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Monday, 24 September 2012

"Stop making up your own sh*t"

Many years ago I was in my Wing Chun (martial arts) class and our teacher showed us a drill which we had to repeat. There were a few punches and blocks which were quite straightforward, but you had to understand it to execute it properly. So after a few minutes of observing, he stopped us and said. "Look guys, stop making up your own shit." He then demonstrated all the ways we had gotten it wrong and how to do it right. He stressed that there was only one way to do the move, so you do it right, or you're wrong.

In IT, too often I see new solutions to well known problems which ignore best practices.

Things that people reinvent that often fail
  • Issue tracking systems - There's so many out there at many price ranges. Just customize one and move on with your life.
  • Monitoring systems - the implementation of monitoring logic is more complicated than it seems (and all decent systems have an amount of unavoidable complication to be flexible).
  • IT Service Management - ITSM is a lot about the different roles and processes needed to support IT services effectively. The main ideas in ITIL cover the best practices and as long as you don't blindly follow it to the letter, I think it's a good way to start. If you've have spend a lot of time in ITSM, but you've got a need for it - stick to best practices. It's not easy to tell when you're teams are not organized efficiently so just learng from everybody else's mistakes and do what works.
I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't try and improve things, but if what you're trying to reinvent, is not your a key part of the service or product your company works on, stick with best practices and you'll save a lot of time and money.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Less, is the best way to make more

I love solving problems. I tend to be attracted to some of the more complex challenges which require carefully crafted solutions. The trouble is that carefully crafted solutions take time, often lots of time. And often, the more time you spend on something without reaching tangible achievements, the less likely you are to finish the project.

Recently I had a lot on my plate - a full time job with a number of large projects that I wanted to complete, a wedding to prepare for, an idea for a software product that was going nowhere fast, and a number of issues in my personal life that all added up to a big ball of stress. My then fiancee stumbled across a book "How to live on 24 hours a day" by Arnold Bennet which she recommended I read. I downloaded the ebook for free from Project Gutenberg. Although it was written 100 years ago, it's one of the best books on time management I've ever read. He has a lot of tips on how make more time for yourself but the overriding philosophy is this:

Many people fail by trying to do too much. So do much less, and it will accumulate into much more.

It took some time to get my head around how I would implement this. But once I understood, I stopped a number of projects I was working on, inside and outside my day job, a focussed on only the most important. And those important projects were scaled back. A lot. The result? Less stress and more productivity. Arnold Bennet you are a genius.