Pull The Rope

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When we think of pulling a rope, we might be thinking of a tug-of-war, or swinging on a rope over a lake’s edge.

This isn’t the case for this post.  I’m referring to the Andon cord used at the NUMMI plant almost a decade ago on it’s assembly line.  This is what the line worker is doing in the picture above.  Incidentally, this is also the new home of Tesla’s assembly plant.

As a result of pulling the rope the entire assembly process stopped, completely.  The line supervisors were immediately notified a particular line station having a problem.  This did two things – it kept defects from entering a vehicle before it reached final assembly, and it empowers the entire plant.  Anyone could “pull the rope”.

The andon cord is one of many Lean Manufacturing attributes and principles used in many different spaces, healthcare, software development and engineering, to name a few.

“Pull the rope” for me is about stopping or ending production of outcomes which stem from waste in my own life.  Things I’ve wasted over the last few decades have been time, money, and opportunities.  I recently created some space in my life by decluttering material and mental things.  This gave me the opportunity to look at the “waste” (also another Lean attribute) in my own life to see which outcomes I must avoid.

I began to pull the rope when I saw those outcomes materializing in my day.  And I have been diligent about stopping those outcomes for the most part.  This is mental muscle I need to train, it will get stronger with practice.

The result was being more intentional with my time, resources, and opportunities.  Being the INTJ I am, I created a whole plan on my birthday this year and didn’t deviate from it.  How could I keep from deviating?  I saw many better outcomes from this plan.

We know no plan is perfect, and I’ve tweaked this plan as I learned more about the exact outcomes I wanted, and more importantly, why I wanted these outcomes.  The what and the why didn’t always meet when I put this plan together – I just knew I needed to pull the cord on some things, and cut the cord on many others. I did modify the plan, but only when I learned more about the what or the why.

Are there things in your life you need to pull the cord on?  I don’t know, but you probably do.  And if they’re things which manifest themselves into waste you may want to start with those.  To clarify, when I refer to “waste” I wasn’t necessarily thinking in terms of landfills and septic tanks – the Lean definition of waste is something that doesn’t add value.  In this context it would be something which isn’t adding value to someone’s life – stress, relationships, finances, etc.  Those three things are top of mind for me.

For me, pulling the rope has added a lot of value to my life in the short term.  I only see it getting better from here.  I hope it can do the same for you.

j@s

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BRB

Big Red Button

Nope, I don’t mean “be right back”. If so, I would have said that about three years ago when I last posted last, which would have been a lie. Instead I’m referring to the big red button.

Years ago, when we wanted or needed to reset a computer or server, we’d simply say “time to hit the big red button!”, or simple BRB. Times change, and so does the context in the way we use acronyms.

My BRB moment came in late September of this year, a few weeks before my birthday. I came to a point in my life, later rather then sooner, where I understood some change was needed. I wasn’t sure what, but there was something inside pushing for change. How did I know this, or how did it manifest itself? Many things felt disrupted, disturbed, off-center, and (not or) incongruent. Things I enjoyed in the past seemed to be much less enjoyable – and I looked forward to them less and less.

So, to quiet this feeling I started paying attention to what had been going on around me over the last few years. As I mentioned, this happened just before my birthday, and every year I do a 3-4 hour retrospective on my life. On the afternoon of birthday I list in detail, what could I start, stop, or continue. This years list was longer than usual, much longer than the one from previous years. This immediately told my journey need to change – and it did.

Since that time I’ve been executing on the plan I gathered from the start/stop/continue list – and respecting the subtle cues I realized from the previous year’s start/stop/continue list.

I spent some time this morning reading all of my previous posts, and I realize even more the journey is very different than before. And this is a good thing, we become less passionate about things over time – totally normal. The trick for me was I didn’t notice soon enough.

This is where the new blog posts you’ll read, start from. I have 7 topics including this one about this journey, and the recipes I came up with or borrowed from other writers, bloggers or something that influenced me to some type of “aha” moment. Trying to be my own best critic about successes and failures, maybe… something will strike a chord in you as well.

j@s

Dancing Through Another Door

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This year my youngest daughter is getting married.  She asked me to pick the song for our Father-Daughter Dance at the reception.  I’m the music snob of the family, so I’m thinking, I-have-so-got-this!  Right?!

Not so much. It took about a month of listening to the rest of the world’s suggestions, combing through my own library on every device I own that holds music. Finally, I narrowed it down to 9 songs for her to choose from.  I realized I couldn’t pick a favorite, so we’ll work together to narrow it down further.

Below is the playlist running off Spotify.

 

 

Meet Bella

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Bella

Meet Bella!  I had the unplanned privilege of hosting Bella last night at my home while we were trying to find her owner.  She wandered about two miles ( we think) from her home through the woods and next to a lake.

It took her the rest of the night to calm down and rest – she wouldn’t eat or drink and that much exercise was pretty tough for her to say the least.

During her stay at our house, I realized how much I missed having my own pet, and being able to project my own love and care toward something like a pet.  In a previous life, I had an orange tabby cat named Lucky.  Much the same story as Bella, but he was born into the home where I was staying at the time.  Not such a sweet disposition as Bella, but he was just Lucky.  Lucky didn’t get much attention from the other home dwellers and was often bullied by them.  But he and I got along just fine.  I still miss Lucky.

Lucky’s ending isn’t happy, and he passed away much sooner than he should have, and that was a very hard day for me.  And with only spending a few hours, roughly one day and a half with Bella I starting getting attached to her very quickly.

Belle’s story has a much happier ending though.  We put up flyers around the neighborhood where we think she came from and we found someone who thought they knew the owner.  So we left the dog with the neighbors.  Unfortunately the potential owner’s English Bulldog passed away last March.  So, the neighbors took her to the county animal shelter the same day we left her with them.

Almost a week passed before we knew any of this, and the potential owner never contacted us to say anything about the dog.  So we decided to go back to the potential owner’s house and see for ourselves.  The neighbors decided not to take the dog back the potential owners once they found out from another neighbor that the “real” Bella had passed.  So after I rang the doorbell, and asked the potential owner how Bella was doing, she was very confused.

She gave me the story about her Bella, and I gave her the story about mine.  Not a comfortable conversation once I learned the real Bella had passed.  So, what now?  I queried the family that took her that one day, and they gave me the whole story.  I shared that with Bella’s owner and she set out to find out where this dog is, or was going to be.  She was transferred to a rescue shelter because of some health conditions she had, but was also placed on an adoption list, which Bella’s owners are at the top of.  We’re hoping this Bella can connect with her new owners so everybody wins in the end.

 

The Magic Factory

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I recently discussed the “Magic Factory” with my girlfriend to see what she thought about a Grand ReOpening.  Oh, what is the Magic Factory? It’s a place I walk into mentally with one, or two, maybe three ideas and blue sky what might happen if I built applications around those ideas.

I’ve had a bunch of ideas up on AgileZen waiting to be unpacked and built but just lost the fire last year about this time to pick up my tools and start writing software again until this conversation happened.  But after trying all last year to relight the fire, all I could render was a spark and that was about it.

Then last month our shop announced Hack Day 2014 – hmm… how could I pass that up, right?  Our shop is going to give us 24 hours to build something from scratch then present to leadership the next day.  The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes were pretty sweet, but it wasn’t about winning for me – it was a test to see if I could start and finish – something you take for granted when you a bit less gray over the ears.  So, freakin’ sign me up!

I found a great (and smart) peer on my team who wanted to help build something in 24 hours from scratch.  I thought this would be the real test to see if I could pry the doors open on this place I used to spend so much time in.

We didn’t win the grand prize, or make the final cut – but we built an app in 24 hours that conveyed the business idea we wanted to promote.  So, now with the doors to the magic factory swinging with activity and visitors like my grandma’s front porch screen door, things feel a bit more normal now that this place is open.  Oh, by the way, welcome to my “Grand (Re)Opening!”

 

Say Your Name…

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If you watched this series, you know everything starts to unfold and come a bit unglued when Walter (White) asks the person on the other side of this scene to “say my name…”  This blog probably won’t be nearly as exciting at this scene was, but hopefully a few tweaks will help ease the reader’s eyes.

This week in the blogging courses I’m going through we were challenged to change the title and tag lines of our blogs.  I did change my title from “onefloridacoder’s bit bag” to “john@Scale” – however my muse took a break when I started playing around with the tagline.

I read the advice from other bloggers but it didn’t get the muse off his coffee (or whatever he drinks) break.  Still, I think it should change it and I will.  I’m sure one day or evening when I’m riding my bike to or from home – it’ll hit me like a bug on my visor.  Stay tuned.

Orlando Coding Dojo 2011.07.30

After a bit of discussion the dojo group decided on the Python language – there are many others the group has used by in my experience it’s only been Python and Ruby, neither are easy to use for me.  Once the choice for language has been established the problem for this dojo was a Euler problem 7.

Ketema, the host of the dojo had setup TMUX to run the session.  Usually we have one PC that drives the coding through a projector that everyone can see.  With TMUX everyone got a session and could pilot and co-pilot their five minutes of coding on their own machines.  I’ve not seen this before, so this was one thing I took away wanting to figure out.

Once everyone got started it was about helping everyone else out that had not seen or used Python (myself included) or written a program before.  In some ways Python reminded me of my Ruby experience I had at the dojo last year.  The SMEs in the room were quick to help us understand why Python did it certain things, and how it can do things differently than Ruby.  This is where the dojo begins to add lots of value quickly.

If you’ve never written a program using a test first approach (aka TDD), this is something that will help you make sense of it all.  If you’re used to the term baby-steps and fire-engine-steps, these are baby-step coding sessions.  The group coding for roughly two hours and only put up about (excluding whitespace) 30 lines of code.  The best part about this was that almost every function and code block was discussed at length so all (I think) 11 of us understood why something had been coded the way it was – very cool!

This being my second dojo to attend, it was a another great experience and encouraged me to try a few things I haven’t done and to do the some of the things I currently do, better.

My favorite quotes came from one of Caike’s friends he had brought all the way from Brazil.  We (geeks) have heard the notion that we should keep functions/methods to ~10 lines of code.  The statement someone made enforce this tenet, but also my own idea that the third time you write (or refactor) it will be close to it best state whether it is 10 lines or not.

“When we try to keep our functions to 10 lines sometimes it causes us to write [poorer] code to achieve this.”  A few minutes later he stated this, “[In Rio] we use red, green, and blue.  Blue being the refactor step that gets us closer having better code.”  To paraphrase something else he mentioned code should be correct first, testable second, and elegant (readable/maintainable) third – in that order.

Again, just a great session of learning and sharing, stuff you can’t really get from a book and only from a community that wants to share and strive to become better developers than we were yesterday.