Weekly wins for the week of 2023 02 20

  • The taxes are done. Never mind that the American tax system is needlessly difficult for the vast majority of taxpayers due in part to the political intervention of companies that make money off of this difficulty; the taxes are done.
  • I have prepared for or delivered four of my five quarterly coaching/reviews. So far, so good.
  • Another weekend, another dance competition or showcase. The girl did great as a “tall swan” in excerpts from Swan Lake! Lovely to see. And it was nice to stomp around North Bend and Coos Bay for a few hours. One thing you can typically find in maritime towns is old machine shops. No exception here. Fun window-peeping on the weekend!

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 02 13

  • We’ve finished emptying our storage unit! That’s money that no longer needs to fly out the door each month. And I’ve repacked several boxes that were collapsing, making it possible to stack better, be more organized, and pass on some things that others will like but that we don’t need.
  • Our landlord found a service that refurbishes old control boards and shipped them the display and relay boards from our oven. The oven display will be working again when he returns on Tuesday.
  • Better insoles fixed my favorite hiking shoes – no impassioned argument for a return needed.
  • The girl’s dance team won first place at her competition this weekend. Good job, ladies!

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 02 06

  • My six phase benefit/concept/detail process is going to be piloted in our growth product.
  • A work relationship that started with a little contention has become a cordial, iron-sharpens-iron collaboration. Tough but fair, I love it.
  • I’ve been able to refer or be a reference to three former coworkers in the past two weeks. It’s nice to know how you can help.
  • A couple of weekends ago I chose to do a project for a relative with whom I’ve had a contentious relationship. This turns out to have been a great choice. I finished the project this weekend; it’s nice to feel a sense of accomplishment and to have set a new tone in our relationship, and it cost me only time.

More on expectations of quality

Just like the false tradeoff between security and usability, I don’t want to play into the notion that light scope and quality are opposing forces. We will not make progress if we habitually shortchange quality. An “MVP” of poor experience quality is certainly “minimum” but forgets the “viable” and a bit of the “product.” You could say it is actually below “minimum.” For another take on this, see Jason Cohen’s Simple, Lovable, Complete.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 30

  • This is the first week in quite a while that I fulfilled all of my at-work weekly objectives. Sometimes lowering your sights slightly can pay off. Yet I also feel I accomplished more than recent weeks. It’s probably a combination of smaller, more accomplishable (therefore likely better-defined) objectives and actual progress on a thing that’s been lingering for a while. We’ll see if this is a trick or a technique.
  • Having to explain my thoughts about product research/design/development to folks I work with, and having them ask me to operationalize parts of it they don’t fully understand, has led me to explaining some of the concepts from new angles. This is challenging my thinking and helping me to firm it up.
  • I had a lovely chat with a person who is contemplating moving from designer to design manager. I find this sort of thing rewarding because I like helping, and I like meeting people, and because it reminds me of what I’ve learned, what I think, and to listen first. It’s tempting to opine, but only valuable lightly and if that opinion is actually relevant to the person’s situation or question.

Quality expectations

Be it version three or an MVP, the experience we deliver should

  • be valuable to specific users
  • be usable by those users
  • conform to or enhance the user’s understanding of the subject area
  • be pleasant to use
  • be visually polished
  • deliver value in results and conveniences
  • minimize toil
  • be complete in its delivery of the uses we offer
  • be complete in its states, messages, and errors
  • make good use of familiar controls and interaction paradigms
  • make success obvious
  • be obvious in expected actions and right action
  • be self-explanatory, relying on recognition rather than training and recall
  • be well-labeled
  • be instrumented so we can witness users’ successes and difficulties

…even if the scope is small, even if it’s a little slice of functionality from a bigger, longer-term plan, even if it is a fragment of the excellent future we envision. Even the basics should be built completely, with thoughtfulness and pride.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 23

  • I installed a bluteotth kit behind the factory car stereo in the 2006 Matrix and
    • it worked on the first try,
    • it sounds great,
    • pairing was easy and the connection seems reliable, and
    • in doing so I accidentally fixed the clock.
    • I also found a decent way to plug the hole in the dash left by the old aux in jack.
  • There’s a personnel issue at work, but it has a bright side and is totally surmountable. It is very likely that the parties involved will grow as a result. That’s not an easy way to get growth, but I’ll take it, this time.
  • I hit a new one-rep deadlift max on Wednesday. 365lbs is a far cry from the max of my youth or even of a decade ago, but I can see my way to exceeding those with time. Forward!

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 16

  • It’s downright refreshing to work for a company that doesn’t reflexively look to “try harder” as the answer to its problems. It’s nice to hear the CEO say that he doesn’t think our problem is not stretching enough. (His assertion is that it’s alignment we don’t have enough of, and that’s generally true also.)
  • Our first design critique (of the “expected, not volunteered” style that I favor) went great. I expect it will continue to go great.
  • My wife and I have hatched a plan to get our remaining stuff out of storage that does not involve a supreme concentrated effort. Much like how I’d prefer companies make progress on major initiatives, we have a plan to do a little each weekend. This will help us move items, repack the ones that need repacking, and weed out things we no longer want to keep a bit at a time and get out of the storage unit by March. We’ve already transformed four boxes of books into two boxes to keep and two for the Friends of the Eugene Public Library’s annual book sale. The lesson for everyone: you can get a lot done by
    • getting started
    • taking small bites
    • regularly
    • in priority order.

Weekly wins for the week of 2023 01 09

This was meant to be a week in Santa Barbara for work and a little play. A climate-change-strengthened “atmospheric river” made it a week of travel difficulties, muddy torrents, and missed connections. Even so…

  • One-on-one meetings in person, with folks I’ve only recently met and met only online, went fine. Well, even.
  • Though we were only able to accomplish about half of our agenda, that half was a good half.
  • Santa Barbara has good food.
  • It was interesting to watch, over the course of a few days, our ideas about alternative travel emerge rise and fall in sensibility as conditions changed: roads closed, buses halted, trains canceled, airports shut…ultimately the tie between “take the train” and “rent a car” was decided by Amtrak taking longer to dry the flooded train tracks than CalTrans took to scrape the mud off of the 101. But…
  • …renting a car allowed us to give a ride to two team members, adding a positive to early disaster.

An excerpt of my 2020 self-evaluation

Do you have any suggestions for the management team?

1) If you make a decision, tell us. Better yet, tell us right away and tell us why, especially if that decision reverses a prior decision.

2) Please consider different/additional business models for the consulting business. I wrote a bit about this in my prior review and shouldn’t repeat it here except to point out that it is apparent to me that the strict hourly model places a lid on profitability, quality, and employee engagement in the work. That’s probably necessary to point three below.

3) Please consider how to make compensation and benefits more competitive. I also wrote about this in my prior review. I’ve since realized that this is not just a competitiveness problem; it is also an equity and inclusion problem.

At the time I said “there also are numerous small compensation-related disappointments that I’ve mostly gotten over” — I was wrong about that. A few of them have run their course and no longer affect me directly; these are PTO accrual from zero, no benefits until well over one calendar month plus the month of start has elapsed, no profit sharing after a cutoff date rather than prorated profit sharing after a cutoff date, no key to the office for the first month. These will remain disappointments to new hires and in one case (benefits delay) is distinctly family-unfriendly.

No holidays is a real problem, as it takes fifteen days of PTO and makes it behave like eight. Eight days are VERY easy to consume and exceed in a year’s time, and folks in young families, with elderly parents to care for, or with disabilities or medical concerns are likely to burn through this allowance rapidly and find both their earning potential and ability to recharge harmed as a result. This is (unintentionally) as anti-diversity as it could be, as the least likely to be negatively affected are unattached young men followed by men in multi-earner households.

We’ve since learned from our research interviews with Directors and VPs that low offers plus lack of holidays is also a distinct brake on hiring, as they are a double blow to total compensation. We’re in a competitive environment where parity with local employers is no longer sufficient (and are we sure we meet even that standard?).

All the more reason to examine the business model or add additional business models to our portfolio.