# Probability/ Stats Puzzle – 2

I encountered this simple problem in a book (I will disclose the name of the book in a later post along with the answer).

Here is the problem:

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.

Here are some answers that I have heard:

1. Call the number ‘3’ all the 1000 times – this is the most common answer I have heard.
2. Call the numbers in the same pattern as the probability: 1- 200 times; 2- 100 times; 3- 250 times; 4-150 times; 5-150 times; 6-150 times.
3. Call the numbers randomly, ignoring the distortion in the dice.
4. A variation of 2 above is to call the numbers in the same pattern, but also taking into account the answers to the past throws, so that we try and keep the probabilities similar to the expected patterns. So if in the first 100 throws, 1 has already rolled more than 20% and 2 has been rolled less than 10%, then in the 101st throw, call 2 instead of 1, and so on.
5. There are other possible answers too – and the right one may not be listed above (this is not a mutiple choice question 🙂 )

Work out the reasons for your choice, not just make a choice. The reasons are more important.

This is a simple question, and you should get the right answer.

The answer will be posted later.

# Henlon’s Razor: Sound Principle for Processing Interpersonal Interactions

Here is the statement, attributed to Robert J. Henlon:

• `"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".`

Though the origin is not too clear, there are others who have been credited with similar statements/ quotes. Here are a few of them.

Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein in his short story Logic of Empire:

• “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in The Sorrows of Young Werther:

• “…misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.”

Jane West’s The Loyalists states something similar in a more sincere (less cynical/ insulting) manner:

• “Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives. Do we not often afflict others undesignedly, and, from mere carelessness, neglect to relieve distress?”

All of the above can be applied to actions, situations, and interactions that cause inconvenience, hurt and pain, for many reasons:

1. It is possible that there was no malice, deliberate intention, or evil motives for the action/ inaction by the other party. Maybe it truly was carelessness, incompetence, or stupidity.
2. It is easier to emotionally cope up with consequences of the action/ inaction if you do not think that it was the result of malice (whether or not it is true).
3. When your action / inaction is inconvenient/ hurtful, it may be preferable (for you) to have others attribute it carelessness, incompetence, or stupidity (though some people may prefer being known as ‘evil’ rather than ‘incompetent’ 🙂 ). If so, it is preferable that everyone uses the same principle.

People often attribute deliberate malafide intent on the powerful (Executive Management, Human Resources) within the organization. The same holds true for the way journalists analyze governments. Most of these powerful people are clueless themselves. It may therefore helpful to remember that:

• “Cock-up theories”  are more likely to explain man-made problems than conspiracy theories.
[This also means ‘luck and randomness is more likely to explain success than thought-out strategy’]

You many also want to read Occam’s Razor for Design of Systems and Processes.

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, country, government, or association. They may not even be the official views of the author of this post :-).

# Are Surveys Really Objective?

If you are under the impression that you should believe the results of surveys (customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, etc.), you may want to rethink after you have a look at this episode of  Yes, Prime Minister (Episode “The Ministerial Broadcast”). Sir Humphreys instructs Bernard on how to design and administer a survey to get the result that you want. See this youtube clip (the quaint accent in which they speak English alone is worth it 😉 )

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 .

# Aligning Ferret (by Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik) is now available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook

Aligning Ferret: How an Organization Meets Extraordinary Challenges (a business novel) by Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik has been published (at last :)) as a Kindle eBook on Amazon.

Click here to buy or view details on Amazon.com (or on Amazon.in).

### About the Book

Aligning Ferret is a business novel (in the style of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt) that uses an engrossing story to illustrate the implementation of organizational strategy, performance alignment, and people management in a fictitious, but realistically portrayed organization.

The story is narrated by Sunil Chinnappa (Sunny), a manager at a Bangalore-based software firm, Ferret. Sunil has just completed the implementation of world-class processes to deliver high-quality software at Ferret. But his self-congratulatory mood is cut short when Jim, the COO of the firm that owns Ferret, blasts Ferret for poor performance and threatens it with closure.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“Ferret revenue and profits are totally off target,” says Jim. “And I can’t see your plans.”
“Plans?” My boss, Rajiv, looks stunned. “You have project-wise data and—”
“Plans, Rajiv. Overall plans, like your direction of growth, the sort of projects you’ll execute, and how much of our outsourced work you’ll undertake.” Jim sounds irritated.
Rajiv’s forehead creases. “We’ve improved our processes. Our focus is to execute PTI work better and—”
“Really? Ferret handles only 5% of our outsourced IT work.” Jim’s voice is sharp. “We acquired you to reduce our costs but we still have to use other IT vendors—expensive ones. If that’s all you can execute—”
“Jim—” Rajiv wipes his brow.
“I may acquire another firm in India or China instead of using Ferret.”

[Intrigued already? Click here to view details/ buy on Amazon. or Amazon.in 🙂 ]

Through Aligning Ferret, you will participate in Ferret’s effort to achieve the extraordinary growth Jim demands of Ferret. You will see how, led by Sunny, the managers at Ferret learn and apply relevant concepts, models and frameworks. They focus on performance management systems and on competencies to achieve overambitious targets. Models/ concepts they consider include strategy maps, Balanced Scorecard, and People CMM®. You will see the managers handle this strategy-alignment related effort in addition to coping with ongoing project deadlines, high attrition rates, and ongoing glitches and conflicts.

An aligned organization knows its objectives and focuses on achieving them. Strategy and alignment are not confined to top honchos deciding policy in boardrooms. All employees need to understand these concepts to work effectively within the organizational framework. Aligning Ferret’s engrossing and realistic story makes strategy, alignment, performance management, and related concepts a quick grasp for readers.

We had released the paperback version of this book some time ago. Many readers had suggested that we also release a eBook version, but we got busy with other stuff, and hey, we wanted to first sell off the paperback copies :).

The book (paperback version) was well-received and perceived as useful by many readers, sometimes in ways that were unexpected / unintended! Most readers could relate the story to their own lives, to situations they have encountered, and to people they work with (including unreasonable bosses!). See comments from over sixty readers here.

The book was also reviewed in the media (magazines, journals, etc.). You may check out these review comments here.

This book has been successfully used by organizations as a supplementary reading to their Leadership Development Programs.

Aligning Ferret is also listed under “references” in The People CMM: A Framework for Human Capital Management (2nd Edition) (This book is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.in)

We have made some changes from the paperback version.

• The consolidation exercises that were at the end of each chapter (in the paperback) have been moved in the eBook to an Appendix; this maintains the story flow, while the exercises remain available to readers who want to think more about the concepts covered in the book.
• We have also tweaked some words and phrases to make the story more accessible for readers outside India.
• Since this is an eBook format, we have been able to include hyperlinks for navigation within the book.

Here are some details, if you want to get a copy of the book:

## [By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.]

Title: Aligning Ferret: How an Organization Meets Extraordinary Challenges

Authors: Swapna Kishore and Rajesh Naik

Publishing Date: Kindle Edition: May 2013 [Earlier Paperback in 2008]

Language: English

ASIN: B00CZA94XC

Available at: Amazon.com and Amazon.com.

## [By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.]

You can also view a book trailer below:

Please feel free to to share your views, experiences or 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 of this post :-).

# You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook

Till a few months ago I had not registered the fact that I could read ebooks on other devices (like my laptop) and didn’t need a Kindle device. This was in spite of my wife’s constantly telling me so for years.

Last month, though, the coin dropped and I took aside an hour to set up my laptop to read Kindle ebooks. Then I felt that it may be worthwhile to have a blog entry on this topic because I suspect there may be a few (or many?) others like me who dismiss the very idea of reading Kindle ebooks because they don’t have a Kindle device. So I invited my wife, Swapna Kishore, to write this post for AlignMentor

[Brief intro: Swapna Kishore is an author of technical books and speculative fiction. She also maintains a comprehensive website to support dementia daregivers in India. She blogs here.

Over to Swapna…

## Read Kindle ebooks within minutes on your laptop, mobile, or tablet – by Swapna Kishore

The world of instant information is just a few keystrokes away now because we can buy and start reading ebooks within minutes –  the latest books from across the world. Amazon, for example, has a vast number of ebooks in its Kindle store.

But wait…are you availing this opportunity? Or have you brushed it aside saying, “I don’t have a Kindle (device).”

Because, you see, you don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook. You can read Kindle ebooks on your laptop, mobile, tablet, or even in your browser. It takes just a few minutes enable any of these devices to read Kindle eBooks. Really.

A quick way to understand this is

• A Kindle e-reader is a physical device that you can hold in your hands. You can use it to read documents in a number of formats. You can read Kindle ebooks. You can also read other stuff (PDF files, DOC files, etc., depending on which Kindle e-reader you have). You can also do other tasks, but that’s irrelevant for our discussion.
• A Kindle book (ebook) is an electronic counterpart of a book. It is the digital version of the book, a file using a particular format. You can read this file on any device that can interpret the format and display the content (the book). A Kindle ebook can be read on the Kindle e-reader device.  And if you install the appropriate Kindle Reader App (software) on another device, a Kindle book can also be read on that device.

The download links and procedures for the required apps are available at the Amazon site. So all you need to do is:

• Decide which device(s) you want to read your ebook on (your iPad? your Android device? your laptop? one device? more devices?)
• For each device, download and install the relevant free Kindle reading app. Apps are free, and downloadable from Amazon (for Kindle ebooks). Check the Kindle section on Amazon for “Free Reading Apps”(currently here.)
• Test it out:
• Buy a Kindle ebook and make it available on the device(s) you want to read it on (using wireless or download and USB transfer). For testing the app, you can “buy” a free ebook: Check for Kindle ebooks, using Sort –> Price Low to High
• Start the “Kindle reader” on that device and read the book

Now that your device(s) is set up to read Kindle ebooks, next time you can just buy the ebook, deliver/ download it to the device, and start reading. You can also read a sample of a Kindle book before you buy it. Every Kindle ebook is just a few clicks (and a few rupees/ dollars) away.

I have been using my laptop to read Kindle ebooks for over two years. In fact, I read ebooks from all ebook vendors on my laptop (they all have ways for you to read their ebooks on multiple devices). I bought a Kindle e-reader some months ago, and I use that sometimes, but even now, I often read ebooks on my laptop. (I can check my email and Facebook on the side, see 🙂 Or even draft a blog post like this one 🙂

And now, just in case you didn’t feel like reading the above:

Please feel free to share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available at the top of this article/ post.

By the way, if all this has made you feel that you need to seriously consider a Kindle device, then click here.

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 :-).

Book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

# Organizational Alignment using Strategy Maps and Balanced Scorecard (BSC) – a Presentation

Organizational performance alignment has been given increased emphasis in the latest versions (V1.3) of the CMMI® model. The significantly upgraded process area renamed as Organizational Performance Management (OPA) requires process performance and improvement goals be derived from overall organizational business goals.

The People CMM® has always insisted on the linkage between business goals and units goals, workgroup goals, individual goals, and process performance goals.

The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) framework (with Strategy Maps) has been in use for many, many years, and many organizations have reported considerable improvement in their performances with the use of BSC.

CMMI® and People CMM® implementations can be significantly strengthened with the use of BSC.

The concept of BSC has been explained in the slide presentation linked / pasted below.

In case the presentation does not load, use the link http://www.slideshare.net/naik.rajeshnaik/organizational-alignment-using-strategy-maps-and-balanced-scorecard

Other presentations covering CMMI®., People CMMI, Balanced Scorecard, Strategy Maps and Competency Frameworks on AlignMentor are available here.

Please share your views, experiences or queries, using the “comments” feature available at the top of this article/ post.

Notes:

Nothing Official About It! – The views presented above are in no manner reflective of the official views of any organization, community, group, or association.

# Book Review – “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande

I had earlier read two engrossing books by Atul Gawande – Complications and Better. So when I saw The Checklist Manifesto while browsing in the neighborhood library, I decided to pick it up looking forward to an interesting read (some reviewers had strongly recommended it). The title also indicated that it may a good book to review for this weblog.

Well, I was partially right – it was suitable to post a review on this blog. So, here goes…

The main theme of the book/ book summary is as follows:

• Over the years, many activities have become extremely complex.
• Even experts struggle to master and remember all the tasks they have to perform.
• Use of checklists can minimize human errors of oversight. In many cases this it can improve the performance significantly.
• Use of checklists can also help the experts focus on the difficult, tricky parts of a situation, rather than worry about the mundane activities.
• There is need to create better checklists, organize them for easy use and ensure that they are used.

The author uses examples from multiple industries and situations. The best ones are from hospitals and medical emergencies (Dr Gawande is a surgeon :-)). There are other examples from the airline industry (where pilots use checklists for normal as well as abnormal situations), construction industry, retail, and restaurants.

There is a whole chapter dedicated to research where the impact of the use of checklists in hospitals was studied. The research showed that there was a significant reduction in deaths (47% reduction) and major complications (36% reduction) for surgical patients. One interesting finding was that though only 80% of the hospital staff found the checklists useful, 93% of them said they would want a checklist to be used if they were themselves getting operated!

The book sometimes extends the concept of “checklist” beyond its normal usage. Here are a few examples of things that are treated under the concept of checklist in the book (though I believe they are different concepts, with their own place in “how to get things right”):

• Preparing detailed project plans, dependencies, action items, schedules and list of deliverables (example of a building construction project)
• Use of collaboration meetings (of experts) to handle non-routine situations (e.g., a building floor developing unforeseen problems)
• Empowerment for doing something extraordinary (how Wal-Mart employees went beyond their formal authority to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina)
• Use of focus, expertise and wits (how a pilot saved lives by crash landing on Hudson river in 2009 – by focusing on flying the plane, not on using a checklist!)

In trying to bring everything under the umbrella of “checklists”, the author dilutes the concept and utility of checklists as well as other equally important concepts of detailed planning, collaboration, empowerment, dedication, competence and focus. Maybe the title “The Process Manifesto” would have been more apt.

For people who are already convinced about the use of checklists, procedures, plans, collaboration meetings, etc., this book can provide you with interesting examples to relate to process skeptics in your organization. It can also provide process trainers with interesting case studies to relate to the class. You may also consider gifting this book to colleagues who resist the use of formal processes – the book is an easy read and is able to hold the reader’s attention reasonably well.

If you are looking for readymade checklists that will help you reach some level in CMMI®/ People CMM®, then this book is not for you :-).

Those who have read Gawande’s earlier books – Complications and Better may find The Checklist Manifesto a bit disappointing – it is not as engrossing as the earlier two. This is possibly because the earlier books focused primarily on hospitals, medicine and healthcare based scenarios, where Gawande has accumulated loads of experience. And in Checklist, he provides examples from other industries (aircraft manufacture, real estate, retail stores, restaurants, and so on) where he may not have had the same level of familiarity and insight.

Here are some details of the book, in case you want to get your hands on it:

## By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

Book Title: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Author: Atul Gawande

ISBN-10: 1846683130

ISBN-13: 978-1846683138

Publishing Date: Jan 2010

Publisher: Profile Books

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in, and Flipkart

## By the way, you DON’T need a Kindle device to read a Kindle ebook.

Other book reviews uploaded on the same blog:

# Extreme Process Tailoring and Mapping – How much is reasonable? (Story of a Pizzeria)

Last Friday I decided to go to the neighborhood pizzeria for lunch. I was sure of what I wanted to eat, and knew it would cost me around 300 rupees (INR)1. I took my usual place, and was greeted by a grinning waiter. After the standard “how are you, sir?” (someday I plan to actually narrate all my woes, but I was not in the mood to do so on that day :-)), he says, “We have the standard combo meal at a very special price, just 99 rupees.”

“And what can I get in the standard combo meal?” I ask.

“Well you can start with a soft drink, and…,” he says.

“I am not really interested in drinking colored sweet water that is gassed. Skip the combo, let us start with some tomato soup, regular size”.

The waiter would not give up on his combo order. “In the combo, I can substitute the soft drink with a soup, no problem.” Off he goes to get the soup.

After the soup arrives, he is ready to get the next dish. “Sir, shall I get the garlic bread?”

“Don’t you know that burnt flour has no nutritional value? Please get me a garden fresh salad instead – a regular portion,” I say.

He goes to check, comes back and says, “Sir, I can do only a small portion of salad instead of the garlic bread.” After some more discussions he agrees to serve a regular portion of the salad. He also says something about reducing the ice cream that comes at the end of the standard combo.

I manage to substitute the pizza with a pasta, and also wrangle a cup of tea instead of the reduced ice cream portion. I get the meal I wanted at 99 rupees (instead of the 300 rupees that I should have spent). Maybe the waiter also achieved something by selling one more “standard combo”.

If at the end of the day, the pizzeria tries to reconcile the billing data with what was produced in the kitchen, here is what they would have come up with, for my transaction.

(In reality the situation was much more complex, since I was with my wife. So the dishes we got should have been mapped to 2 standard combos. In the interest of the reader’s sanity, I have used “blogetic license” to simplify the situation :-)).

A process auditor/ reviewer would have been aghast – this was extreme tailoring (later justified by extreme mapping), violating all principles of reasonableness.

In typical organizations, there are often situations where one set of processes need to be mapped to another set of processes or some framework. Here are some of them:

• A new process standard (or is new version) is adopted and we need to identify the gaps in our processes with respect to the new standard
• Our customers would like to confirm that our processes satisfy some requirements of the customers’ standard
• Our process team wants to make sure that the customer imposed processes still continue to meet the requirements of our standard process, and
• Post an acquisition, we need to prove that our processes do meet our new owner’s standard processes

And it is in some of these contexts that we sometimes find unreasonable distortion- driven by the need to seem conforming while continuing to do something totally different. Over the years, expertise has been built in the industry and there seems to be a community of practice calling themselves X!reme Mappers2:-).

Excessive tailoring, if it is all-pervading in the organization, actually defeats the purpose of having a standardized process, and can prevent an organization from reaching maturity level 4/ 5 of the CMMI®/ People CMM®.

So maybe it is time someone defined limits of reasonable tailoring and mapping.

Any thoughts on how much tailoring is reasonable?

Other related posts uploaded on the same blog:

1-      Rupee/ INR is the Indian currency. As per the current exchange rate (Feb 2012), 1 US\$ is roughly = 50 Rupees. However, if we factor in the purchasing power in India, the rupee is much more powerful than what is indicated by the exchange rate. For example, in India you could buy 3 Kilograms of ripe bananas for 50 rupees – but one can’t live on bananas alone 🙂

2-      X!reme Mappers. According to the Processpedia (Volume 6 draft v23.4), X!reme Mappers is a shadowy guild, and is affiliated to the Society of Dark Process Arts. They can be hired only through word of mouth and have the motto “We can map anything to anything. You continue doing your thing, while we take care of the mapping.” More information on X!reme Mappers can be found in the draft version of Processpedia.

# Green IT

“What is Green IT? Should I invest my time learning about it?”, these are some questions typically asked by participants in conferences and workshops involving process and quality folks.

Here are some pointers:

• The British Computer Society (BCS) has established a 3 day Foundation Certificate in Green IT in association with Information Systems Examination Board.
• The 3 day course ends with a 1 hour examination, which contains multiple-choice questions
• The course (and the exam) focuses on (1) How IT can help greeni-fy its other operations, and (2) how IT operations can be made more green
• Topics include disposal of hazardous waste, resource conservation and sustainable working practices
• The participants are expected to become familiar with (1) various protocols, panels, summits, and international frameworks on Climate Change, and  (2) legislation and standards like ISO 14001, Energy Star, EPEAT and WEEE
• Internal assessment of an organization’s Green IT status and action planning are other topics covered in the course

The syllabus has been published here.

You can get more information from the following: