up to the flash. When you devote concentrated thought and work to a subject, you initiate the potential for a flash down the road. The more concentrated and consistent your work, the greater your chances to generate the Holy Grail of ideas: the flash of brilliance. In spheres where ideas happen all the time, it's what might be called an "excellent idea." If an idea is a lightbulb, an excellent idea is the northern lights, with an infinite variety of patterns and brightness.
Next time you witness someone on your team come up with an excellent idea, you can be sure he or she spent a lot of time concentrating and working on the subject. In these columns, I have often talked about the importance of improving software quality, contributing to projects, and being a positive force with your team. But there's also your own personal fulfillment to consider. Next time you get weary doing all the hard work that your job requires, remember you may be fast approaching your own flash of brilliance. It's one of the best ways to bring meaning to life (AND help your project).
16 April 2003
Are you a Karass or a Granfalloon? A recent Discover magazine ran an article linking a new social-network-mapping software with Kurt Vonnegut's distinction between Karasses, people who get things done, and Granfalloons, people who are all about structure instead of results (from "Cat's Cradle"). Granfalloons, the article notes, keep polished org charts, while Karasses cross departmental and hierarchical boundaries at will in order to efficiently complete tasks. Karasses have established good working relationships--not from "networking" to build them--but rather from simply getting things done. The new social-mapping software integrates with your email to track and then map people you work with: who, how many, how often. A Karass map will be thick with lines all over the place. A Granfalloon map will be sparse and confined to lines that reflect the org chart. I'm not promoting that social-mapping software--but it's not a bad idea to think about where you might fit on the scale from the super-effective Karass to the super-rigid Granfalloon.
2 July 2003
I was watching a show on PBS called Ask This Old House. (I know, "Get a life.") A couple had purchased a house that was everything they wanted except for an ugly cement step at the back door. Even the height of it was odd, so that they often misstepped going outside. The house, the whole package, was just right except this one feature that must have been ignored by the contractor's QA team. It was like someone's last-minute idea for an extra feature thrown in the day before release. Luckily the folks at Ask This Old House have a very responsive Help Desk. Their QA manager flew in for an onsite consultation and inspection. He saw the problem firsthand, tested it, and recorded specifications. He listened carefully to the couple's concerns to ensure an accurate documentation of the couple's requirements for the replacement feature.
They couldn't FTP a new build, so the whole development team joined the QA manager onsite, and began the reconfiguration. The main issue for the couple was aesthetics. But in adding the new aesthetic User Interface, they also solved the height problem. During design, the team asked the couple if they would also prefer something very low-maintenance for a little extra cost. They did. The agile team modified on the fly. It was a perfect story of initial user dissatisfaction, a responsive project team, careful attention to user requirements, a useful suggestion by the project team, and a