Design Thinking in Times of Subcontracting, Outsourcing and Offshoring

Design Thinking in Times of Subcontracting, Outsourcing and Offshoring


A few days ago, we were discussing Design Thinking principles at a large software development organization based in Bangalore, India. The office was the hub of a 250 person banking project nearing delivery of their first phase to a US bank.

After around ten minutes of discussions, one of the project managers said, “We cannot implement Design Thinking in our project. It won’t work in most projects that our company executes.”

She went on the explain how they had no possibility of any contact with the retail customers of the bank, who are the main end-users of the software that was being developed. She explained the various layers of intermediaries that had been set-up through subcontracting, outsourcing and offshoring. A simplified version of the situation is depicted below.

Design Thinking in Times Of...


Here is more information on the complex situation:

  1. The bank had hired a local US based consulting company to prepare the Business and Customer Requirements. The consulting company, which was a reputed ‘expert’ in banking did not observe or talk to the retail customers. They had a few meetings with managers at the bank and submitted the requirements document.
  2. The bank then floated an RFP (Request For Proposal)  for outsourcing the software development work.  A US based IT Services company won the contract as they had a low-cost off-shore delivery center in India. Their US presence was also treated as a plus point (‘can be sued more easily in case of any breach!’).
  3. The team in Bangalore consists mainly of hardcore tech people, though some of them have been involved in banking applications in the past. The main reason they were chosen for offshoring was their tech capability, lower cost, and ability to scale up fast.
  4. The Onshore IT Services team consists of Project Managers and Accountants whose job involves making sure that all legal terms are satisfied, that billing is complete, and any extra work is compensated for. Meeting the needs of end-users is not part of their job scope or priorities.

Given this situation, it is likely that many years will pass before the software becomes useful and usable, and the process will probably include several Change Requests, a lot of blame allocation, and contractual wrangling.

The situation described is not unique. It is typical of any large software development effort, and many engineering design projects (automobile, aerospace). The fact is, outsourcing and offshoring have significant advantages of lower costs, access to specialized skills, and ability to scale. Such modalities are here to stay.

So, how does one solve this “wicked” problem of the distance between the developers and the end-users in such situations?

Please feel feel to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:
Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the authors :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Fridge Inside a Cabinet: Design Thinking or Unthinking Designer?

Fridge Inside a Cabinet

Design Thinking or Unthinking Designer: The Curious Case of the Fridge in a Cabinet

For anyone who stays in hotel rooms, the three pictures above would be familiar. They are the pictures of a mini-fridge inside a wooden cabinet. The cabinet is usually closed from all sides, except for a small hole/ slit for the wiring. This seems to be the case in all types of hotels, regardless of their “star” rating.

Anyone who has some knowledge of refrigeration or thermodynamics or basic physics knows that the closed cabinet will get hot, because:

  1. Electricity is being burnt inside the cabinet to operate the fridge compressor. Consumption of electricity generates heat.
  2. There is no escape for the heat. Wood is not a good conductor of heat.

This generated hot air will remain between the fridge and the walls of the wooden cabinet till someone opens the cabinet door (see discussions on quora here). Because of the hot air just outside the fridge, the fridge will take longer to reach a suitably low temperature. The electricity consumption will be higher, and the compressor will have to operate for a longer time.

It is like having the hot exhaust of an air-conditioner emptying in the room that is being cooled.

So, does placing a running fridge inside a wooden cabinet meet the needs of any of the stakeholders? Let us look at each category of stakeholders, in a hotel context.

  1. Guests: The fridge does not cool properly. The drinks are not cold (lukecool? :-)). Cooked food kept in the fridge spoils quickly, and can lead to sickness. Also, one has to open 2 doors to reach the items in the fridge.
  2. Hotel Housekeeping: Guests keep complaining, and requesting for ice. The fridges break down more often, requiring repair. The insides of the fridge are also more difficult to clean. And dust gathers in the cabinet, outside the fridge.
  3. Hotel Management: Electricity bill is higher. Repair costs are higher. Risk of fire is higher. Guests can fall ill after eating stale food, and have a poor experience at the hotel. Consumption of excess electricity and generation of heat is environmentally unfriendly (contrary to the hotel’s claims of being environment conscious).

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How did this fridge-in-cabinet trend start? What were the considerations and constraints? How did this trend get adopted so widely?
  • Why is it continuing? What should be the triggers for designers to reconsider and question old designs?

Looking forward to your views. Would love to read the perspective of people who design interiors of hotel rooms!

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the authors :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Why Design Thinking Is Here to Stay

Design Thinking Wordle

Why Design Thinking Is Here to Stay


by Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik

The Design Thinking framework is being increasingly adopted by organizations of all kinds. Individuals and organizations are investing their time and money to learn and apply it to solve complex problems. But is Design Thinking something really useful, and is it here to stay, or is it just a new label and a passing fad?

As such, the principles behind Design Thinking have been evolving for years. Design Thinking combines these into a usable set, complete with principles, methods, tools and processes which make Design Thinking effective for solving complex problems and for creating useful products and services .

When we look at the world around us, it is clear that we need better approaches to handle real-life problems. The situations we face are complex, and systems are more interconnected and entangled. Our traditional design-and-development approaches created tightly-bounded solutions in isolation; these are not effective in today’s situation. It is also wrong to assume that only expert designers can know what is most suitable for everyone.

Let’s see how the key elements of Design Thinking make it suitable for solving complex problems.

Design Thinking is Human Centered

People
Design Thinking looks at problems impacting real people and then evolves solutions to create a better future for people. Design Thinking places heavy emphasis on understanding user behaviors in their real contexts, user-driven evaluation of design alternatives, and creating enhanced user experiences.

Design Thinking uses systems thinking

People
In Design Thinking, problems and solutions are understood and evaluated in terms of the interrelationships between components of the system and also their relation with other systems. This systems thinking approach also looks at short-term and long-term sustainability of the solutions (e.g., environmental impacts).

Design Thinking requires collaboration

People
According to Design Thinking, ‘all of us are smarter than any of us.’ The collaboration involves the core design team, the users, developers, engineers, experts, and other stakeholders. Even the work environment — workplace, meeting rooms and infrastructure and tools — are all set up to enable and encourage more team-work.

Design Thinking is also Design Doing

Lego Build
The framework encourages the design team to make solutions ‘tangible’ as quickly as possible. For this, they create prototypes, paper / cardboard models, videos, stories, and scaled-down working solutions, so that the solutions can be evaluated using as many senses as possible – visual, auditory, tactile (touch), etc. Design Thinking encourages the team to run “loose and lean”, in order to “fail fast to succeed sooner”.

Tolerance for ambiguity is embedded in Design Thinking

Evolution of Cars
In Design Thinking , the team does not start with fixed ideas on the exact nature of the problem, or how the solution will work. The approach is to start with a vision and a direction, but without an exact destination or the path, with the confidence that one will end up somewhere great!


The Design Thinking framework is open and evolving. It is not proprietary to any organization. Academia, consultants and practitioners all over the world are constantly adding to its body of knowledge. They share success stories. Design Thinking  continues to evolve and improve and there is no “entry barrier” involved.

The openness of Design Thinking is supplemented with a growing base of experienced Design Thinking users (individuals and organizations). Lots of well-known and well-respected organizations have whole-heartedly embraced the concepts of Design Thinking. These include Apple, GE, Google, SAP Labs, Nike, HP, IBM, P&G, and Infosys. This, in turn, means that more and more individuals and organizations will be open to trying it out, and it will spread and evolve even faster.

Design Thinking has absorbed and assimilated suitable practices from various disciplines and methodologies that have overlapping elements. Examples are Agile methodology, Ethnography, User Experience, Human-Computer Interaction, and Systems Thinking.

Most importantly, Design Thinking is particularly effective for tackling what are called “wicked problems” (see Wikipedia). It has moved beyond initial days when it was used to design products like cars, phones, and cameras.

“Wicked problems”  are problems that are hard to understand and defy solutions. Such problems are increasing as the world becomes more complex and connected, and has multiple stakeholders who may have conflicting and unrecognized needs. Examples of wicked problems are found across many domains like health-care, urban infrastructure management, water resource management, pollution, and global warming. For example, ‘how do we get kids to improve their physical activity?’, ‘how do we handle solid waste in a city?’, ‘how do we make sure that the government subsidies reach the deserving?’ Design Thinking is able to provide creative, effective, out-of-box solutions because of its emphasis on  human-centric and holistic approach, and early availability of usable systems to gather feedback and refine solutions.

We believe that Design Thinking is here to stay for the long run. What do you say?

Please feel feel to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:
Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the authors :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Book Review – “The Shift” by Lynda Gratton

 The Shift - Cover Title The Shift:
The Future of Work is Already Here
Author(s) Lynda Gratton
Initially Published In 2011
Publisher Harper Collins
Formats Available Paperback, and Kindle
Available At Amazon.comAmazon.in.

The Shift by Lynda Gratton looks at the forces that will change the way we work in the next fifteen years, and the key ‘shifts’ that individuals need to make to survive and thrive.

“A compendium of modern management and social science theories … the novelty of Gratton’s book is her synthesis of so many contemporary ideas about the changes to our working lives ”

— FINANCIAL TIMES (book of the year) 

Summary

The Shift takes a long and hard look at the trends that will affect work in future. The author conveys this through short ‘stories’ of individuals in the future – these scenarios include the negative as well as positive.

The Shift starts by identifying five emerging forces and the way they will impact the future of work. The five important forces identified by the author are (1) Technology (esp. the Cloud), (2) Globalization, (3) Demography & longevity, (4) Society, and (5) Energy resources. The book goes on to describe the history, trends and how these will affect our lives in the decades to come.

Part 2 of the book paints a dark picture where these five trends create fragmentation, isolation, and for some, exclusion from work altogether as they are left behind. This is projected as the ‘default future’ where the five forces shaping the future take charge of people’s descent into hell if they are not proactively crafting their future.

The next part of the book focuses on the kind of work that people who actively craft their life can possibly have. These include increase in co-creation/ collaboration, greater social engagement, and creative micro-entrepreneurship.

So what does one have to do to proactively craft one’s future of work? The Shift identifies three main themes that one needs to work on: (1) moving from being the shallow generalist to the serial master, (2) moving from being the isolated competitor to an innovative connector, and (3) moving from being a voracious consumer to an impassioned producer.

At the end there are insightful notes for children, CEOs, and governments on what they can do to move towards a better future.

Well-written and Thought Provoking

I found The Shift entertaining and thought-provoking. It is a current masterpiece on the subject of ‘the future of work’.

The pace (across the 350 odd pages) is breathless, directed and self-assured. While reading the book, the analysis appears sound.

This book helped me think about the future. Though the future may not fully match Gratton’s prediction, it sure is going to be different and some of the things that book predicts will become true.

I think the book should be read by youngsters, parents, leaders (corporate & political), and HR folks.

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“Uses historical context brilliantly to put the megatrends … into perspective … simply brilliant. Inspirational and provocative”

—  HR MAGAZINE

The Shift  by Lynda Gratton is available at: Amazon.comAmazon.in.

Check out sample pages of the book by using the “Look Inside” feature in Amazon, here. You will get a feel of the book, and you can decide whether it suits you.

About the author

Lynda Gratton, an organizational theorist, consultant, and Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, is known for her work on organisational behavior.

Gratton has worked with many of the world’s biggest companies, including Vodafone, Shell and Unilever.

In 2008 The Financial Times selected her as the business thinker most likely to make a real difference over the next decade. In 2011 she was ranked by The Times as one of the top 15 Business Thinkers in the world today. In 2011, she was also ranked number one in Human Resources Magazine’s “Top 25 HR Most Influential UK Thinkers 2011” poll.

Gratton is the founder of the Hot Spots Movement, a specialist research and consulting team that works to identify where companies can future-proof their working practice, in order to foster innovation and enhance performance.

Here is a TEDx video featuring Lynda Gratton talking about the concepts in the book.

If the video does not open, use the link https://youtu.be/VbZ3eKbFi3g

The book is available at: Amazon.comAmazon.in.

Please use the comment feature below to send in your responses.

Other Book Reviews

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Book Review – “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky

Making Ideas Happen - CoverGenerating new ideas is easy, it’s executing that is hard. Whether you are an individual or an organization, perseverance and perspiration are a must to transform vision into reality.

In Making Ideas Happen, the author, Scott Belsky uses his observations and insights behind successful teams at Disney, IDEO, and Google — as well as highly productive and respected individuals like John Maeda, Seth Godin, and Chris Anderson — to present essential principles and a structured set of methods for converting any idea into reality.

Title Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality
Author(s) Scott Belsky
Initially Published In 2010
Publisher Penguin
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Available At Amazon.comAmazon.in.

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“A Swiss army knife for Ideas”

Ji Lee, Director at Google Creative Lab 

Summary

Ideas for new businesses, improving productivity or capabilities and solutions to the world’s problems  are common. So are ideas for artistic breakthroughs. However, great execution is rare. Ideas don’t happen by accident or because they are unique or great. Ideas are taken to fruition with passion, focus, and hard work.

According to Making Ideas Happen, the three essential elements behind successful implementation of ideas are:

  1. Organization and Execution
  2. Leveraging the Forces of Community
  3. Leadership

‘Organization and Execution’ includes details of the ‘Action Method’, which covers management of lists (e.g., action steps, back-burner items, and references), prioritization, managing constraints, tolerance for change, with a focus on ‘always moving forward.’

Harnessing the forces of the community through sharing of ideas, processing feedback, transparency, commitment to others, and using the power of the network is the second essential element of success. The book also covers the benefit of physical shared space and self-marketing.

The third essential element is leadership that one needs to drive a team. Motivation, rewards, weeding out of ideas, engagement, decision making (e.g., ‘don’t be burdened by consensus’, ‘leaders talk last’) are some of the aspects covered. Self-leadership is also covered in detail – this includes aspects of handling ambiguity, failures, and conflicts and also being a deviant.

The essence of the book is depicted in this diagram reproduced from the book:

Making Ideas Happen - Equation

Worth Reading (More than Once)

The book is extremely well-written and easy to read and fast to absorb. It is around 240 pages, including the Appendices. The structuring of the book is also done very well, with three major sections and chapters within them. Once you have read the book, it is easy to refresh the concepts by just going through the table of contents.

There are diagrams and tables used to explain or reinforce concepts, wherever needed.

The book was on the bestseller lists for a long time. I recommend this book for entrepreneurs, managers, and anyone unable to start on his/ her pet ideas.

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“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard. This book helps you with the hard part.”

— Guy Kawasaki, former Apple guru and author of
The Art of the Start

Making Ideas Happen  by Scott Belsky is available at: Amazon.comAmazon.in.

Check out sample pages of the book by using the “Look Inside” feature in Amazon, here. You will get a feel of the book, and you can decide whether it suits you.

About the author

Scott Belsky is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur with a focus on the creative industries. As the founder and CEO of Behance (https://www.behance.net/), he oversees the Behance Network, the world’s leading platform for creative professionals with millions of visitors every month. He also looks after ‘The 99%’ (http://99u.com/), a think tank and annual conference devoted to execution in creative teams and Action Method, a popular online/mobile productivity application and line of organizational paper products.

Here is a TEDx video featuring Scott Belsky talking about the concepts in the book.

If the video does not open, use the link https://youtu.be/lsQtptwMCFI

The book is available at: Amazon.comAmazon.in.

Please use the comment feature below to send in your responses.

Other Book Reviews

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).

 


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

More on Multitasking

This is a continuation from the previous post titled: Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About? Click here if you have not yet read it.

Books on Multitasking

Here are some good, easy-to-read books that explain more of the concepts and can also help you manage the situation better:

 The One Thing Book Cover The One Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Keller Amazon.com,
Amazon.in
The Myth of Multi-Tasking Book Cover The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done by Dave Crenshaw Amazon.com,
Amazon.in,

Other Articles on the Internet

Read more about the uselessness of multitasking in the articles listed below (links provided):

Videos on Multitasking

Here is a video that talks about why we can’t multitask efficiently.

If the video does not load use this link: https://youtu.be/BpD3PxrgICU

Here is another short video:


If the video does not load use this link: https://youtu.be/MJuXV6AD93s

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available. You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About?

Multi Tasking Cartoon

Over the last 4-5 years I have read many articles (popular as well as academic) that have consistently tried to educate people that multitasking is inefficient, error-prone and negatively impacts the mental health of the so-called multitasker.

However, I still receive job applications with resumes that highlight the multitasking skill of the applicant. So, I chased this a bit, and discovered that even consultants helping people apply for jobs advice them to highlight their multitasking skills (or is it a single skill?). I have also found ‘multi-tasking skill’ as a checklist item in the interview evaluation forms of a few organizations.

Evolution of the Multitasking concept

The word ‘multitasking’ first appeared in the description of the capabilities of an IBM computer (System/ 360) in 1965. People started using the word for human beings in the 1980s as a desirable skill and something that enhances productivity.

So, what is multitasking in human beings?

Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task, or activity, at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking.

Wikipedia

In the last ten years, multiple controlled experiments and studies have been conducted to understand the concept of multitasking in humans. The research consistently shows that humans cannot pay attention to multiple things at the same time. So they are essentially doing rapid context switching. This increases the total time taken and also increases the errors. People who typically multitask, perform poorly (compared to people who do not typically multitask) even when they are asked to do tasks sequentially.

Multitasking is Not Recommended

So, unless it is absolutely necessary, do not multitask (I am using the word multitasking as is commonly used – actually it is some kind of rapid context switching). And do not take pride in your multitasking. Here are a bunch of reasons:

  1. It could be dangerous – like talking on the phone while driving, or texting while walking on a busy road. In some professions, trying to simultaneously do more things than what is absolutely required may be fatal to others (surgeons, air traffic controllers, pilots, etc.).
  2. It is slower and less efficient. According to some studies productivity can reduce by around 40% when you multitask.
  3. It is error-prone. Research consistently shows that people make more errors while multitasking. So, the tasks that you get “First Time Right” reduce significantly.
  4. There is no sense of satisfaction of completion, because there are multiple tasks in progress, and the sense completion of one task  is overshadowed by the rest of the ‘work-in-progress’.
  5. Communication becomes unclear and unsatisfactory – in professional and personal life. Because you cannot pay continuous attention to what others are saying. Nor can you convey a complete concept that requires long communication. This could impact relationships too.
    For example, because you were on the phone while typing an email, you may mark the email to the wrong persons, or send the email with partial / wrong information – thereby creating confusion that needs further communication and sorting out.
  6. Multitasking increases stress. When we start to drop balls,and make mistakes our feeling of overwhelm increases, and the stress keeps building.
  7. Multitasking reduces the IQ (temporarily) by around 10 points – roughly equivalent of missing one night’s sleep – for people who are already sleep deprived or already have a low IQ, it may be a disaster :-).
  8. Multitasking becomes more difficult with age. As all of us are ageing at the same rate (1 day per day, 1 year per year), we will be able to do less and less of ‘multitasking’ as time flies.
  9. Multitasking while eating can make you overeat – so it is not aligned with healthy eating.
  10. Need to multitask may be addictive – you may be soon be unable to focus on a single task for a long duration, even if that is essential (like answering a 2 hour examination without your cellphone or tablet or laptop or TV or favorite book).

Unknowns

Here are some aspects of multitasking for which I could not get very definite answers.

  • Does gender play a role in the ability to multitask?
  • Are some individuals significantly better than others at multitasking?
  • Does multitasking reduce attention span? Or do individuals who lack attention span typically tend to multitask?
  • Can we train people to be good at multitasking?
  • Are there some combination of tasks that are conducive to multitasking? What are their characteristics? (For example – it is perfectly natural to speak to someone seated in a car while you are driving, but not to speak on the cellphone;  one can listen to music and answer emails, but one cannot cook while answering emails).

Read more about multitasking and how to better handle the situation in the article: More on MultitaskingClick here if you have not yet read it.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available. You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

CIA-OSS Manual for Workplace Sabotage

Recently, the CIA declassified a document titled ‘Simple Sabotage Field Manual’. This manual was created by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II–era precursor to the CIA. It is dated 1944, for use by CIA operatives in Europe who were trying to recruit civilians living in countries occupied by the Axis Alliance (Germany, Italy and Japan).

A scanned version of the document is available in the pdf form at the CIA’s website, here.

OSS-CIA Manual Cover

The documents has around 32 pages. The most interesting parts for me were in the last few pages in a section titled ‘General Interference with Organizations and Production.’

One sub-section of this part is reproduced here:

(a) Organizations and Conferences

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to, expedite decisions.
(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible – never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to reopen the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision -raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

The manual continues to other such sub-sections titled (b) Managers and Supervisors, (c) Office Workers, and (d) Employees. You can read all the sections in pages 28-32 of the manual available here.

What is amazing is that I see this behavior in most organizations, displayed by most people, though they may not have been recruited by the CIA (at least, I think CIA has better sense than to spend money when there is no need).

And that is why you have management gurus and management consultancy firms, much in demand, trying to reverse the situation, with maybe negligible effect. We have experts in OD, employee motivation, leadership development. operational efficiency, process management, organizational alignment, Balanced Scorecard, Six-Sigma, Lean, Agile, ISO, CMMI®, People CMM®, and so on…, but nothing seems to change.

The  beauty of the principles in the document are so inherently ‘aligned’ to human nature, that these principles have insidiously and organically crept into all aspects of all organizations, maybe even in the CIA.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Read pages 28-32 of the manual available here.

Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available. You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Book Review – “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper” by John Allen Paulos

This is the book from which I had adopted two puzzles that I used in the last few posts.

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper Cover

Title A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of Numbers in the Headlines
Author John Allen Paulos
Publishing Date 1995
Publisher First by Basic Books, then by Penguin
Formats Available Paperback, Kindle
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.in.

Here is an example of mistaken precision quoted in the book:

“…museum guard who claimed the dinosaur on exhibit was 65,000,038 years old. When pressed about the precision of the number, the guard says that a scientist told him the dinosaur was 65 million years old when he was hired 38 years before”

In this book, John Allen Paulos takes us through the various sections of the newspapers and explains how math and numbers are key elements behind every story that we read. The book is quirky, perceptive, and uses a ‘light’ approach. Each chapter is very short (about 2 to 3 pages) and covers one topic or one segment of the newspaper. He keeps using analytical thinking and logic together with numbers and simple formulae to keep us hooked. Surprisingly, I found that the longer chapters were more engrossing than the shorter ones.

There are sections on population, taxes, horoscopes, sports, literacy, SAT scores, gender issues, rodent population, rate of technological changes, health care plans, drug approvals, the super collider, and other such topics that we read in the newspapers every day.

Here is something I found interesting in his coverage on obituaries:

“I wonder about the relationships among the obituary’s length, L; the deceased’s achievements, A; his or her fame, F (which is largely independent of achievement); the interval between these and death, I; and the number of other “important” deaths that day, D. Maybe it’s something roughly like L = (A X FXF)/ Sqrt (I X D)….”

Another interesting concept was how minor differences between two populations can seem huge when we consider the behaviour at the extremes of the populations. For example, if we compare student admission percentages to top colleges across different communities, we may find that a minor difference in education levels in the two communities can result in huge differences in the number of admissions, because we are looking at the extremely talented population of both communities.

And through many examples, he illustrates that human beings do not have an intuitive grasp of probability. For example, we are likely to get many continuous sequences of heads (or tails) in real flips of a coin, than we expect (we expect the results to keep changing from head to tail more frequently).

Having read this delightful book, I think I will end up applying a bit more critical thinking to newspaper articles I read from now on…

About the author

John Allen Paulos is an American professor of mathematics at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Professor Paulos is famous for his work on mathematical literacy and illiteracy.

Other books by Paulos are Innumeracy, Mathematics and Humor, Irreligion, I Think, Therefore I Laugh, Beyond Numeracy, A Mathematician Plays The Stock Market, and Once Upon A Number.

You can also view this rather long video where the author talks about randomness and many mistakes we make while dealing with it (uploaded on youtube):

If the clip does not load click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__-S2WXmJwU

The book is available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in.

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Other Book Reviews

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

Probability/ Stats Puzzles – 2 & 3 (Solutions)

If you’ve not seen/ attempted the puzzles, the links are here: puzzle-2 and puzzle-3. These were presented in earlier posts.

Both these puzzles are adopted from a delightful little book by John Allen Paulos titled A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.

I will provide more details about the book next week. For now, here are the solutions to the two puzzles.

Puzzle-2

You need to call the throw of a dice a 1000 times. Like all dices, in each throw, this dice also gives you a number between 1 and 6. You are also told that the dice is slightly distorted / damaged – the probability of getting the six results is as follows: 1- 20%; 2- 10%; 3- 25%; 4-15%; 5-15%; 6-15%.

What strategy would you use to call the answers for the 1000 throws? Your objective is to get the right answer for a maximum of the throws.

Solution:

Call 3, 3, 3, 3…. all the 1000 times. This will get you aprroximately 250 right calls.

Or better still, tell the dice roller that your call is 3 all the thousand times, go for a coffee, or do something useful, come back after some time.

Puzzle-3

Two contestants are to decide on the winner of 10 mn by flipping a coin. The winner will be the one who reaches six (6) correct calls first.

After 8 flips, contestant A has 5 correct calls, and contestant B has 3 correct calls. At this stage they agree NOT to continue with the flipping of the coin. Here are some proposals on how the money should be shared:

  1. Contestant A says that since he is leading, he should get the 10mn.
  2. Contestant B says that since the flipping was called off before the final result, the 10mn should be shared equally.
  3. The show-host says that TV quiz program sponsors should retain the 10mn, since both the contestants agreed to call off the contest.
  4. Someone from the audience suggests that the prize money be split in the 5:3 ratio (5 for A and 3 for B), in line with the number of right calls
  5. A mathematician calls in to suggest that the money be split A7:B1 (try and guess the logic here, it is related to the probability of winning from this point, if the flipping had continued)

Solution:

The question on how the money is to be shared is not a mathematical /statistical problem at all! It is a matter of fairness and justice, and each solution proposed (and some yet to be proposed) has its own merit.

However, if you have not yet worked out the logic of why the mathematician proposed option # 5 above, here it is:

For contestant B to win 6 calls in a row, he/ she needs to call ALL of the next three calls correctly (even if he / she calls one incorrectly, A will reach 6 right calls. So the probability of B winning is (0.5) x (0.5) x (0.5) = 0.125; which means A has a probability of 0.875 – that is 7:1.

Next week, I will cover the source of these puzzles, a book titled A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos.

Please feel free to to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature available.
You may also forward the link to this post to your friends, colleagues, and anyone else who may be interested.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, institute, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).


I am Rajesh Naik. I am an author, management consultant and trainer, helping IT and other tech companies improve their processes and performance. I also specialize in CMMI® (DEV and SVC), People CMM® and Balanced Scorecard. I am a CMMI Institute certified/ authorized Instructor and Lead Appraiser for CMMI® and People CMM®. I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. For more information please click here.

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