avoid being saddled with a tax burden that you can’t pay, start setting money aside for taxes now. If you paid estimated taxes during the course of the year, then ask yourself if you paid enough.
  • Broaden the Scope of Your Business. If your workload has slowed, then ask yourself if there are other products or services that you could add to your current offerings. Do you have a skill that you are not using? Broadening your scope could bring additional business from current customers as well as attract new ones.
  • Be Patient. Difficult economic times come and they go. It may be a matter of weeks, months, or even years, but this tough economic period will also pass.

DevWork’s Ten Essential Linux Tricks

Learn these 10 tricks and you’ll be the most powerful Linux® systems administrator in the universe…well, maybe not the universe, but you will need these tips to play in the big leagues. Learn about SSH tunnels, VNC, password recovery, console spying, and more. Examples accompany each trick, so you can duplicate them on your own systems.

Lazy Linux: 10 essential tricks for admins

How to be a more productive Linux systems administrator

  • Trick 1: Unmounting the unresponsive DVD drive
  • Trick 2: Getting your screen back when it’s hosed
  • Trick 3: Collaboration with screen
  • Trick 4: Getting back the root password
  • Trick 5: SSH back door
  • Trick 6: Remote VNC session through an SSH tunnel
  • Trick 7: Checking your bandwidth
  • Trick 8: Command-line scripting and utilities
  • Trick 9: Spying on the console
  • Trick 10: Random system information collection

The four levels of evaluation by Kirkpatrick

Donald Kirkpatrick is known for creating the training evaluation model. This model consists of four levels of learning evaluation. Kirkpatrick’s ideas were first published in 1959, in a series of articles in the US Training and Development Journal. The four levels of Donald Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model essentially measure:

  • Reaction of student : what they thought and felt about the training
  • Learning : the resulting increase in knowledge or capability
  • Behaviour : extent of behaviour and capability improvement and implementation/application
  • Results : the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee’s performance

Level 1 : Reaction
Reaction evaluation is how the delegates felt about the training or learning experience. For example the ‘happy sheets’, ‘feedback forms’, etc

Level 2 : Learning
Learning evaluation is the measurement of the increase in knowledge before and after. Typically assessments or tests before and after the training are used for this level.

Level 3 : Behaviour
Behaviour evaluation is the extent of applied learning back on the job / implementation. Observation and interview over time are required to assess change, relevance of change, and sustainability of change.

Level 4 : Results
Results evaluation is the effect on the business or environment by the trainee. Measures are already in place via normal management systems and reporting. The challenge is to relate to the trainee.

For more info, check out the BusinessBalls‘s article on Kirkpatrick…

The 8 steps to succesful Change Management

The father of Change Managemnet (John Kotter) outlined 8 steps to succesful Change Management in his book “The Iceberg is melting“. Let’s go through them:

  • Set The Stage
      Create a Sense of Urgency : Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately. Remind people that they are on a burning oil rig; they’ll die, if the don’t jump off…
      Pull Together the Guiding Team : Make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change; one with leadership skills, bias for action, credibility, communications ability, authority, analytical skills. Just like project teams; one needs to have a great team to drive the change.
  • Decide What To Do
      Develop the Change Vision and Strategy : Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality.
  • Make It Happen
      Communicate for Understanding and Buy-in : Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy. Start communicating from the start; remember that there is always communication, be sure that you are the one providing the correct information!
      Empower Others to Act : Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.
      Produce Short-Term Wins : Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible. Go for the quick wins to boost moral.
      Don’t Let Up : Press harder and faster after the first successes. Be relentless with instituting change after change until the vision becomes a reality. Be persistent in driving the change.
  • Make It Stick
      Create a New Culture : Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become a part of the very culture of the group. Think neurological levels here…. where culture is at the top of the pyramid.

The difference between Consultancy and Bodyshopping

During my career I had multiple discussions about the line between bodyshopping & consultancy. Yet “Work The Line” has a really nice post on this.

Some excerpts…

Does the firm have genuine practice areas based on shared intellectual property? A consultancy should have mechanisms for capturing, sharing, and reusing intellectual property in areas of specialized expertise. These mechanisms can be embodied in people (practice leaders), processes (defined practices for knowledge-sharing), and tools (collaborative software, reusable collateral, etc.).

So is there an infrastructure to back up your knowledge workers? As a consultancy firm your key asset is the knowledge of your people, so are the able to share this asset?

Does the firm limit its consultants’ billable time for strategic purposes? A body shop bills as much of its consultants’ time as possible, all the time. In contrast, a consultancy continually invests time in improving its collective knowledge and performance.

Key indicators here are training & the % of people “on the bench”. If people are allocated fulltime towards a customer; how can they be acquire their knowledge? One might say that this is because they are trained on the job, but those are not always the grounds where one can gain much experience in new/expert fields. When spending all your time “on the road” is not allowing the time for reading, communicating and reflection which is essential to maintain quality.

Does the firm measure success in terms of profitability per engagement? This question is closely related to the last two. If a firm’s goal is simply to bill as much as possible, and its preference is to bill for time and materials, it will have no interest in the profitability of individual engagements, and will simply “run the clock” as long as it can. Conversely, if a firm uses its knowledge to deliver high-value fixed-price engagements, it will try to perform engagements as quickly and efficiently as possible, in order to maximize their profitability.

The profit made on project with a fixed price is based upon your knowledge. The more you know, the more efficient you can provide the solution. Where is your motivation when you charge by the hour? Then it’s just a hidden form of interim work (to me).

Does the firm leverage new skills to build higher-level relationships? Over time, a firm builds skills engagement by engagement. It comes in to offer skill A, and picks up skill B in the process. If the firm simply adds these new skills to its list of “things we do,” it is behaving like a body shop. If the firm analyzes, consolidates and leverages these skills into higher-level client relationships, it is behaving like a consultancy.

Do you have many different profile which are being “rented” towards clients, or do you have a specific area where your knowledge dominates? This come close to the question whether or not the firm can distinct one self (as a brand) by encapsulating a specific value proposition.

Conclusion

A body shop bills as much of its consultants’ time as possible, all the time. In contrast, a consultancy continually invests time in improving its collective knowledge and performance.

Looking back at a major/failed IT project

Check out “Anatomy of a runaway IT project” by Bruce F. Webster.

The following document is the actual text — carefully redacted — of a memo I wrote some time back [i.e., several years ago] after performing an IT project review; names and identifying concepts have been changed to preserve confidentiality (and protect the guilty). The project in question was a major IT re-engineering effort for a mission-critical system; at the time I did this review, the project had been going on for several years and had cost millions of dollars; it would eventually be canceled and the work products abandoned. The memo itself provides an interesting glimpse into just how a major IT project can go so far off the tracks that nothing useful is ever delivered.

It should be a schoolbook example of what can happen if you fail to do proper project management on projects. Some might find this has a “days of our lives” factor (tv soap), yet you might be astonished when you see the amount of projects that actually succeed in their objectives (16%).

Last Note
Credits to Geek&Poke for the cartoon; they mentioned a link to zdnet about the triangle for project management, yet I found that it took the wrong perspective… If you’re interested in this, check out an older post of mine about the devil’s triangle of project management.

The Ideabox

OldSkool Ideabox
Ever worked for a company that had an “ideabox”? To be honest I love the idea as it gave room to creative thinking to area’s where you might not expect it. Yet I always wondered how these idea’s where filtered. Doesn’t the guy/girl filtering the box become a weak link in this chain?

Ideabox 2.0
Off course there are other ways of gathering employee ideas, but the Ideabox provides some vintage charm to me. Bare in mind that the following video is a promotion material form SalesForce, yet I found it to contain some truths about the situation.