Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Matter of Focus...

I read an interesting article in New Scientist magazine recently.

The topic is MULTI-TASKING. I found some recognizable behavior in the article--both my own and others that I know. The article begins telling a story about talking on a cell phone while driving--not an unfamiliar topic to most. But I keyed in on some key messages. As we evolve technology so aren't we devolving patience and FOCUS.

Ever attend a Webinar and find yourself distracted by Email?
Ever attend a meeting and find yourself distracted by Blackberry?
Ever skim a document on your laptop while having a conversation with a colleague?
Ever meet with a peer or stakeholder and you find yourself :
(1) daydreaming?
(2) crafting your next dialogue in your head?
(3) wondering when this person will get to the point or mention the key phrase or position that they could have just TXTD U B4?
(4) Ever ask a employee to summarize a month's worth of work in a one-pager?
You know who you are...

The article in the zine indicated a human needs to repeat multitasked behavior 2000 time before we are productive (Remember the I Love Lucy with the conveyor belt of chocolate?) But there is a key difference...the behavior of corporate America is seldom repetitive and manufacturing oriented. We may need to build web screens, databases and develop log file solutiosn-- but rarely for the same customer spec with the same 4GL and version.

The point of this post is that there is clear behavior shift happening. I am not willing to stretch to the ADD debate but clearly cultural norms are shifting. We need repeatable process with customize results. (What does that mean?) We have access to and consume gobs more information than our grandparents did. We also need to react in seconds and not days. Gone are the times when we prepared proposals...met at the end of the week and a memo got distributed from a VP with the lightening speed of Inner Office Snail Mail. Decisions are expected at near real-time. Our new systems specs call for that behavior. Production = $, Production requires Thinking, therefore Think less=Produce More. We gain a breadth of information at varying levels of expertise and yet control with authority over less.

The modern day architect must be proficient in the Top 10 list of all the systems they support, know the customer and respond with a persona and tone that is customized to the audience, know and influence the IT strategy and roadmap, break ties in design debates and later justify the decision to the CIO with powerpoint not UML, and in a pinch debug a log file for a critical system with a memory leak.

And we wonder why its so difficult to hire good architects!
Take a breather, FOCUS, and skip that non-critical meeting to have a seat next to your developer and understand her perspective and insight.

Ask yourself when the last time you spoke and LISTENED to a system's REAL end-user?


Blogger James McGovern said...

Your hypothesis is flawed. An architect doesn't necessarily need to understand systems. Only cliche phrases around them. If they have mastered the fine art of hand-waving then that is all that matters.

How does perception fit into this equation?

10:19:00 AM  
Blogger JT said...

James-Your pessimism is only rivaled by your contrarianism.
Perception does fit into the equation. Being perceived as having a high technical acumen and low organizational/business acumen will not cut it. Neither the reverse. You can be the expert in a technology but never get the chance to prove it if you are viewed as negative or if you are not able to translate technology into application. I can imagine a person "winging" it for a while but throw a crisis or design issue in front of them and their true colors with show.

4:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bonifer said...

I have been working in the Networked World since TRON, in 1981, and you're right, the datastream is now moving recklessly fast. You have identified some of the important erosions we face, like impatience and lack of focus. We have to realize that these are not human shortcomings but systemic ones. As human beings, we WANT to find the restful center of things...we WANT to have focus. We need a system for dealing with the system.

Steven Lisberger, who wrote and directed TRON, and I had lunch not long ago, and we were talking about chronic TV channel changing, how we both sometimes find ourselves aimlessly clicking through hundreds of different channels without ever settling. Lisberger has a theory that I like: "Human beings are always looking for forms that make sense to us," he says. "For meaning in the form." And we keep searching the TV, hoping it will give us something meaningful, but a lot of times it just doesn't."

This channel-changing phenomenon is amplified by the internet, a noisy, boistrous, chaotic place a million times more data dense than TV. And it's only going to get rowdier and more out of control before we can start making sense of the system and evolving along with it.

There is only one system I have ever encountered that enables players to maintain focus, identify and utilize necessary information and move in tempo with the datastream.

The system is improvisation.

Here's why it works.

Improvisation moves at the speed of thought.

Just like the datastream.

8:04:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

"Your focus determines your reality." - Qui-Gon Ginn, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

(in keeping with the sci-fi theme)

9:41:00 AM  

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