Article: Lessons from the World's Most Tech-Savvy Government

Estonia does have a lot of things to teach us:

Estonia may not show up on Americans’ radar too often. It is a tiny country in northeastern Europe, just next to Finland. It has the territory of the Netherlands, but 13 times less people — its 1.3 million inhabitants is comparable to Hawaii’s population. As a friend from India recently quipped, “What is there to govern?”

What makes this tiny country interesting in terms of governance is not just that the people can elect their parliament online or get tax overpayments back within two days of filing their returns. It is also that this level of service for citizens is not the result of the government building a few websites. Instead, Estonians started by redesigning their entire information infrastructure from the ground up with openness, privacy, security, and ‘future-proofing’ in mind.

Article: Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate

From a 1990 HBR article:

At the heart of reengineering is the notion of discontinuous thinking—of recognizing and breaking away from the outdated rules and fundamental assumptions that underlie operations. Unless we change these rules, we are merely rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We cannot achieve breakthroughs in performance by cutting fat or automating existing processes. Rather, we must challenge old assumptions and shed the old rules that made the business underperform in the first place.

Every business is replete with implicit rules left over from earlier decades. “Customers don’t repair their own equipment.” “Local warehouses are necessary for good service.” “Merchandising decisions are made at headquarters.” These rules of work design are based on assumptions about technology, people, and organizational goals that no longer hold.

25 years old, still insightful today.

h/t to Fred Wilson for the article.

Article: Seven Plus or Minus Three

Great article by @rands:

It is this hurry-based reactive mindset that might give you the illusion that random shit time is more important than 1:1 time, but I would argue that properly and consistently deployed 1:1 time eliminates future random shit time. Because you met three weeks ago and discussed what appeared to be a listless Frank, you moved him to a new team and he didn’t quit.

Those teams are not fighting because you met with each of their leads last month and made sure each team felt heard. The proactive minutes you spend each week with your team might not contain as much energy, but they are far healthier minutes than unexpected, unhealthy, and avoidable high fructose random shit minutes.

Go read it!

Article: Estimation Games

My colleague Corina sent me a great article last week about the games that are played during the process of estimating IT project workload:

The apparent inability of IT people to accurately estimate the effort, time and cost of IT projects has remained an insolvable problem. In interview after interview with business people, our group has found that poor estimation is one of the major factors in the breakdown of relationships between IT people and their clients.

The article reminded me of the famous Programmer Time Translation Table. What's interesting is that the article focuses on the interpersonal aspect of the estimation process:

Almost all research into improving software estimation miss a vital point: it is people who estimate, not machines.
This simple point underpins the real problem in estimation. In fact, our research has shown that within certain conditions, IT people are pretty good at estimating. Further, our research has shown that the major precondition for improving estimation accuracy is the existence of an estimation environment free of inter-personal politics and political games.

Their take is similar to Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow recommendation that the first thing to do if we are to fight our cognitive biases is to learn to recognize them. In other words, if you can't identify it, you can't fight it.

The article goes on to describe several of the games that are played as part of the estimation process:

It is our belief that over the 30 plus years of commercial computing has developed a series of sophisticated political games that have become a replacement for estimation as a formal process. More importantly, like all good games they are passed on from generation to generation by "children" IT people learning from "adult" managers who of course learnt the games from their adults when they were children and so on.

If you have ever been impacted by this problem (and if you work in IT, you have!), read on!