Sunday, August 27, 2006

      Army Half Marathon Post- mortem - Putting Ourselves On the Line

Today is the day, it's Army Half Marathon. With much anticipation and excitement, my friends, wife and I took off for the run.

Sadly, I did not perform up to my expectations to complete below 2 hours. At the last few kilometers, my calves stiffened and I had to stop a few times to stretch. This, despite the fact I am better prepared this year, compared to last year. However, I did feel the improvement, as my body took the physical stress better than previously.

My next New Year resolution is 42km Standard Chartered Marathon at the end of the year. My confidence was shaken after today's run. I was wondering how can I complete a full marathon when my legs cannot comfortably take me through 21km? Some told me to take another 21km instead; I decided not to. I decided to put myself on the line by registering for 42km event. It's going to be tough, I know. But I also know there's going to be another 3 months to train, which is realistic enough.

What is more important than completing the 42km, is the process of training for it. If I do not commit myself to this goal, then my training efforts will not be maximum.

It's the same for challenges in life. They are challenges for the sheer fact that we are not confident of achieving it. But people sometimes shrink from challenges, for fear of failing to it. Wrong. If we live in the comfort zone all the time, then that's where we'll always stay; status quo. There isn't a chance at all. But if we put ourselves up to the task, there is a chance. Even if we failed, the journey becomes a stepping stone towards success.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

      Prelude to Army Half Marathon 2006

Time flies (as always), it's almost AHM 2006 already. One of my New Year resolution was to complete this year's AHM under 2 hours. My last 21km run was in Dec 2005 with Standard Chartered Run. It was a tough run, not being aptly prepared. This year, it should be better.

One thing I've learnt from long distance running is the philosophy of consistency, patience and diligence.

I never liked running before; each time I would sprint off the start line, hoping to finish fast. However, each time, I would lose gas before the halfway mark and give up.

I realised that life is like that as well, we can't just have short periods of intensive effort, hoping to achieve results. Most of the time, we need consistent efforts over a long period of time for sustainable results. Like my friend Chris, who had difficulty finishing 4km 2 years ago; he could comfortably complete 7-8km of run today. It may not be some fantanstic feat/timing, but it's an achievement in its own rights. It is results.

Then there's the challenge of patience. We need to realise that with consistency, we also need time for results to show. Sustainable results needs solid foundation to build on. We need to be patient. This is tough in our society, where instant gratification is the trend. We want things fast; fast-food, instant noodle, slimming in 2 weeks, a degree in 6 months... All these undermine the value of patience.

Diligence. Too many shortcut promises out there today. We need to realise there is not shortcut to sustainable results. There is no free lunch in this world. You've got to pay the price to get results. You've got to train, to run. Simple formulae, no shortcuts.

Enjoy the journey, enjoy the training, enjoy the runs. Don't be too anxious on reaching the end point. Let the mind wander off, don't overpace myself. When the legs are tired and aching, when it feels like the going is tough, just keep going. Slow down a little, but keep going; be consistent. And before i know it, I have reached the end point.

What it means for me is a whole change in mindset, a new perspective. But it's driving my positive actions today, with a firm belief that my efforts today are not in vain, for the results will come in time. Meanwhile, be patient, work hard and focus on enjoying the journey.

Remember this saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough gets going".

      What Survives Death?

In a recent trip to Bintan, my wife and I spent a weekend by the beach. Doing nothing much in particular, just relaxing, reading...

One night, as I was staring up in the night sky, I wondered what was going on back at home in Singapore. What's my family and friends doing? Did they feel my absence? No, most probably not. For them, life goes on. The everyday routine, the work...

And then I wondered if that is, what it would be like when I pass away. Will it make any difference to them? Will I be missed? Did the world stop turning? No. Most probably, everything will have to go on. Yes, some people may cry for me for a while. Yes, some people will miss me once in a while. But no, the world does not stop turning, people get on with their life. Nothing will change with my passing. By 2077, I will be one hundred years old (if I get to live that long). It's sad, that I will never live to see 2100. What will the world be like in 2100? Or in 3000?

It was at that momemt, the realisation dawned upon me. With such perspective, it became very clear. Our stay here is temporal, nothing is permanent. Really, it's only a matter of time; everything physical will come to pass... So what remains?

In my opinion, spirits of greatness remains; spirits of love remains. Just think of Mother Teresa, Yue Fei, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, S. Rajaratman ... the list goes on. They may have passed, but their dreams, love, humility, charisma and their words still passes on till this day, and for ages to come. Their aspirations and high spirits will serve as inspirations for generations on and on... This is what will last.

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and see realised. But my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
- Nelson Mandela

Thursday, August 10, 2006

      Importance of Communications Planning.

The requirements and functional specs cannot document 100% of the details which are required for the development team to produce a system. It only serves as a guide and a framework for understanding the details that are to fleshed-in during construction phase.
During construction phase itself, the team will need to meet regularly to validate their understanding of what is documented in the specifications and to highly feasibility issues which cannot be foreseen when scoping the requirements.
This meeting can be very informal, esp in a small team. However, it is a required activity to minimise misunderstandings between project members. As the team size increase, a more formal approach to managing communications between members has to be adopted.
Project managers should take note that as the number of team members increases, a communication plan should be used to explain how information should flow between team members, their information needs and who are the decision-making bodies for each type of decision to be made. This will set expectations and prevent fragmentation of information which leads to misunderstandings.

      Recommended Read: The Right Stuff

This is a great article about what it takes to become a CIO. Many of these points concile with my personal values; it's a great reassurance to know that these values puts me on where I want to go.

Understand the Business – Speak the business, understand how to leverage IT to help the business; together with project management skills. Contribute to the growth of the business.

Communicate Appropriately – I need to techno-talk to IT and business-talk to the customers, a person who can bridge these 2 worlds and understand their respective issues. Use analogies to help business understand IT challenges.

Be A Learning Machine – Keep learning and learn new skills out of my scope of work. Especially in business areas like finance, marketing and budgeting etc… Be well-rounded so that I can give well-rounded consideration to business issues.

Let My Work Speak For Itself – This is in-line with my belief that action speaks louder than words. People will see your contribution over time. If you have to tell someone how good you are, you probably aren’t.

Being Humble – I have to acknowledge that there are things that I don’t know, and that I will need to leverage on others’ expertise to get things done. I need to realize that I cannot always be the one to set the pace, and that following others can make things happen as well.

Being Patient – I really need to learn that I cannot always have thing my way. In order for people to buy-in to an initiative, time is required, and I must allow myself to be influenced to see their point-of-view. I need to let things – projects, promotions, opportunities, relationship – develop.

Be Prepared – “Luck is just opportunity and preparation coming together”. Someday , the opportunity will come, it is only a matter of time, and of being patient. But first, get prepared. All glorious moments comes from ample preparations. It didn't just happen like that.

Network – Knowing people, coupled with real value and preparation, it increases opportunities and opens more doors.

Being Myself - To that end there is one last piece of wisdom to consider when you finally make it. The best advice I ever got, says Delmont, was "don’t jeopardize your principles, because that is what makes you." (This advice has a corollary: If you start kissing butt you will always kiss butt. Delmont decided never to kiss butt.)

Shakespeare said it best: "To thine own self be true." There is more to life than just professional success. At the end of the day, when we lay on our death-bed, can we say that the journey was worth it? Can we say that we had been true to ourselves? Please... don't forget who you are. don't forget...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

      Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog

Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog

I read before that if you want to be a great leader, you've got to think like one. And what better way than to read the blog of Jonathan Schewartz, SUN's CEO?

At different levels of management, there are different levels of issues to tackle, and a different level of thinking is necessary to tackle these issues. Question is: how do I develop these thinkings if I am not yet there; yet how do I get there if I am not capable of tackling these issues? So which is it; capability first, or position first?

Needless to say, in today's meritocratic system, capabiility counts a lot. But how do you get the capability without having the relevant experiences to draw from? Ans: learn from those who walked the path before you. Let's not reinvent the wheel.

Go on... read his blog and learn...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

      Quote of the Day

“I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.”
-Lily Tomlin

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

      Recommended Read: Consequences of the Easy Way Out

One issue in project management that I encounter is this: There's no time for requirements gathering meetings. Lately, there's a project where the customer was complaining about my persistence to do "proper" requirement gathering. We were spending too much time to discuss requirements, working from high level workflow, drilling into details like screen design, exception handling, validations etc. Each meeting, there were issues, disagreements. Indeed, it was tedious.

Sometimes, I also wonder if I am just wasting everyone's time. Should I just take the easy way out and go ahead with development, without satisfying myself that requirments gathering is complete?

Reading this article, I am reminded that taking the easy way out is not the best way out. Great results does not come about by taking the path of least resistance. It is achieved by taking the efforts to getting our fundamentals right. I am reminded of all the things that can go wrong in a software project with incomplete requirements, with all too much assumptions; these translates into error discovered late, costly rework, and frustrations.

Is it worth the effort? All these tedious work? I believe so. But only time will tell. The road is still long... long...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

      Listening to Your Clients

This article talks about the importance of sales people listening to their clients, so that they can value-add by playing a consultative role to their clients' issues.

I say that this is does not only applies to sales people, but also to IT people as well. Being in software project management, I was very surprise when some project managers say that they don't want to face clients. How can we understand what clients want when you don't interact with them? And if you don't understand what the client's want, then how do you satisify their needs?

I believe in the importance of understanding clients' needs. Understanding requirements does not only mean writing down the requirements as spoken by clients. It also means reading between their lines and understanding the underlying business objectives that they are trying to achieve. So very often, I see clients mandating certain ways of implementation, thinking that its the cheapest/best way to get things done; not understanding the potential repercussion in the longer term. That's when PMs must also put on their consultant caps and advise their clients.

I am not saying this is easy. In fact, this is a great challenge and takes strong communication skills. It takes patience and time. Next complain I often hear is this: we have no time, we must get this system up and running fast! It's an oxymoron; How can you get a running system when you don't even have time to communicate what the system is suppose to achieve? It takes moral courage and good communication skills again to make clients understand that by slowing down first to think and communicate, we are in fact speeding things up.

Research shows that 50% of software rework comes for wrong requirements. Things that can be corrected early in the SDLC, with good requirements gathering and management. I hope more PMs see what I saying here; or I really have to pity the development teams struggling with unneccessary pressures caused by poor listening skills.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

      Recommended Read; Resisting the Seduction of Success

This article by