Showing posts from 2015

Why should people trust you?

Last week, I was hanging up my laundry, listening to a great business podcast about consulting, and was hit by a wall of wisdom: "Your reputation in business is in large part based on your ability to make commitments and fulfill them.

If you can make commitments and fulfill them, people trust you. That's what trust is based on.

If you and I are developing a relationship, and the first thing you tell me you're going to do, you do, I go, "Ok, that's cool, he did what he said he was going to do."

Now, I'm not going to trust you with my life at that point.

But then, the second thing you say you're going to do, you do.

A few weeks, a few months, then years, if you continue the habit of doing the things you say you're going to do, then I trust you with more and more.

And that's how our reputations are built." [1]
I think this applies equally to business and life in general.

So many people fail this simple test. It really comes down to the old adage:

What is Kanban and why is it important?

Kanban, or かんばん in Japanese literally means "signboard".

The term comes from the manufacturing world. Implemented first in 1953, it was the precursor to the JIT (just-in-time) manufacturing process used throughout the world today.

In software development, Kanban has slowly been replacing Scrum as the Agile methodology of choice since about 2010.

The core of Kanban for software development is the Kanban board. This is simply a tool that makes the project status visible to all project members and stakeholders.

The simplest Kanban board has three columns:

The To Do column is a queue. Doing is a WIP (work in progress) column. And Done is a final state.

Here is a much more complicated example with 8 columns and many sub-columns:

On both charts, the principles are the same:
Work moves from left to rightColumns can represent queues of work to do, or work that is in progressThere can be limits on the number of cards in each column Work is treated like inventory, and is it the entire …

The St. Kitts car purchasing guide

Buying a car in St. Kitts
Purchasing a vehicle in St. Kitts is not easy, but with armed with some basic knowledge, some hard work and searching will get you a... somewhat ok car.

The very first thing you should do is read a previous VIP's detailed article about his car purchasing experience. This was written in 2012, but it still extremely relevant.

You should also read the Ross University page about vehicles and driving.

Budget and Price Ranges
There are 4 major price ranges:

$3,000-$5,000 USD: Average "island car" - More than 10 years old, many "island quirks"$5,000-$7,000 USD: Average "island SUV" - More than 10 years old, many "island quirks"$7,000-$10,000 USD: Good vehicle - Still more than 10 years old, but only a few minor quirksover $10,000 USD: In this price range, you start to find newer vehicles that might pass for a reasonable used car in the United States
Car or SUV?
The next major decision is to get a car vs. getting an SUV. Th…

Two years in paradise

Living on the small Caribbean island of Saint Kitts
The good stuff
One of the things I truly enjoy here is being in the water. I usually snorkel at least once a week and have taken up a bit of a hobby with underwater photography.

Learning to scuba dive was amazing too!

I also try to hike at least once a week. The volcano on the north side of the island hosts the famous "Crater Hike" -- a challenging yet very doable climb up to about 3,000ft.

There's not a whole lot to do (besides chores) on the weekends, so we often head to the beach. Beach days are great. You can often find your own little spot, or join up with friends for a beach BBQ.

What else is great about St. Kitts? It's quiet -- especially outside of tourist season. And you can hang your laundry and have it dry in a few hours.

The not-so-great stuff
So what about the downside to living in paradise? Well, there's a few things.
The price of housing is not terrible, but it's not cheap either. You can exp…

Being wrong

Anyone who knows me knows one simple thing: I really, really hate being wrong.

Everyone does.

Nobody likes the feeling you get when you realize you're going to have to eat some humble pie.

But over the years, I've learned important lessons about how to handle this situation.

I had one of these moments recently while registering a new car here on the island -- a long process that takes several hours and visits to 4 different places. (Traffic police, bank, insurance company, inland revenue)
At the very first stop, the police traffic division, we realized that we were missing one of the two vehicle identification numbers. (Unlike American cars, Japanese vehicles have two VINs)
The number had not been entered on any of the previous documentation. I had this situation with a previous car, and they went ahead and entered it with just the one number.
This time they insisted they needed both numbers. I pushed back and tried to explain that there was no number to be found. Several offi…

5 years in the smartphone industry

5 years ago, in July 2010, I made a bold prediction that Microsoft would purchase Blackberry.

The Past
At the time, Blackberry was still the clear leader, with over 40% of the market:

Even then, however, the trend was crystal clear. Apple had already caught them off guard, and Blackberry was slowly bleeding away market share.

Meanwhile, Android was gaining quickly at everyone else's expense. Just look at the monthly increase in the graph above.

At the time, it was obvious to me that Microsoft and RIM needed to combine forces if either one was to stand a chance.

There were lots of rumors to that effect -- in 2011, 2013, and even earlier this year, but no deal ever panned out.

Instead, in 2013/2014, Microsoft bought Nokia -- one of the few phone companies in worse shape than Blackberry. Predictably, this turned out to be a dismal failure, with Microsoft writing off $7.6 billion.

The present
Meanwhile, the market shifted much faster than I ever could have predicted.

Blackberry crashe…

Saving a bureaucratic software project

A recently published article, "The Secret Startup That Saved the Worst Website in America" details some of the problems with the launch fiasco that "so bad it nearly broke the Affordable Care Act."

It also outlines how a small team rewrote much of the software "working as a startup within the government and replacing contractor-made apps with ones costing one-fiftieth of the price."

A key point is something I've written about before, namely that one good programmer equals an infinite number of mediocre ones.

A handful of bright, motivated programmers can easily beat a massive army of corporate drones, middle managers and bureaucrats.

This is related to Brooks' law, which states that "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later." Or in other words, "nine women can't make a baby in one month."
"The government’s method of running software turned on a sequential design strategy known as “the wa…

Tax avoidance schemes: A simple solution

This morning I read the following CBC article: Corporate tax avoidance 'scheme' hurting Canada, expert says.

As they mention:
"Thirteen per cent of these corporations paid less than 5 per cent in taxes and more than half paid less than 10 per cent. Much of this tax evasion is done secretly.""...the situation has become so serious that some corporations are trying to “put the brakes on” tax cuts, as they witness the effects on critical areas of the Canadian economy, such as education, health care and infrastructure." As I alluded to in a previous posting, "Why make a profit?", there is a really simple solution to all of these complex schemes.

Instead of taxing net revenue (aka. "profit"), we should be taxing gross revenue (aka. "income").

Net revenue, or profit, is what's left over after a corporation pays all of its expenses. This makes it easy to devise complicated corporate structures that move money around to make it app…