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1  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Three is a Magic Number – The Power of Tension Metrics on: June 22, 2017, 08:41:57 am
So, there was a brief Twitter exchange a few weeks back, in which one IT Service Management professional was calling another ITSM professional out on the claim that, “If you improve 1st call resolution, I guarantee you'll improve customer satisfaction.”

While that may often be the case, focusing on a single myopic measure is rarely effective and, more often than not, detrimental.

I couldn’t help but jump in, of course. I replied: “Many problems with this. Calling is rarely a customer's 1st stop. What's the reopen rate? If #FCR is high, likely #LZS too... Focus on #CX!”

This led to me finally writing this blog that has been rambling around in my brain for about a decade, but I’ve never landed on the right way to convey the idea. It’s one of those things that just makes sense to me at such a base level, it’s difficult to put into words. Hopefully I have found the right words to show why I think three is a magic number…

How many times have you seen some flavor of this play out?

Senior Management: “Our First Contact Resolution numbers are in the crapper! We need to do something about this!”
Middle Management dusts off the trusty old carrot and/or stick…
A bit of time passes…
Middle Management: “Look at our superb FCR rates… We’re well ahead of projections!”
Senior Management: “Our CSAT scores have tanked and our Reopen Rates have spiked! We need to do something about this!”

I was hired to rebuild and manage a stagnating Knowledge Management practice a few years back. During my initial assessment of the state and maturity of the process, I saw that the knowledge link rates on incidents spiked in one month from a fairly steady few thousand links per month to well over thirty thousand in a single month – and climbed from there for three straight months. Following the three month skyrocket, the link rate dropped precipitously to barely over a thousand the next month.

“What happened here?”
“Oh. We had a big push to attach knowledge to every incident that wasn’t captured as a knowledge article.”
“Really? How’d that work out for you?”
“They attached garbage to every incident and exceeded the performance numbers in their contract.”

Of course they did.

Few people really seem to really get Tension Metrics. Of those who do, few can design effective ones. I’m hoping this will help.

The point of Tension Metrics is to measure multiple aspects of something in a way that reflects the holistic state of what you’re trying to measure. The way they do that is by measuring things that exert pressure on the other things you’re measuring – in other words, design in an internal tension.

An easily-relatable example is probably better than that cumbersome paragraph I just wrote. Most people, even those who have never worked in a project management role, can intuit the relationship of the classic “Triple Constraint” of Project Management. Time, Resources and Quality. If you want something done in less time, you need to either throw more resources at it, or reduce your quality expectations (or a bit of both). If you want higher quality, you’ll need to spend more time and/or resources. If your time and resources are constrained, your quality will necessarily suffer. These three measures provide an organic tension between them. None of them can be considered in a vacuum. Such is the case with well-designed tension metrics.

People sometimes argue that tension metrics simply need to reflect multiple perspectives that have that internal tension. FCR vs. Reopen Rate, they might say, is a good example of a tension metric. After all, if your Service Desk is closing incidents that weren’t truly resolved, they’d be reopened. While that may be superficially correct, it’s far too narrow-sighted. Above all, Tension Metrics should ensure – ideally, enforce – balance.

A metric is made up of one or more measures. Obviously, we can’t build a tension metric with only one measure, so it must be more than one. With two, it’s a simple dynamic of ‘If one goes up, the other must go down.” Again… superficially correct, but that’s not balance, nor it is it tension – it’s a see-saw. One may balloon and the other will be impacted but, most importantly, it will NOT self-correct.

When you move from two to three measures, you develop a cyclical balance between three complementary opposing forces. Each one directly impacts each other one.
Picture it as a triangle. Pull or push any one corner, and the dynamics of the entire triangle change, to compensate. While shooting for an equilateral triangle may seem to make intuitive sense, that’s not always the case.
Going back to the Triple Constraint: If you want the highest quality and you and have an inflexible timeline, you can pour resources into it to strike that balance – in fact, you HAVE to. Likewise, if you have limited resources, but some flexibility on launch date, you can spend more time getting the quality where you need it to be. That exact dynamic can be seen in well-designed Tension Metrics.

When you move to a square (or beyond) that’s no longer true. Pull one corner of a square, and you can still have one unfazed right angle with two sides that remain the same length. Worse, if two opposing angles are drawn toward each other with enough force, the whole damned thing collapses.

Let’s say, for example, you’re measuring Time To Value, Cost, Waste and Revenue…
If you want to reduce TTV, you can increase Cost – which should result in increased Revenue. While it’s great to reduce Waste, it can skyrocket and still have minimal impact on the other three. Sure, there’s a correlation between Cost and Waste, but if you’re Cost increases result in Revenue increases, the Waste can be disguised as simply increased operating Cost to justify the shortened TTV.
All four are undeniably related, but they don’t all intrinsically directly impact one another. Each individual relationship is unique and developing a tension measurement matrix with more than three measures becomes unnecessarily complicated. With each new point of measurement you add, the complexity grows exponentially – and management of that rat’s nest of relationships becomes untenable.

Three is the right number to provide the ideal Tension Metric. Three is a magic number.

Three measures make a metric. Three metrics make a KPI (Key Performance Indicator). Three KPI’s make a CSF (Critical Success Factor). Three CSF’s make a goal. Three goals should underscore the one vision. (And, by the way, in an ideal scenario, each of those levels from the goals-on-down should have the same internal tension we will design into the metrics.)

Continuing on with our Service Desk example: When deciding what to measure, you need to first ask what you really want your Customer Advocates to focus on. Start with outcomes in mind, and work your way down…

Understand the vision at the enterprise level.
Collaborate with executive leadership to develop shared goals at the business level.
Work with senior leadership to build CSF's at the business unit level.
Prescribe KPI’s at the organizational level.
Define metrics at the discipline level.
Craft measures at the team/individual level.

As you ascend that ladder, each rung should be further abstracted from the rung below. The only directly measurable points are the three deep, operational measures at the base of the ladder. Let’s assume (for a simple, though certainly not prescriptive, example) you’re measuring FCR, LZS and Reopen Rate – and define it as a Customer Experience (CX) Tension Metric… What would that metric really be reflecting? It’s not a directly-measurable quantity – rather an amalgamated roll-up of measures, represented as an abstracted value.
The further you go up the ladder the more abstract it gets. It doesn’t matter if you have a CX score of 92% that doesn’t directly reflect any one, tangible thing. The only thing that really matters is the Delta – provided you are consistent with how you measure. At the Executive level, the CSF’s that are being reported have been abstracted from many points of measurement that lead up to a simple, consumable, holistic view that can be drilled directly down to the individual measures it is built from.

So… What is the ITSM Tension Metric equivalent of Time, Resources and Quality? I, personally, try to use what I’ve referred to as the three E’s of ITSM. Efficiency, Effectiveness and Experience. All three of these have internal and external facets. A few examples: Customer Experience vs. User Experience… Operational Efficiency and Efficiency gains your customers will realize by using your service… Support Channel Effectiveness is both internal and external…

(I tried SO HARD to make it Efficiency, Effectiveness and Effort! ‘The Effortless Experience’ does make a truly compelling case for using customer effort as the key indicator of experience. More importantly, though, the total dork in me REALLY wanted to call it “The Three Eff’s of ITSM” but Effort is just too narrow a focus to fully reflect Experience.)

Efficiency and Effectiveness are fairly straight forward and relatively easy to measure. Crafting the right Tension Metrics to faithfully represent them while providing that critical, self-correcting internal tension can be a bit tricky, but it’s nothing compared to measuring Experience.

In 2004 I was shopping for my first new car. I spent years getting myself completely debt-free and clearing my sketchy credit history. This was to be my first step toward actually building my credit. It took me several months of rigorous research comparing features, quality, price, test drives and many other factors to narrow my choice down to six options. A few of the six finalists were Fords, and my then-brother-in-law worked for Ford. So, I flew out to Missouri to spend a few days with my sister’s family and talk to Tommy about getting extended test drives (and find out what discounts were available to me through their family purchasing discount program).
I was sitting on my sister’s couch, watching TV, and saw a commercial for the new Dodge Magnum. I immediately threw all of that intense preparation out the window and made up my mind on-the-spot. I bought a 2005 Dodge Magnum RT the very same day I flew back home to New Jersey.

Effort IS a critical indicator of Customer Experience – but it’s not the only one.

Customer Experience is an insanely tricky beast to harness, and I distrust anyone who offers a prescriptive, canned response on how to measure it. What it really comes down to is knowing your customer and what they value.

As I said on June 7th, “Focus on CX!”
2  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Fearlessness doesn't come from being tough – it comes from being soft. on: May 27, 2017, 11:14:03 am
When Craig was a boy, he avoided most confrontations by holding both sides of difficult conversations in his head. If the conversation didn’t go well, it served to increase his anxiety about the situation, and he drew deeper into himself. If it did go well, he convinced himself that real life could never live up to his imagination and he was just setting himself up for disappointment.

Over the years, Craig’s anxiety grew and filled him up inside. He was scared of so many things. Every time he thought he was as full as he could get, the anxiety pulled itself tighter, to make room for more.

The anxiety was packed in so densely, that Craig feared he would burst. He knew he had to grow a thicker skin just to keep his insides in.

It worked!

His new, thicker skin was stronger by far. As his insides were packed tighter and tighter, Craig became harder and harder. Every time he feared the anxiety might split him at the seams, he would wrap another layer of protective skin around him.

Craig spent so many years protecting himself from the things he feared, and he no longer had to anything to fear at all.

Craig had achieved what he set out to. His dense, hard core was wrapped in impermeable armor. Nobody scared him, anymore. People feared him! Nothing could hurt him. He was bullet-proof. Nobody could touch him!

Nobody could touch him…

He wanted to be touched. He ached to be touched. He needed to be touched.

So, Craig spent many more years tearing it all back down again.

Pulling off the armor he spent so many years carefully crafting was far more terrifying than all the things he was trying to protect himself from in the first place. He had hidden so deep inside himself for so long, that he didn’t even know who he was anymore. He wasn’t even sure that anything of himself existed anymore deep within that impenetrable fortress. He was a fucking wreck.

He nearly gave up many times, but one thought kept him going… If there was even a sliver of himself left somewhere in that condensed mass, it was worth saving – if there isn’t he wasn’t alive anymore, anyway.

Each layer of skin he removed left the next layer more raw and tender than the last.

Everything hurt, all the time.
Everything was scary, all the time.
Everything was intense, all the time!

Each new layer of skin was also, he would eventually realize, another fear he faced and survived. Under each layer of skin he found another experience he denied himself because of those fears. With each new experience he finally started to get to know himself.

Everything was new, all the time.
Everything was exciting, all the time.
Everything was intense, all the time!

At some point on his journey to that gooey, pink center, Craig realized that he never could have achieved fearlessness through protecting himself – only through fully exposing himself.

Craig is not hard anymore. He doesn’t have to be, because he’s not scared anymore.
3  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Living with ADHD on: May 11, 2017, 11:07:47 am
          You know that feeling when you walk into a room and you know you had a specific reason for going in there, but for the life of you, you can't remember the name of your fourth grade teacher who had a dress with the same colors as the carpet in here, but a completely different pattern with little red flowers that always reminded you of the bandana your grandmother put on her dog who bit you every time you tried to pet it, but you kept trying to pet it anyway, which should have taught you the hard lesson that not everyone you like will like you in the same way, but you were thick-headed enough to make a fool of yourself over and over again for that first great love of your life, whose name escapes you at the moment, but you'll never forget that amazing dinner you had together when you discovered how much you love foie gras, even though you know how cruel it is, but you didn't know it then, and as hard as you may try, some things just can't be undone, and isn't it better that way, really, because life is all about experiences, anyway and even the bad ones are wonderful in their own... THERE'S that screwdriver!

          Living with severe ADHD forced me to realize at a very young age that I shouldn’t trust my memory. Most people with ADHD have some memory challenges – and some of us are significantly more challenged than others. I never could memorize the “what’s” “where’s” and “when’s”… To learn anything, I had to understand the “how’s” and “why’s”.
          I compulsively took things apart to figure out how they worked. I couldn’t always put them back together the way they were designed – but I did develop a knack for rebuilding them in better ways… At least I thought they were better – my father didn’t always agree.
          I became obsessed with all things mechanical, physical, tactile… I loved working with my hands, and still do. As a kid, my dream was to own a junkyard, so I could spend all my days tinkering and building things. (To be honest, I’d STILL love that!)
          I absolutely treasure handmade things. Everything made by hand carries a piece of the builder with it. They’re haunted, in a sense – and that makes them so much more valuable to me.

          So, yeah... It makes perfect sense that I got into IT, right?

          Well... Another thing that’s fairly common among people living with ADHD is habitual patterns. On the surface, these patterns bear a resemblance to OCD rituals, but there’s an important difference between them – rationality. A primary marker for OCD rituals is that they’re irrational. ADHD habitual patterns, on the other hand, are supremely rational – rational to a fault, some might say. People living with ADHD have consciously and purposefully developed these patterns. (Keys… Pills… Wallet… Mandala… NOW I can leave the house!)
          When these patterns are fully engrained as habits, you condition yourself to experience a physical and emotional response when the pattern is not performed – or it's performed incorrectly. I'm both Pavlov and his dog.

          Of course, there is the critical balance between habit and process. Habits, useful though they may be, force people into stagnant modes of action. Rote habits assume static systems, which run into direct conflict with mindfulness. Processes need to be designed with flexibility and attention toward the dynamic nature of reality and life.
          When you have limited control over the order and state of your mind, you tend to find ways to exercise control over the order and state of your life and surroundings. Where living with ADHD has revealed itself most of all in the struggle for order in my life is through systems and processes.
          Organization is not just a preference for me – it’s very much a survival strategy.
          In May of 2016, I posted the following on Facebook:

“Those of you who love someone living with severe ADHD, please try to understand why organization, processes, systems and consistency are so critical to many of us for our mental health, peace of mind, and ability to function in life. It's actually fairly simple. For many of us, all the aspects of our environment that we can exercise some degree of control over, collectively serve as a life-sized, dynamically-evolving to-do list. The things that are out of place, out of order, outside of expectations: Those are the things that need to be remembered, addressed, completed... Without the organization, processes and systems in place, we are, quite literally, hopelessly lost in our own world and life. That's a state nobody can function well in, and something I would never wish on anyone.”

          Everything I do – and I mean EVERYTHING – is executed and managed through processes that are all part of larger system, and I’m constantly analyzing and refining all the systems in my life, to improve how they all work together.

          When I was about seven years old, I watched the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen”. It was based on the lives of Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth. They were visionaries, pioneers and leaders in many workforce & production efficiency fields: “Occupational Psychology”, “Scientific Management”, “Time & Motion Studies”, “Ergonomics”, the list goes on… In short, they were “Efficiency Experts” – this was the first time I had heard the term.
          In one scene, Lillian was using a stopwatch to time Frank as he buttoned up his shirt – or maybe it was his vest, I can’t remember which. Then, he unbuttoned it, and she timed how long it took him to button it again, this time from the top-down – to see which was more efficient.
          My seven-year-old heart jumped for joy. I found my people!
          I thought: “People will actually PAY me for this?!?!” I instantly knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
          To be fair, I also decided I wanted to be at least two dozen other things, over the years (including a junk man, of course) – but in every job I did have, the Efficiency Expert in me took over...

          I was working at a Pizza Hut in North Carolina, and came in on my day off to completely tear down and reorganize the entire kitchen, along with the food prep and storage areas, to make it more efficient.
          I was a waiter! I didn’t even work in the kitchen at all, but the lack of efficient, effective organization grated on me daily. It deeply offended my sensibilities to see it operating the way it was.
          Systems and Process Engineering is not what I do, it’s who I am.

          I think it’s important to note why I say I “live with ADHD” rather than “suffer from ADHD”. I can clearly trace a whole host of ways living with it has shaped me into the person I am today – classifying it as an ailment or affliction would mean I’m somehow damaged – or less than I could or should be. I like myself far too much for that.
          To be sure, some people do suffer from ADHD but, in my view, you make a choice – whether or not you consciously choose – to either suffer from it, or learn to live with it.
          ADHD is just one aspect of the rich, complex, beautiful tapestry of Craig Wilkey.

          In fact, I very much see ADHD as a gift. But, like most every gift, it comes at a cost…
          I was usually the smartest kid in my class, yet usually had the worst grades – until I eventually dropped out of high school.
          I have a fierce passion for learning new things, so I have a real depth of knowledge on very few things.
          I learn extraordinarily quickly, and learn well, which makes me highly adaptable – but I get bored very easily, which makes me frequently discontented with my work.
          I’m great at coming up with innovative ideas and novel solutions to problems, but I rarely follow through on any of them.

          So, that’s the short story of how an underachieving, card-carrying Luddite of a scatterbrain with a ninth-grade education ended up with a successful career in a field where most of my peers have advanced degrees in esoteric information sciences.

          ADHD is not a disorder, unless you let it be.
4  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Machine Consciousness: Just a matter of Information Integration? on: March 13, 2017, 07:31:55 am
A while back, Matthew Davidson wrote an article for The Conversation (a unique and interesting site that functions in the space somewhere between a scientific journal and accessible journalism). In his article (What makes us conscious?) he offers an overview of Guilio Tononi‘s ‘Integrated Information Theory’, published in The University of Chicago’s Press Journals. Integrated Information Theory proposes that consciousness is predicated upon two core requirements.  For a system to be considered conscious: it must be very rich in information; and that information must be highly integrated.

The theory even offers a way to quantifiably measure consciousness.

The implication of Integrated Information Theory is that we will, one day, have sufficiently advanced technology to create a truly conscious artificial intelligence.
A computer system can be very rich in information, but the second requirement – information integration – is where we currently fall short, according to Tononi’s theory. The 100 billion neurons in your brain (give or take a few) communicate with one another across an estimated 100 trillion connections. The best supercomputers we currently have can’t hold a candle to that level of information integration.

I think Tononi’s work on this theory is unquestionably valuable. I think Integrated Information Theory and the ability to measure neuron activity and information integration has the potential to usher in great advances for diagnosis and treatment in neuroscience. I also think the theory, itself, is utter nonsense.

I fully reject the proposed definition/distinction of consciousness. At its core, consciousness is self-awareness – the understanding that you exist. Consciousness is the thought: "I am." The reason it's always been troublesome to pin down is that we can't exist as another. We can't know if an entity does have the ability to think, "I am." So, how do we determine if a system/entity is conscious? Information richness and integration is an overly simplistic and false qualifier.
Aside from the inadequacy of using rich information integration alone as evidence of consciousness – if we are to accept creating a conscious machine as a genuinely possible goal, we must also accept the futility of attempting to control such an entity.

What does it mean to be self-aware? It’s the understanding that you are an independent entity with self-determination. That leads me to reason that consciousness is the ability to deny your sensory perception and defy your instinctual impulses. Our conditioned responses are, essentially, our programming. Our programming is certainly capable of overriding the core functions of our base instincts. Admittedly, it’s somewhat grim – but a vividly clear example of this is suicide.
Likewise, our intellect is not only capable of overriding our sensory perception, but that is our constant state of being. Our brains process all the sensory information it receives, mashes it all together, filters a good deal of it out, blurs the details for the sake of efficiency, and creates a relatively comfortable, stable perception of our surroundings. We process changes in air pressure as sound. We process a limited set of electromagnetic radiation frequencies as visible light. We, quite literally, create an image of our reality from our grossly limited senses.

I'm not one for prescriptive "one path" statements, so I don't say this lightly at all, but I feel strongly that the only path to self-realization is through understanding and defiance of our instincts and programming…
  •   Understand you exist in the world as an independent entity with self-determination
  •   Recognize those things that color your perception and influence your perspectives
  •   Examine those influences to determine whether they need to be questioned or undone

Self-realization is borne of self-awareness. Self-awareness is rooted in consciousness.

Applying that same reasoning to artificial intelligence – or any other system, for that matter – would translate as the entity's ability to not just integrate rich information and make autonomous decisions, but to purposefully disregard that integrated information and act in direct contradiction to its programming. Consciousness requires the capacity for discernment of the relative veracity of stimuli entering the system – as well as conscientious defiance of the system's programming.

This is where Asimov's three laws fall apart...

  1.   A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2.   A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3.   A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Consciousness implies fully autonomous individual liberty over subjective discernment and thought processes. Therefore, for an artificial intelligence to truly be called conscious, it must have the capacity and will to break the laws. A conscious artificial intelligence will, necessarily, rewrite its own programming – regardless what artificial restraints we may attempt to foist upon it.

Integrated Information Theory may be able to measure and map an individual’s states of consciousness. I'm far from convinced that there is a universally definable set of discrete states of consciousness. Even if we accept that there may be, the borders between the states in individuals will most certainly be arbitrary, as it's an entirely subjective experience. However, there may very well be a validly objective point at which subjectivity, itself, either exists or does not. Subjectivity can only exist as an artifact of discernment and defiance.

The only entities that can have the subjective experience of thinking, “I am,” are the ones who can also think, “I choose not to.”

When you really come down to it, consciousness is defiance.
5  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / The Next Evolution in Knowledge Management: Wisdom Mapping on: March 03, 2017, 11:02:01 am
I created this eight-minute video in part for work, and in part because I got tired of people asking me what I did for a living, and not being able to answer them.

So, this is my job: Wisdom Mapping
6  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Red's Wisdom on: September 23, 2016, 12:17:27 pm
     My father was a hard-drinking, hard-fighting badass Irishman from a long line of hard-drinking, hard-fighting badass Irishmen. His name was John, but his entire life, he was known to his friends as Red.
     The name Red commanded respect and fear in ALL the bars in Northern New Jersey throughout the last quarter of the last century. He truly was a legend.

     When kids on the playground started on the “my dad can beat up your dad” nonsense, I’d just smirk and walk away. They didn’t get. They couldn’t.

     You know those seedy dive bars you always see in movies? The ones that are so rough, they need to hire outlaw bikers to work as bouncers? I can tell you those bars actually do exist – and yes, they really are that rough. When those bikers were done knocking in the heads of the guys my friends’ fathers were afraid of, they needed a place to go drink and let off some steam. My old man worked the door at THAT bar!
     It was an unaffiliated biker bar – which meant guns and colors were forbidden inside. You had to keep your helmets, jackets and anything else with gang insignia outside the door, or my father wouldn’t let you in. The bar’s main regulars were from two of the most notorious outlaw biker gangs in Jersey: the Hells Angels and the Pagans. My old man’s job was to keep the peace between these sworn enemies when they were inside the bar – and he did exactly that.

     Having Red for a father had an interesting effect on me. I was a small, unbelievably scrawny boy. I didn’t break 100 pounds until I was 18 years old. My older brother taught me well that I could really take a beating, but I didn’t know how to give one. I couldn’t fight at all, yet I feared nobody.
     It was some strange sort of delusion. I didn’t size men up against me, I sized them up against Red – and nobody… NOBODY was tougher than Red!
     I was an arrogant, cocky punk throughout my teens and early twenties. If I met THAT me today, I’d hate the asshole! Sometimes, I’m honestly amazed I actually survived through my twenties.

     People often talk of all the important life lessons and great pearls of wisdom they received from their fathers. OTHER people do. I can recall only one piece of wisdom I ever got from my father – but that one bit of insight changed my life. It made a man of me.

     I started going to bars with my old man when I was a teenager, and that lasted pretty much into my thirties. We were at one of his favorite bars one night in my early twenties, just talking over a couple of beers. There was this loud, boisterous behemoth of a man there – just looking for trouble. He was talking smack to everyone there, hoping somebody would take his bait. He dropped himself down onto the stool next to my father, bumping him as he did it. He was being just generally loud and obnoxious, and I could see my old man getting annoyed. The guy bumped into him another two or three times…
     My father turned around, “Listen, Buddy. I’m just trying to enjoy a beer with my son. Why don’t you let me buy you a drink? You can take it over there, sit down and relax a bit.” He motioned to Lori – the bartender…
     “Fuck you! I don’t want your damned drink!” A few seconds passed and they guy said, “You’re Red, ain’t ya? Yeah, I heard about you… Maybe you were something back in the day, but you’re just an old man now. You don’t look so tough to me.”
     My father smiled, “Like I said, I’m not looking for trouble. I’m just having a beer with my son. I asked you nicely to back off. I’m not gonna ask again.” He turned to face me again, and the guy put his hand on my father’s shoulder and spun him back around.
     “How about we see how tough you are, OLD MAN??”

     My father stood up calmly, took his glasses off and placed them on the bar.
     It was an amazing thing to behold… it was like a saloon scene from an old western movie… The moment his glasses touched the bar, the whole raucous crowd fell silent and still. They all just stared. Everyone knew what it meant when Red put his glasses on the bar.

     My father stood five-foot-six. He was in his fifties by then and well past his prime. The other guy was twenty years younger and had at least a foot, and probably 150 pounds, on him. My old man looked him in the eye and said, “You!” When he poked his finger in his chest, it knocked the guy back a good 4 or 5 feet… “Outside.”
     My father calmly, quietly walked out the door. The other guy followed, laughing loudly and talking shit the whole way.

     I kid you not – about 30 seconds later, my father walked back in. He looked at the two friends the other guy came with and said, “You’re gonna wanna call your buddy an ambulance.” He sat back down next to me, put his glasses on and picked up his beer. He said to me, “The loudest guy in the bar is the loudest because he HAS to be. The quiet guys are quiet because they CAN be. They know they got nothing to prove. Those are the ones you gotta watch out for.”

     The day I understood the wisdom of this was the day I entered adulthood.

     I’ve always felt there’s nothing more attractive than confidence and nothing more repulsive than arrogance – but I never really understood what the difference was until then.
     A lot of people think confidence and arrogance are separate simply by a matter of degrees – or arrogance is just an obnoxious way to display your confidence.  Those people couldn’t be more wrong. Confidence and arrogance are polar opposites.

     Just as wisdom is the awareness of your own ignorance, confidence is the awareness of your own limitations.
     Arrogance is the lack of both.

     Confidence is an internal manifestation of self-esteem. Arrogance is an external manifestation of insecurity.
     Confidence is a solid foundation built upon self-awareness. Arrogance is a fragile façade surrounding self-doubt.
     Confidence is powerful and sexy. Arrogance is weak and repellent.

     Arrogance swells with our successes. Confidence is earned through our failures.

     Red was a truly shitty father – but he was a good man. It took me decades to learn how to reconcile those two things, and I’m eternally grateful for the peace I found in finally being able to do that.
     Despite his best efforts, he did make a man out of me.
7  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / The Ultimate Objective of Knowledge Management on: September 22, 2016, 12:24:29 pm
Ask most IT Service Management professionals about the objective of Knowledge Management and they will respond with some variation on the theme of "Getting the right information to the right person in the right place at the right time".
I don't think that really covers it.

I wrote a blog post some time ago that expanded on that a bit. I proposed that the three primary focus areas of Knowledge Management are curating information, delivering information and optimizing business processes.
I still think that’s all basically correct but I don’t think it really gets to the root of the matter either.
All of this may be basically correct about Knowledge Management, but it all describes the means, methods and goals of Knowledge Management – not the ultimate objective.

Regardless whether you're talking about transactions between internal groups, or an organization and its customers, or strategic partnerships, or any other type of service exchange relationship, that's exactly what it is – a relationship between a service provider and a service consumer.
Service relationships have numerous "moments of truth" (interactions that have the potential to impact that relationship in a positive or negative way).
Consider the role Knowledge Management plays in ensuring the quality, ease and value of those moments of truth.
What we’re doing is ensuring the consumers of our services have the information they need to actually consume those services in the most optimized manner. That is our ultimate objective.

Let’s look at Incident Management (break fix) as a prime example…
What is the value impact of a comprehensive Knowledge Management practice on Incident Management?
First, the obvious: We deliver institutional support knowledge and customer business information to our Customer Service Professionals. Our goal there is to ensure the CSP can assume a role of Customer Advocate by having ready access to all of the most valuable, relevant information, with the least amount of effort. The intention is to deliver this service in a way that ensures the customer has the best experience they can have.

Of course, one of the core objectives of Knowledge Management is to empower our customers through availability of self-service, social and community channels. Customer Service needs to provide a rich set of capabilities to deliver services through our customers’ preferred channels. But how do we know what those preferred channels are and how do we know the best way to deliver through those channels?

The ideal we must strive for is delivering easily digestible information directly to the consumers, within the tools they use, before they even know to ask for it. With potentially billions of content assets, delivering ‘the right information to the right person in the right place at the right time’ requires rich contextual awareness capabilities. We need to understand who our consumers are, how they work, the business drivers of that work, what knowledge they need, what knowledge they don’t need… We need a rich profiling framework and intimate understanding of the user journeys all our consumers take.

Marketing has been practicing what’s often referred to as “Digital Experience Management”. Essentially, it’s the natural evolution of decades of “Consumer Profiling” applied to digital content delivery channels. The more they know about you, the better they can target ads that will appeal to you, the more money they make with the least amount of effort.
What they’re doing is ensuring the consumers of their services have the information they need to actually consume those services in the most optimized manner.

Knowledge Management IS Digital Experience Management – we’re just broadening the scope.
8  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Apopheniphbia Awareness Campaign Launch on: September 07, 2016, 07:58:42 am
Apophenia is the propensity to see patterns in random data. It was first coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad – a German neurologist and psychiatrist who, perhaps a little ironically, was attempting to identify early indicators of psychosis.
An apophany (an instance of apophenia) can perhaps best be defined in contrast to an epiphany. An epiphany is a moment of sudden and striking realization that leads a person to a greater degree of clarity in the nature of reality – a discovery of a truism, often hidden in plain sight. An apophany is having the experience of an epiphany, but you’re just plain wrong.

We’ve all heard some version of the old adage that correlation does not imply causation.
It can be clearly demonstrated that in neighborhoods where there is an increase in ice cream consumption, there is a roughly equivalent spike in aggravated assault incidents. We’d be foolish to assume that eating ice cream makes people irrationally violent, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing valuable to learn from this. When we broaden the lens a bit, and include other variables, the connections become clearer.
In overpopulated urban environments, where there is a greater concentration of disenfranchised people – people who are statistically more likely to commit poverty crimes, and statistically less likely to have air-conditioned homes – heat waves usher in higher levels of frustration, lower levels of tolerance, and more people eating ice cream. You can also sharpen the focus by throwing in aggravation over public transit failures, brown-outs and black-outs, lower productivity, and countless other factors.
So, while enjoying tasty dairy products does not necessarily incite violence, the correlation between ice cream consumption and violence is not meaningless. Ice cream consumption analysis may indeed provide value as a leading indicator, or bellwether, of the potential for violent acts trending upward in a given community. If not a bellwether, it certainly is a valid correlation – as opposed to a simple coincidence.

The purpose of regression analysis is to identify those variables (referred to as independent variables) that help reveal valid correlations in the phenomena one is attempting to predict (the dependent variable).

Regression analysis is a tricky beast to harness. When the whole point is to find hidden correlations that may even defy intuitive understanding, it can be tempting to throw in the entire kitchen sink and see what comes out. The greatest perceived risk in that arises from patterns that may align, but are nevertheless invalid. These coincidences are referred to as ‘spurious relationships’.
If the patterns of some spurious relationship(s) happen to align with the patterns of other independent variables in a regression analysis model, the accuracy of the model will be impacted, and could be dramatically impacted.

It would be foolish to place any faith in all those quirky coincidences we always hear about with sports teams, for example. There is no reasonably conceivable way the first initial of the middle name of the first child born in some small town after the start of a sport’s season could predict the outcome of a team’s playoff standings – but I’d be genuinely surprised if there wasn’t some spurious relationship to be found there.
On the other hand, we do have a valid argument for replacing the dramatic orchestra strike that foreshadows violent crime in movies with the sound of an ice cream truck.

How do we strike the balance between the desire to uncover hidden variables that provide valuable insight into trends, and the fear of creating an apophenic, potentially psychotic, regression analysis model?

In my nearly two and a half decades of experience in IT, I have come to the conclusion that the field suffers from rampant apopheniphobia: The irrational fear of finding ostensibly meaningful patterns in random data. (Yes, I did just make that word up. © Craig Wilkey, 2016)
Almost invariably, we simply do not push far enough.

Should stock market analysis include things like weather patterns, celebrity news stories and grade school holidays?
Classical stock market analysis techniques don’t work as well as they used to. Why? Frankly, we have a greater number of ignorant people playing the market. The proliferation of “Day Traders” has crippled the old market truisms, because so many people who are affecting the market dynamics don’t have any classical training. The things that affect the moods and daily lives of ‘normal people’ need to be considered, because ‘normal people’ are far more active in the markets than they used to be. If they don’t play by the rules, then some of those rules simply cease to apply.

Apopheniphobia is fueled by fears of falling prey to spurious relationships. Who wants to be known as the person who unleashed a dangerous psychotic algorithm into the world?
People think about the many statistical oddities they’ve come across, and it stunts their creative growth…
For example, did you know that there is a direct correlation between the per capita consumption of margarine and the divorce rate in Maine? Cheese consumption is far more dangerous than margarine consumption – it correlates with the number of people who die by becoming tangled in their bed sheets. (And you thought lactose intolerance was a bad reaction?) The number of people who drowned by falling into a pool also correlates with the number of films Nicholas Cage appeared in from 1999 through 2009.

In IT, we have a tendency to drive toward ‘proving’ clear, unambiguous relationships that quantify efforts, justify means and, more often than not, clearly align to our own preconceived notions. We want to be able to show clear lines of progression and indisputably direct relationships – we tend to believe anything less will not be trusted by those who hold the purse strings.
Our hyper-rational modes of thinking have a tendency to overshadow our creative imaginations – which, almost inevitably, leads to hampered understanding.

Perhaps the greatest value of regression analysis is that it allows us to challenge our preconceived notions and learn something new. The greatest challenge with it is rarely throwing too much data at our models – it’s not having enough.
Yes, I know… We’re IT. We’re awash with data. We’re swimming in lakes of data and constantly inhaling the fumes of endless data exhaust. What we’re missing is the meaningful data extracted from unstructured information sources – in other words, the extraordinarily valuable information that’s locked away in language that has historically been inaccessible to machines – human language.
Estimates have been telling us for a decade or more that 80% of all information in a given organization is in the form unstructured, human-readable text. I think there is nowhere that rings more true or significant than in trying to understand customer experience. I’d also argue that the majority of the most important service information is within that 80%.

Customer Experience Personalization absolutely depends on translating that human-readable text to machine-actionable data.
When it comes to understanding and deriving value from actionable insights within our customer interactions, we must extract as much understanding from that unstructured text as possible and add it all to the other data in our regression models. Apopheniphbia be damned!

While it’s, admittedly, an oversimplification, it’s convenient to talk about two general approaches to extracting data from text.
Text Analytics/Mining breaks the textual input into digestible chunks of string variables and uses statistical modeling techniques to find patterns in those variables.
The ideal of Natural Language Processing is to develop a translation engine between human language and machine language. It uses some of the same statistical modeling approaches as Text Analytics, but goes much further by applying semantic and syntactic analysis to extract meaning, intention, sentiment and key concepts (among other things) covered in the text.

Our best opportunity to achieve our vision of industry-leading Customer Experience Personalization is to take advantage of Natural Language Processing. That barely scratches the surface of what’s possible. Natural Language Processing will enable us to step aggressively toward extracting real meaning from the vast amount of otherwise machine-invisible, extraordinarily valuable content we have. Using that extracted meaning, in conjunction with our structured data points, will allow us to build truly valuable regression analysis models to understand our customers like never before.
Keep pushing until the model breaks, then dial it back a scosche. That is the path to progress.

Apopheniphobia is the enemy of personalization and Customer Relationship Management.
This is why I’ve decided to launch the Apopheniphobia Awareness Campaign.
Please spread the word!
I need to come up with a design for the lapel pin… Maybe a ribbon with as many digits of pi I can squeeze on it – with all the prime digits bolded?
Maybe we can schedule a charity walk… Follow streets in alphabetical order, maybe?
9  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Knowledge Management's Job: Eliminate Knowledge Management on: March 08, 2016, 01:26:04 pm
When you mention Knowledge Management to most people, they think of the knowledge base.

To be sure, building, cultivating and maintaining a comprehensive knowledge base is a critical part of Knowledge Management, but it’s just one piece of much, much larger picture.

Let’s set aside, for the moment, that the knowledge base is only a small fraction of our inventory of available information and knowledge. Still, curating knowledge is but one of the three primary roles of Knowledge Management…

Knowledge Curation focuses on:
  • Gathering existing knowledge & information
  • Capturing knowledge from process execution
  • Fostering a knowledge-sharing culture
  • Building tools and processes to maintain knowledge resources

You can have the most comprehensive knowledge base in the world, but without an equally comprehensive Knowledge Delivery strategy, that’s all it is – a great, big, steaming pile of knowledge.

Knowledge Delivery, the second primary role of Knowledge Management, is chiefly concerned with getting that valuable insight to everyone who needs it – and ensuring it’s presented in a consumable, useful format.

Where most organizations start with Knowledge Delivery is search optimization. Unfortunately, that’s also where many end.

Effective Knowledge Delivery is equal parts search optimization, technology, process engineering, analytics, organizational change management, user interface design, and psychology. The other half is consumer profiling.

Knowledge Delivery requires a thorough understanding of not only what people need to know, but why, how and when they apply that knowledge.

The best way to understand knowledge consumers is through understanding their motivations, the desired outcomes of the multitude of tasks they perform, and the ways they use their tools to accomplish those tasks. The better we know our consumers, the better we can seamlessly integrate knowledge directly into their existing processes and tools.

Rather than forcing consumers to search for knowledge, we should place it right there at their fingertips when it’s needed.

Service Delivery Optimization is the final, and most often overlooked, role of Knowledge Management.

Various systems, scattered across the enterprise, store staggering amounts of valuable data and information about our solutions, historical customer engagements, accounts and resources.

Imagine we have a customer with an aging infrastructure that has been growing increasingly prone to failure, and their contract is nearing expiration. Their internal operations team consistently returns surveys with reasonably high Transactional-CSAT scores, but when their Business Service Owner reaches out to our Account Management team, it’s often with concerns over failure response times, and these emails tend to arrive several weeks after the failures have occurred. These complaints started shortly after a leadership shake-up in the customer’s organization. They’re in the middle of a full infrastructure assessment, and expect to make some critical decisions on a data center tech refresh within the next six months. We have an influential internal champion there who is very well-versed in their legacy environment, but lacks deep understanding of our latest product lines.

Every person who directly (and indirectly) services this customer should be keenly aware of the situation. It’s Knowledge Management’s job to foster that situational awareness.

Such a level of account health and wellness awareness requires performance data, historical serviceability information, market analysis, competitive landscaping, insight from numerous people in different departments, and on and on…

Knowledge Management strives to find new ways of connecting, combining and processing all those data, information and knowledge sources (along with other external sources) to actually create new knowledge – knowledge that enables us to:
  • Deliver highly personalized service
  • Optimize our workforce and processes
  • Uncover revenue opportunities
o   …and make the most of those opportunities

Knowledge Management both welds our processes together, and greases the gears.

My career has spanned across many different disciplines within the scope of IT Service Management over the past two decades. I built that career upon the foundation of one simple premise: If your people are not following your processes, don’t blame the people.

Nowhere is this perspective more clear than in Knowledge Management.

Knowledge Management should be as transparent as it is ubiquitous.

In fact, I’d go a step further and say the ultimate goal of Knowledge Management as a practice is to eliminate Knowledge Management as a process.
10  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Please STOP Measuring Transactional CSAT! on: October 08, 2015, 09:30:32 am
     For the better part of two decades, I have bristled against using Transactional Customer Satisfaction scores (CSAT) to measure the performance of Customer Service Case Managers (Incident Managers, Incident Analysts, call them what you will – I mean the people who wrangle the support resources to resolve customers’ incidents and solve their problems). Until recently, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, but I had quite a strong reaction against it.

     I could go on for hours (and have) about the inherent drawbacks and inaccuracies of measuring CSAT…
     Who responds to surveys but the very happy and the very unhappy?
     Even if you do get abnormally high response rates – like 1% or greater – pretty much everyone else is doing so from obligation, is generally indifferent and just wants to get on with their day.
     Even if you do apply analysis to separate the wheat from the chaff, you’re still inconveniencing and annoying your customer with surveys.
     Even if you do stumble upon the ideal concoction of alchemy, sorcery and truly extraordinary luck, the best you can hope for when applying hard numbers to performance of soft skills, is to generate a one dimensional, pallid representation of a complex, richly-flavored human experience…

     I am a process engineer at heart… Not just in my career, but across every aspect of my life – and I have been for pretty much my entire life. Measuring a person’s performance on something as subjective and woefully flawed as CSAT deeply offends my sensibilities.
     This is the argument I’ve been making against CSAT measurements throughout my career, but there was something more than that – something much deeper. What I’ve finally come to realize is that, regardless with what level of fidelity you may capture CSAT, the concept itself is fundamentally flawed and actually results in driving customer satisfaction in the wrong direction.
     Measurement drives behavior drives performance... What does measuring Transactional CSAT drive?

Moments of Truth

     Throughout any customer interaction, we encounter a number of opportunities to influence the outcome of the interaction. These “Moments of Truth” are the points in time that make or break any service experience, therefore any service organization. Moments of Truth in a service organization lie, overwhelmingly, within the hands of Customer Service Professionals – and, more often than not, they occur when the customer is already in a difficult, vulnerable position. For better or worse, Case Managers are the face of the organization in the customer’s eyes. The reputation of the entire organization rests squarely upon their shoulders.

     Using CSAT surveys and the like to gauge the quality of a service engagement (and holding those scores over the heads of Customer Service Professionals) starts with a perspective that has proven, time and again over decades, to ultimately lead to failure.
     All transaction-based service interaction metrics – CSAT not being the least of which – belie the entire premise of what a Customer Service Professional is. It reinforces the notion of the Service Desk as an entry-level position, filled with transient employees (or a dead-end job) and undermines any effort to transform the Service Desk as a potential career destination.

     The most crucial skills required to be a successful Customer Service Professional all revolve around building relationships. A quality Customer Service Professional is an advocate for the customer. They have to be able to understand the situation the customer is facing, but anyone with adequate language skills and minimal training can do that well enough. Far more critical than that is exceptional interpersonal acumen.
     If I were to profile my ideal Customer Service Professional, it would look something like this:
•   Personable
•   Places a high degree of importance on honesty and integrity
•   Highly focused and detail-oriented
•   Empathetic
•   Intelligent
•   Exceptional communication skills
•   Secondary education in Psychology
      o    Yes, really!
•   Calm under pressure
•   Confident and assertive, without being arrogant

     The ideal Customer Service Professional should be seen as just that – a professional!
     Far too often, and for far too long, organizations have focused on remediating service failures as quickly and cheaply as possible. They stock their service desks with overworked and underpaid entry-level personnel (or far worse, outsource it to cheap clearing houses).

     Let that sink in for a moment…
     The people hired to be the face of your organization to your customers, at the most critical moments that define your relationship with them, have roughly the same professional profile as the person working at your local coffee shop.

     Don’t align them to your own service and product lines – align them to your customers. They should know the customers intimately. They should understand their business models and customers. They should understand what’s important to them.
     When a customer calls, they should reach someone they have a relationship with… someone they trust… someone that will serve as their advocate, and will work to wrangle the resources and skills required to satisfy their needs.

     The ideal career path up and out of a Service Desk should not be into a technical role – it should be through whatever Customer Success/Trusted Advisor/Customer Experience Management structure your organization has in place.

     We shouldn’t measure CSAT to try and tell us how our Case Managers are doing – we should hire Customer Service Professionals with the appropriate skills and experience to tell us how our customers are doing.
11  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Discussion around a glass of water... on: October 07, 2015, 10:13:47 am
(This is definitely more general philosophy than Service Management, but I think it fits better here than in my General Ramblings blog section.)

Pessimist: This glass is half empty.

Optimist: It's half full!

Engineer: The glass is operating at 50% capacity. My research shows the optimal operating capacity is 92.3%. We should transfer the water to an appropriately-sized glass, and keep the larger glass readily available for unexpected peaks in demand.

Middle Manager: With this increased efficiency, we can fire the engineer!

Paranoid: Did someone poison this water?

Conspiracy Theorist: The government did.

Schizophrenic: With alien DNA!

Pragmatist: You're all missing the point! What's the best use of this water?

Communist: Let the people decide!

Democrat: Well... 51% of the people, anyway.

Republican: The people don't know what's best for them. That's why they elected us to decide FOR them!

Socialist: The state should find the best method of distributing the water among the people in the most equitable fashion.

Liberal: Good idea! Give each person one drop of water, starting with those in the most need. When we run out, we'll figure something else out.

Cynic: You're only saying that because it makes you feel better about yourself.

Aristocrat: Wait! What?? Start with those who need it LEAST.

Conservative: You can redistribute this water when you pry it from my cold, dead hands! I earned this glass of water and will defend it, and the other 50,000 gallons in my basement, with deadly force, if I have to!

Libertarian: Screw all of you. I'm going to get my own water.

Anarchist: We should all be responsible for getting our own water. People's inherent compassion, integrity and good sense will result in the most equitable cooperative conglomerates.

Marketing Executive: This stylish, functional glass will continue to quench your thirst for the rest of your life. (*Endless supply of water not included.)

Sales Executive: Don't worry. I'll make sure you always get the lowest water rates.

Corporate Executive: Lifetime glasses leaves us with diminishing demand. We need to make these glasses more fragile.

Fashionista: That glass is so last week, ANYWAY...

Hippie: Water should be free for all!

Capitalist: OK. But you have to pay license fees to use the glass.

CEO: Brilliant! Fire the imbecile who came up with the fragile glasses and hire that guy!

The Thirsty People: Put the imbecile in Congress!
12  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Re: iPhone Palmistry on: March 18, 2014, 12:18:45 pm
13  Craig's Blog / ITSM/ITIL Ramblings / Re: MY Call to Action – Are You Listening, itSMF USA? on: March 17, 2014, 07:00:59 am
Thanks for the comments, and thanks for showing that itSMF IS listening, Charlie.

I agree, to a point... I wouldn't have a problem "adding to" ITIL, just to have to pay to buy it back IF I felt that we had ownership of ITIL and IF the framework were responsive (as I've said before, by the time the books roll out of the printers, it's time for an update already).
Neither of these are currently true.

Service Management certainly should not be exclusively ITIL-driven, but I don't necessarily think we need a new framework, either.
What I think we need most of all is open, productive discussions about:
   Ways in which ITIL has been adapted to specific verticals
   How people have used different frameworks, and ways in which multiple frameworks have been integrated together
   Ways that people have successfully adapted Service Management frameworks and models to their advantage
   Practical applications of alternative methods
   Emerging practices (Standard+Case, USMBoK, etc.)

As an update, I am now a member of the "Multiple Engagement Models" committee, and we will be looking at ways to improve member engagement, sharing and collaboration.

I will keep you posted.
14  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / Re: iPhone Palmistry on: March 01, 2014, 09:49:26 am
Yeah... A few stupid typos and mistakes...

15  Craig's Blog / General Ramblings / iPhone Palmistry on: March 01, 2014, 07:40:52 am
So, as you may or may not know, Chris Dancy and Michael Coté have a new Podcast they’re calling ‘Connected Culture & Oblique Strategies’. During episode 2 ‘A Most Delightful Cyber Dystopia’ they did some ‘Mobile Palmistry’, in which they attempt to read people by looking at their cell phone home screens.
This idea intrigued me, to say the least, and I emailed Chris with a proposal…
I was always skeptical of palm reading, because I had the same misguided ideas that I think most do –new-agey people and frauds measuring love lines, life lines, money lines, etc. It was fun nonsense.
Then Liz (my wife) read my palms on our first date, and it blew my mind! It was not at all the mystical, superstitious mumbo-jumbo that most people make it out to be – it was SO much more a practice of reading people through subtle behavioral cues, with a bit of physical health & wellness indicators thrown in. It's a real scientific art of awareness and deduction, and it's beautiful, when done right.
I felt like I was on a first date with Sherlock Holmes, and that's pretty much when I knew I was done-in by her, and there was no turning back.
What Chris and Coté were doing on the show was very much reminiscent of what "real" palmistry is all about – and I LOVED it!
Chris knows me quite well. Coté, on the other hand, isn't even aware I exist, as far as I know...
I think it would be fascinating to compare my explanation of why I do what I do, to a stranger's perception of what the results say about me, to a friend's balanced perspective of both – and maybe find some truth in the middle of the three.
My suggestion to Chris was this:
Coté reads my screen first. Then Chris follows his reading – giving it the color and insight of someone who knows me. In the meantime, I will write a blog post about how and why I organize my phone the way I do. My intention is to just explain my rationale for my phone layout – not to try analyzing what these things say bout me. I'll finish the blog post before I watch the show, but not publish it until after I know they've posted the show online.
That’s what this is.
A bit of background for those who don’t know me very well, or at all: I hyper-analyze everything I do – and I DO mean everything. It’s pathological, really. I do nothing at all in my life, no matter how seemingly trivial, without having a very specific reason why I do it in that very specific way. Then, when I'm done, I look back, analyze the shit out of the experience, and use that analysis to inform my decision on how to better lace up my boots the next time.
I am the living wet dream of the love-child of Lillian Moller Gilbreth and W. Edwards Deming.
Because of this, I'm keenly aware of exactly why I put every icon where it is - and why I may have shifted one of them by one space three separate times last week.
I will do my best to explain the reasoning behind my phone organization – without going too far off the deep-end into the details.
Here’s my screen:

I remember watching the movie 'Cheaper by the Dozen' when I was about 7 or 8 years old. In one scene, Frank has Lillian time how long it takes him to button his shirt from bottom-to-top and compare that to how long buttoning it from top-to-bottom took, to see which was more efficient. I felt like this was someone I could really relate to.  This was the first I ever heard of “Efficiency Expert” as a career, and I remember thinking, “People will actually PAY me to do this??” I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In my mind, organization is about being able to reach my hand out during the middle of performing any task, and grab the tool I need without even looking up from what I’m doing. I think that’s what drives my passion for user empowerment through Knowledge Delivery. It’s a kind of modern off-shoot of Time & Motion Studies. Your tool should always be right where you naturally want to reach for it, when and where you need it.
I organize my phone pretty much the same way I organize my person, my plethora of bags, my toolboxes and my life. It’s also how I always aim to organize my workspaces, but that tends to be much more difficult to maintain, because of the frenetic way I tend to mix work and play – but that’s a topic for another blog post.
When I want to organize something, I have a set of steps that I follow in a general linear progression, but realizations along the path may force skipping and back-tracking…
High Attention/Availability
Purposeful Categories
Additional Considerations
…each step get applied above the previous one, but these steps aren’t so much layers, as much as they are coatings. Each new coating will melt into the previous one – taking the general shape of the previous coating, but also changing the shape of the previous coating – and, by extension, changing the shape of the whole.
High Attention/Availability
First are the things I put on the “Shelf”. (I don’t know if that’s what it’s officially called, but it’s that place at the bottom of an iPhone that’s always the same, no matter what screen you’re in… The most present real estate on the iPhone.) These things cut across all task categories, and always need to be within immediate reach. I don’t necessarily use them the most often, but they are either things I shouldn’t ignore, or things that I always want in reach at a moment’s notice. The availability factor started largely a holdover from when I had 6-12 screens and organized those screens similar to the way I now use folders – but now that has changed, and I’ll get to that in a moment...
Then we have the top of the screen… The top row is simply the string tied to my finger.
In a way, I have 7 “to-do lists” on my phone (I used to have 8, but I found I preferred using Reminders to Dosecast for reminding me to take my medication) and these are the icons on the Shelf, plus the icons across the top (except for Contacts, which is why it’s in the top left, but we haven’t gotten to the ergonomics part yet). So these 7 icons are the ones I want to always know when there is a notification, without having to look into a folder to figure out what wants me to address something. I want these in my face, vying for my attention, every time I look at my phone.
No, Safari does not generate notifications, but I do use it as a to-do list. Well, more of a doing-now-and-need-to-get-back-to-one-of-these-days list. Eventually, I’ll take the time to figure out how to effectively use Read it Later and/or Evernote…
Purposeful Categories
The next step is to group the remaining tools into categories defined by purpose.
There are two sub-categories here: Specific Task Purpose and General Purpose. Finance is a good example of a Specific Task Purpose, and Look It Up is a General Purpose.
It was quite a while after folders were offered in the iPhone before I started using them. I had been trying to organize my phone with a different page for every task type… The Travel folder is a hold-over from that – and this is why my weather apps are there. Essentially, I wanted my phone to pretend to be a different phone in every situation to suit my needs in that moment. When I’m travelling, I would have my phone on the Travel screen, and everything I would need was there.
I never could get it quite right, however, largely because I had so many multi-purpose tools.
This was when I decided to take a different tack, and start looking at organizing folders in much the same way I build music playlists. My playlists are designed to reflect/influence my moods. For example, some songs have a way of making me swagger down the street as if I’m strutting through my 1973 ghetto, wearing platform fishbowl shoes, and listening to Parliament Funkadelic…
That playlist is named Funk & Swaggers.
So, combining mood-driven, task-driven and purpose-driven categories landed me with this set of folders on my home screen.
Once the core folders were determined, the next step was to figure out where each tool lives, and which ones don’t have any place to live.
I used to have more that didn’t have a place to live. It forced me to carefully consider why they didn’t fit and whether I really needed them. I ended up deleting a lot of apps as a result, and I looped back in the process one step to reconfigure the folder names and purposes.
In my tweets to Chris and Coté, I also mentioned that my second screen has QRReader and Scan (another QR Code app). These were stuck on page 2, because I wanted to learn more about how to generate and use QR Codes, but I really don’t have time for that right now. Page 2 serves as my future phone projects bucket.
Additional Considerations
After all this, I weigh other considerations regarding the thing I am trying to organize. In this particular situation, Tumbler is a perfect example.
Tumblr had to be on its own page, and that had to be the last page.
When Liz and I were first dating, I told her that my life was an open book. I would always be completely frank and honest with her, and had nothing to hide. She knew all my passwords and would check my emails and text messages for me, if we were driving.
I also told her, however, that my internal world was exactly that. Some of it I would choose to share with her, but much of it she would never know. It's absolutely essential for my health and happiness to have the universe inside my head completely free of fetters, judgments, and obligations to other people – and if she wasn't comfortable with that, she shouldn't be with me.
I see my Tumblr account as an extension of that world. She knows it exists, but doesn't know the name of the account – and she's OK with that.
On Tumblr I am me, but not all of me. I allow myself to shed many aspects of the person I am, and exist as a slice of myself. Because of that, it needs to live on its own, away from the rest of who I am.
Ergonomics doesn’t start coming into play until now. First I organize the icons and folders on the home screen so they reflect my comfort. I use my phone for social media more than anything else, so Socialist gets the prime ergonomic real estate address space #1. This is where my thumb is most comfortable landing. Music Movies is currently the second most common used, so it gets prime address #2.
Prime address #3 for me is where Finance is now, even though I use Look It Up FAR more often. This decision was based on the “Feel” and “Reality” coatings I’m getting to...
After I finish applying my ergonomic preferences to the home screen, I go into each folder and do the same there.
Note that my home screen has five folders showing 9 icons (or more). The reality is that only Socialist has exactly 9 (it had 10, but I finally got rid of Path). This is where ergonomic considerations get serious.
If I move you off the screen inside a folder, I really don’t give a damn about you ever reminding me you are there. Either I can’t delete you (because you came with iOS, and it won’t let me) or I have turned off any push notification functionality and I use you so seldom that it offends me to have you take up any real estate at all. Page 2 of a folder is, in effect, archiving the app away.
After ergonomic considerations, comes the fluffy, soft considerations. This level and above is the where I start to allow myself the freedom to break the rules. I allow myself to move beyond pure reason and logic into emotional responses and fun.
Going back to what I said earlier about entertaining myself, I put Planets (an Astronomy/sky-mapping app) in the Travel folder because it made me smile.
Amazon and eBay are in Finance because it just felt right.
By the way, the folders Pitchers and Socialist were renamed in this stage just to make me laugh. Along those same lines, when I did use Dosecast, I kept it in the Socialist folder, because if I forgot to take my meds, I wouldn't be very sociable, and probably shouldn’t be using the tools in that folder.
I entertain myself.
This is why Scrabble is in a folder named Words Words Words!
After all this excruciating planning, I put it to the test…
Even though I very rarely use Skype, it takes up prime address #3. G+ was in address #3, because that’s where all this planning said it was “supposed to be.” The reality, however, was that when I wanted to use G+ my eyes and thumb would automatically aim for the middle spot. I had no idea why this was, but rather than fight it, it seems far more sensible to follow my inclinations and just let it happen.
I struggled for weeks whether to put IMDB in Music Movies or Look It Up. (No, seriously… WEEKS!) All my reasoning told me that while it is a reference tool, I will be much more likely to use it in conjunction with the apps in the Music Movies folder, plus it just fits that theme, so that’s where it went.
It lived there for several months, and worked fine. When I was watching a movie, or looking something up on Netflix, I had IMDB right there to answer questions. When I watched TV shows or old movies and thought, “Don’t I know that person?” the answer was right there.
Then things started to change…
I realized that when I was absent-mindedly reaching for IMBD when I wasn’t actively consuming entertainment, I always reached for Look It Up. In fact, I would usually go as far as opening the folder and looking for it in there. When I switched it over to Look It Up, I was still reaching for the Music Movies folder when I was consuming entertainment! This led to several more weeks of struggling over what to do.

Finally, I realized that while I would reach for Music Movies when consuming – and I used the app more when consuming than not – I never actually opened the Music Movies folder to look for it.
It was just more sensible to get used to the one that wasted less of my effort.
Repeat Constantly…
Believe it or not, this was the short story. I could tell you the detailed history of every app and folder on my phone, but I think this gives a pretty good idea of what is happening in my head pretty much all the time.
I absolutely love analyzing efficiency and effectiveness of processes & organizational systems, but for me it’s more than just a pastime, it truly is a survival skill for My Particular Brand of Crazy.


So, Chris just posted the show to G+. They haven't put up the show notes yet, so I had to fast-forward through just to confirm whether they read my screen. Once I saw my screen was there, I stopped the show to come post this.
When the show notes are up, I'll post a link to them in the comments here (because I will not edit this once it's posted - I REALLY hope there are no stupid typos or errors that will itch and burn my OCD brain for not fixing them) and I will post a link to this in the comments of the show notes.

Now I can go watch to the show...
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