Nine questions to ask during a strategic shift

questionsI was talking with someone the other day about a strategic change they were contemplating and what it takes to adopt a new approach, strategy or tool. They were looking for guidance on the issues that might disrupt their efforts. Rather than just answer the question specifically, I thought about it from a process perspective and attempted to answer their need more generally:

Nine questions that will help improve your understanding of the impact and implications of events that may disrupt your plans. This approach attempts to look at the issues from the outside in.

  1. What is happening today? Look for the events or cultural trends that support or imped the change you’re trying to make. We have lots of examples today of cultural disruption and individuals being blindsided by cultural perspective, learn from their mistakes.
  2. What does it mean for others? Look at how the change will be viewed. In many cases perception is reality. Will others really need your solution?? What will it take to keep up with demand, when they do???
  3. What does it mean for you and your team? What are your motivations and will they sustain you through the entire process of change – making a change can be lonely.
  4. What needs to happen first? Every change requires a bit of triage. You can’t eat the elephant whole, so where would you start to increase your likelihood of success.
  5. What does it take to be a change agent? Unfortunately, just because you want to do something different, you will not necessarily be ordained by others as someone to follow. Do you have a vision?? Do you have the relationships needed to initiate the change??? No person is an island. To be a leader, you must have followers.
  6. Do you know what needs to be done next? Change of almost any size requires a plan. We already looked at what needs to be done first, can we make an unstoppable train of events that will carry the change through to completion – plan on it. Also look for measures of success so you can adjust along the way.
  7. When is the solution needed, is this the right time? Every change has an optimal time for it to take place. If now is (or is not) the time – why??
  8. Who will be affected? It is as important to understand who will be crushed under the wheels of progress, as who will be elevated by the change. Thinking about the implications of all the affected parties will greatly improve your plan and its effectiveness.
  9. How much investment will be needed? I’ve kept this until the end, not that funding isn’t important but based on the fact that if you haven’t thought about these others issues you probably only have a vague notion of what it will take to be successful. If you have the right camp of supporters, it can significantly reduce your funding needs. Similarly, if you’re going after the wrong market or don’t have the right kinds of support, no amount of funding will make your efforts successful.

There are likely some gaps in this thought process, but this approach been helpful over the years, maybe it will be useful to you too.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen

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Babbage in motion

While I was in Seattle I had the opportunity to see one of the two Babbage Difference Engines in operations. I’d seen it before in the Computer History Museum, but never in operation.

A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. It is viewed as a pioneer computing device and was created by Charles Babbage. There is quite a complex and intriguing story about how it came to be invented and then how the device came into being at around the year 2000. I’ll not go into that here though.

The difference engine is fascinating to watch, especially the back side, which reminds me of DNA‘s double helix. I added a youtube video of it operating that has a good background narrative.

A Great Glass Blowing Experience in Dallas

For Christmas, I purchased a glassblowing workshop with a Groupon for my wife. This weekend we finally got around to going to the workshop by Aaron Tate at the Marrsart studio.

We were shocked by the range of objects they would let us make in the workshop. Sure, they had the typical glass paperweight but they also had vases, bowls, cups, ring holders… with quite a range of colors as well.

The support staff were very helpful and patient, explaining everything that was going on and why it was being done. IMG_20170319_173337789

Michelle made a ring holder and I made a glass paperweight (with little bubbles in it).

We both decided that next time we’re both going to make bowls, since you actually first create a big blub (yes, like a Christmas ornament) and then suck on the tube to pull into a bowl shape.

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That’s a picture of Michelle pulling the glass to twist the colors into it.

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This is a picture of me turning the colored glass in the furnace that will be in the center of the paperweight. I had to get it up to temperature, so we can work with it more.

Last weekend was the Dallas FIRST Regional

Last weekend was the Dallas FRC regional. There are videos of the competition available on-line. This year’s competition was steampunk based.

FRC

I’ve been coordinating judging for the FIRST Robotics competition in Dallas for about 8 years now, so naturally there are a significant number of retired EDS and a few Raytheon folks involved.

FRC allows students to start from a standard kit of parts and some state of the art tools (received at the kickoff in January) to build a robot attempting to meet specified objectives. This video is an overview of this year’s challenge – FIRST Steamworks

The goal of FIRST is to encourage the understanding and passion around STEM. It has a proven track record of results that is hard to argue with. 


I was also drafted to judge the Jr. FIRST Lego League competition on Saturday morning. That competition is targeted at grade school students. At least in the Dallas area this competition was sponsored by Raytheon, among others.

Jr

QSO Morse practice app for Android

Over the Thanksgiving break I sat down an wrote a small application for Android to help individuals brush up on their Morse code. There are many apps already out there to teach Morse code but this one is aimed improving your ability to receive the interactions you’re likely to encounter over the air.

It is called QSOSender3, since it is the third iteration I’ve worked on. It generates QSOs based on the speed you’d like to receive. For 5-10 WPM, the simulated QSOs are fairly short but a realistic representation of what you’d likely see on the air. For 10-15, the QSOs are slightly longer and for 15 WPM and higher (see the picture below) they can become quite involved.

I used a grammar based generator to create the simulated QSO, so they can be very different from one to the next. In fact for the highest speed (longest), it is incredibly unlikely that any to generated QSOs will be the same. Have fun… here is a representative screenshot:

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#amateurradio #hamradio

Circuits – shocking, it’s starting to come together.

Now that I have a battery, I need to wire it all together. I plan on using a circuit like:

high-level-circuit

I’ve had a very busy weekend that kept me away from working on my portable design much. I was able to stop by HRO and Frys and get the rest of the parts I needed.

My next entry will dig into selecting a case to haul this gear around and some quick and dirty mounting of the circuit shown. I’ll likely build something out of wood and 3D printed parts initially and think about a more permanent solution if that attempt doesn’t turn out to be good enough.

Not sure when that will happen, since next weekend will be keep me even busier then the last. Hopefully, I’ll have it all done by the end of the month and I can take it with me to the Belton hamfest.