Archive for February, 2010

Weekly retrospectives and my two cents! [Feb 14 – Feb 20]

February 22, 2010

[Series which captures my thoughts/2 cents on the weekly take on the list of events/news/observations with some satire thrown in. Previous week’s retrospectives can be found here. Look forward to hearing your feedback.]

Sunday, February 14’th -

  • Politicians may not like this new research finding – Next time politicians feel good when they see their fan-following, it may not be that much because of their charisma. Whether individual’s are politically a Left’ist or a Right’ist; a Conservative or a Liberal; Democrat or a Republic; Congress or BJP sider – the new research from University of Nebraska-Lincoln says that it might have less to do with which party has the best agenda but more to do with the wiring of the individual’s brain.
  • Way to go.. Barbie!!! – And Information Technology (IT) people would soon have something to feel good and cheer about. After appearing in more than 125 career lines – Barbie is now donning the role of Computer Engineer. Her costume and accessories (which includes a t-shirt with binary codes, laptop, smartphone, bluetooth, etc.) has been specially designed by Society of Women Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering.

Monday, February 15’th -

  • Even Waste Management Inc. could not handle this particular trashWaste Management Inc. – leading provider of comprehensive trash and waste management services –  is seeking $500M as damages from SAP for failing to implement the ERP project for them. Waste Management is claiming that the software which SAP had implemented was the worst form of ‘waste‘ they had ever seen in all their years of existence and the entire collective brain power in the organization could not come up with ideas to how to ‘manage’ such a ‘waste’!
  • Mathematically proven – “Enemy’s enemy is my friend” – Well, we all had heard about this enemy’s enemy hypothesis; probably believed in it; and some of us may have experimented with it too. But now Steven Strogatz, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University has mathematically proven it in his article “The Enemy of my enemy” published in New York Times. Turns out that the proof was pretty simple. (-1) x (-1) = (+1)

Tuesday, February 16’th -

  • Let us give finger-pointing a break, Mr. Advani! – Mr. L. K. Advani in his recent blog post blamed ex-Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru for the existing challenges which India is having with its neighbors – Pakistan and China. Breaking news, Mr. Advani, it has been more than 45 years since Mr. Nehru passed away!. Does Mr. Advani know what and all has happened in these 45 years – German wall came down, Soviets disappeared, EU was formed, BJP grew and shrunk, Indian Test Cricket team is Numero Uno, and Michael Jackson is no more. In short, it has been a life-time! Like all other departed ones, let Nehru – with all his wisdom and blunders – rest in peace. Along the same lines – IMO, it would be extremely unfortunate and too simplistic view if 50 years from today we solely blame Mr. Advani for being the chief architect for the communal divide in the country which could possibly be prevalent at that time. Now you wouldn’t disagree with me on this point, would you, Mr. Advani?

Wednesday, February 17’th -

  • Formula to get mileage of 4,704,280 per gallon – National Public Radio (NPR) carried a funny yet interesting article today comparing who gives the better mileage – the cars or the bees? Needless to say, the story titled “Bee Vs. Car: Who Gets More Miles per Gallon” is a simplification of many unconsidered assumptions. However, imagine if this could even be about 10-15% true – my guess is that the way the politicians would not have liked the above mentioned research; big oil companies won’t be too happy with this finding too.
  • Can we express our pain through humor? – In theory the answer for this is always yes; but we rarely get an opportunity to see or sense that. Well, this week I got an opportunity to sense/feel that. Yesterday, Fresh Air from NPR carried the book excerpt from recently published Carol Leifer book – “When You Lie About Your Age, The Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror“. Carol Leifer is a renowned stand-up comedian and all Seinfeld fans (like me) would remember her for some famous episodes which scripted – The Lip Reader, The Hamptons being some of the famous ones. Carol, in the way she could do the best, have written a funny yet heart-breaking eulogy for her father who recently seems to have passed away. Here is the excerpt -

“Every year, I sent my father the same thing, his favorite gift for his birthday. A box of Godiva chocolate-covered nuts. Big emphasis on the nuts. Because, as he was not shy of saying as he unwrapped the cellophane to grab the first piece, “Creams? They’re a waste of time.” But this year is the first year I have no place to send anything. See, that’s the thing that truly sucks about death — no forwarding address!”

Friday, February 19’th -

  • Re-branding of Global Warming –  Thomas Friedman – who in the recent months have become quite vocal supporter of the Global Warming control initiatives – wrote a very interesting op-ed column in NY Times titled “Global Weirding is Here“. In the recent months, the skeptics (and there is a huge population of them, BTW) of Global Warming have been toning up their resistance taking advantage of some screw-ups from some Environmentalists and also particularly cold/snowy weather across many parts of the world. Taking a clue from Mr. Friedman – here is my 2 cents. How about re-branding GW i.e. Global Warming to another GW i.e. Global Wierding? All we have to say that the recent revelations have proved that Global Warming is no longer a possible phenomenon but slowly leak out the news that Scientists have now started to see the Global Weirding phenomenon.

Thats a wrap for this week. I will be back next week with another one in this series. Until then, have a great week ahead. In the meanwhile – don’t forget to check out the previous editions of the weekly retrospectives.

Strategies used by Doctors for Diagnosis

February 19, 2010

[This blog is part of the series which I had been writing about various aspects of Doctor – Patient Relationship. and how the function of diagnosis and treatment are at its core. In my previous blog, I had talked about why disease name identification was a very important step of the diagnosis process. This particular blog talks about what are the strategies which doctors use to diagnose.]

In my previous set of blogs in this series I had started talking about what diagnosis means from medical perspective. DiagnosisOne important realization I had was that Diagnosis is about finding the name of the disease (and the dictionary definition of Diagnosis – “process of determining the identity of (a disease, illness, etc.) by a medical examination” – also conveys the same thing) and not really about treating a patient. As commonsensical as this may sound – I have seen many do tend to miss out on this. According to me though – understanding this subtle difference is important considering that it can have a direct impact on how doctors and patients understand each other.

Now that I think I figured out what the real goal of Diagnosis process was i.e. the ‘why’ part; my next goal was to understand the ‘how’ part. Curiosity in my mind was how do doctor’s diagnose and arrive at a conclusion. Was it through a logic or some magic or by simply looking through a crystal mirror? The blog post from my brother – “What is in the Name?” gave me some insights as to what goes in the doctor’s mind during the diagnosis. My next step was to read and understand if there were any particular strategies using which doctors typically came to a conclusion.

Towards this, I thought the four-strategy model suggested by D. L. Sackett et. all. was a good starting point to start understanding how the typical clinical diagnosis happens (src – “The diagnostic process in general practice: has it a two-phase structure?” by Anders Baerheim). This blog is a summary of what those four strategies are.

Before I summarize them, I think it is important to keep in mind that these strategies are categorized based on the characteristics of the approach used in it. I do not think doctors pre-plan about the type of strategy they are going to use when they see a patient. Most of the times it is a sub-conscious decision and also there is a good chance that hybrids of these approaches are also used in real life practices. So beware – if you were to pop a question to your doc about which technique he was going to use to diagnose you – don’t be surprised if he gives you a blank stare!

So the four techniques described by Sackett et. all. are -

Pattern Recognition strategy -

Subconscious Recognition

Subconscious Recognition

While many can think about medical diagnosis as synonymous to any problem-solving technique where some kind of scientific method is applied to come to a solution, this technique of diagnosis is more instinctive especially when certain configuration of symptoms/clues appears very classical. This results in a instant/unconscious generation of a hypothesis. For example, diagnosing down syndrome after one look at the patient.

This technique of diagnosis for diseases/ailments is possibly the most common strategy/technique used by the doctors – especially the ones who are the most seasoned. More the experience of the doctor (probably clinical and not in terms of years) – better the doctor gets at this. Majority of the time this technique is reflexive and possibly not reflective. Interestingly this is not the technique which doctors are taught in their classrooms; but is learnt on patients. This technique also forms the basis for ‘first’ diagnosis majority of the time.

While Pattern Recognition strategy is the most popular strategy and majority of correct diagnosis happen around using this technique – this technique of medical diagnosis also has some inherent risks associated with it. First and foremost of course, the doctor need to be very good at the skill of looking and sensing patterns. Second, there is always a good possibility that the doctors could fail to look beyond the obvious patterns and hence there is a increased risk of doctor’s tendency to close the diagnosis prematurely. Doctors are also human beings. And like any human beings there is also the risk of introduction of self-biases possibly for self-satisfaction. Unfortunately, this technique also seems to be quite prevalent in over-stressed doctors.

Hypothetico-deductive strategy -

Probabilistic Diagnosis

Probabilistic Diagnosis

Hypothetico-deductive strategy is a type of clinical reasoning model based on a combination of both cognitive science and probabilistic theory. In this strategy, for diagnosing doctors first do a restricted rule-outs i.e. possibilities or causes which they believe the patient is not suffering from. Then they start with a short list of potential hypothesis based on the available clues. This generation of hypotheses is followed by ongoing analysis of patient information in which further data/tests are collected and interpreted (typically in a cyclical manner). Continued hypothesis creation and evaluation take place as various hypotheses are confirmed or negated.

So in some sense in this technique the diagnosis moves from a generalization (multiple hypotheses) to a specific conclusion. This technique is typically used in diagnosing uncommon or rare diseases or where the doctor may not be experienced in a particular disease.

Pitfalls associated with this technique are that doctors require a very good understanding of probability theory. They should have a good knack to work out the horses vs. zebra confusion just based on hearing the hoof-beats. This technique can also turn out to be time and cost consuming.

Algorithm strategy -

Diagnosis Algorithm for Asthama in Older People

Sample Algorithm

This type of diagnosis process is based on Clinical Guidelines/Decision Rules which are typically previously very well defined. When this approach is used, doctors typically refer to the “step-by-step IF-THEN” logic or cause-effect logic well supplemented with bundles of additional supporting information to arrive at a diagnosis. Click on the thumbnail on the right to see a sample algorithm for diagnosis of asthma in older patients. Similar algorithms are available for many such diseases where plenty of historical data is available. Today tools and software are also available to assist doctors in such strategies.

While this method is typically suggested to reduce the diagnosis errors, unfortunately in reality it is estimated that this approach is used in less than 10% of the diagnosis which takes place out there.

Complete History strategy -

Permutations and Combinations

While the Hypothetico-deductive strategy described above can be categorized as ‘diagnosis by probability’, Complete History strategy is typically exhaustion-based and can be categorized as ‘diagnosis by possibility’. This is the approach where all the possibilities are assumed. Then medical facts of the patients are collected and the assumed possibilities are eliminated one by one till the time the diagnosis is reached.

This approach is typically used for diagnosing possibilities of a rare disease or possibly when usage of any of the above listed strategy has not brought in the success of correct diagnosis. In Doctor’s community – this approach is typically considered as the method of novice, impractical, and inefficient.

I would love to hear your thoughts and/or comments!

[Src – Snapshot of the sample algorithm for diagnosis of asthma in older patients is from the article – “An algorithmic approach to diagnosing asthma in older patients in general practice” by Richard E Ruffin, David H Wilson, Sarah L Appleton and Robert J Adams; published by the Medical Journal of Australia.]

Weekly retrospectives and my two cents! [Feb 7 – Feb 13]

February 15, 2010

[Series which captures my thoughts/2 cents on the weekly take on the list of events/news/observations with some satire thrown in. Previous week’s retrospectives can be found here. Look forward to hearing your feedback.]

Sunday, February 7’th -

  • Counseling or Coaching for Sarah Palin? – With increasing number of appearances of Sarah Palin in the recent days, New York Times reported about how she seems to be increasing maneuvering herself to a potentially public office role in the coming future. It said and I quote “Ms. Palin has also enlisted a small team of policy counselors to guide her through the substantive areas in which many deemed her to be lacking in 2008.” Now, don’t you think there are few things which are odd in this statement? If things were my way – I would have made the following changes to the same statement. It should have read – “Ms. Palin has also enlisted a small huge team of policy counselors tutors to guide teach her through the substantive all areas in which many all deemed her to be lacking in 2008″.
  • Heinz Ketchup and the Backless gown - Two very important things seem to have gotten redesigned this week. First the ketchup sachet which was last designed about 40 years back got a new look with Heinz Ketchup’s Dip & Squeeze packet. Second – the good-old backless hospital gown seem to have gotten a makeover from world’s top designer. Someone did say – ” One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Monday, February 8’th -

  • If you ever wanted to disappear for a while… – Universal Pictures is offering $10000 to contestants who can completely disappear for a month. According to them only one person has been somewhat successful in doing so and that too only for 25 days – a writer by the name of Evan Ratliff. Universal Pictures also mentioned that in the recent months they received applications from people like Tiger Woods, NBC Executives, but unfortunately they could not accommodate them.

Wednesday, February 10’th -

  • What is common between Toyota and Tiger Woods? – Why Toyota probably would never be the same again. Because its brand was modeled around ‘state of mind around perfection and trust’  but unfortunately it did not have the preparedness to handle doubt, dismay or the obliteration of trust. Remember someone by the name of Tiger Woods?
  • Airline Industry’s growing hospitality – American Airlines yesterday made an announcement that they would now start charging $8 for a blanket and the pillow. This after they had already started charging extra for luggage, water, peanuts, being over-weight, and a list of other things. Marketplace carried a funny article today wondering what else can airlines charge for. Here is one I can imagine which can come up next – charging for the use of safety belt.

Thursday, February 11’th -

  • R.I.P. – Former US Representative from Texas, Charlie Wilson who inspired the 2007 Tom Hanks starer - Charlie Wilson’s War – passed away today. He was largely credited for inspiring and backing the Afghan Mujaheddin in their battle to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. He was equivalently vocal about America’s misgivings in Afghanistan post the Russian pullout which finally resulted in the birth of what is today the modern-day Talibans.

Friday, February 12’th -

Saturday, February 13’th -

  • Coming Soon – Mumbai does not belong to Maharashtra Campaign - Looking at the past history of flip-flopping/opportunism from Shiv Sena and the way Mumbai has responded to their hooliganism yesterday – I wouldn’t be too surprised if Sena decides to move out of Mumbai and now start a new agitation demanding that Mumbai should no longer be part of Maharashtra.
  • Shiv Sena’s 40 year Report Card – And while we are at the topic of Shiv Sena – you may want to have a look and evaluate their progress chart over the last 40 years -
Shiv Sena Progress Chart

Shiv Sena Progress Chart - Gradual climb and a steep fall

Thats a wrap for this week. I will be back next week with another one in this series. Until then, have a great week ahead. In the meanwhile – don’t forget to check out the previous editions of the weekly retrospectives.

Technology Start-ups: Tips for India from the West!

February 11, 2010

[Sometimes back a journalist from a leading business publication had asked me if I can write a short essay with my thoughts on what differentiates Indian start-ups from US start-ups and also what were some good learnings which budding start-up industry in India can learn from their mature counter-parts in the West – so that he can file a story on the same. Unfortunately, it seems that the journalist had to move to another story and hence could not take this forward. So I am posting the same essay here for the wider audience.

While the article compares Indian start-ups with US (driven by the need of the Journalist); the comparison in here is valid with start-ups in general with the Western countries besides US too. Thoughts and comments are welcome!]

Startups - India vs. West

I recollect a quote from one of a renowned Management Speaker from United States wherein he had observed that he was amazed to see the entrepreneurial spirit in the current generation of India. “Strong Dollar! No problem!” An Indian entrepreneur seems to have told him. “I can now generate more for the same amount.” For the weaker dollar argument, the same entrepreneur was still bullish. “I can now go and think about buying out someone in US”.

I agree with the speaker. While the modern ways of counting number of self-started businesses a.k.a. start-ups may have a different approach to measure – entrepreneurial endeavors have been prevalent for generations in India. Be it a doctor starting his independent practice or a housewife at home deciding to start an embroidery business. However with technology start-ups (the focus of this article), the state of things in India seem to be slightly different from the other countries in the world. Assuming that in today’s world technology is a common denominator all across the world now, the number of successful technology start-ups in India are still handful.

Over the years having consulted and worked with more than a dozen start-ups – in India and outside India – I feel that I may have some thoughts on this low success numbers (as compared to countries like United States) followed by suggestions to improve those. Hopefully, this will also help to contrast Indian start-ups with their counter-parts in other parts of the world. The points listed below are from the perspective of what are some of the key differentiated learnings which Indian start-ups can take from their counterparts in US (besides some standard best practices for any start-ups).

  • Technology just enables a business; Value Proposition drives the business:

In comparison with the US start-ups, a large majority of Indian start-ups are driven by technologists. I am not surprised by this considering that science and technology has always been close to the heart of the Indians. In their passion for the technology, I have seen that many such entrepreneurs have inherent weakness of not being able to properly formulate the end-user value proposition. As an example – cell phones did not become popular because of the technology; but because of the convenience and accessibility they offered to its users. However, the same cell phone user may not be ready to pay for a video stream on his/her cell just because technology enables video streaming to mobile phone too. I have started to cringe when yet another entrepreneur’s focus is on technology which allows you to find the nearest X, say plumber, using your mobile phone. My question to them remains – is this a technology solution or a value proposition?

  • Focus on the early adopters:

Another difference between the Indian and US start-ups is their focus on who their potential customers would be. Compared to their US peers, Indian start-ups traditionally seem to have believed that their success is directly proportional to the wide range of customers they can attract at the start. One might think of this as a natural strategy; however in my experience it dilutes the value proposition and confuses the initial set of users. Start-ups are all about crisp and focused value proposition. Entrepreneurs should focus on the needs of early adopters of their value proposition. More users will naturally follow if these early adopters like what these start-ups have to offer.

As an example, we had worked with a start-up focusing on using social media streams for project management. It was a powerful concept and in their zeal they tried targeting all possible personas for the first release. Unfortunately, a late entry in this space with a small focus got all the attention when they could crisply explain their value proposition to a subset and people could make sense out of it. The first company sadly could never recover from that setback.

  • Focus on execution; Ideas are just temporary:

Majority of start-ups today are based on a value offering as compared to a new or ground-breaking intellectual property. Contrary to the popular belief, it is not the ‘idea’ of the start-up which is critical for the success. An all-round focus on execution which includes building a strong advisory and organization team, partnerships, software engineering, messaging, launches, etc. is what matters. Indian start-ups need to be sensitive to this aspect of achieving success.

  • Productization of the “offering”:

Whether the start-up has a product or a services offering – in today’s world the productization of what customers are buying from them is becoming increasingly important. By productization, I mean things like Messaging, User Experience, Packaging, Clear Pricing, Delivery, etc. US start-ups with their experience over the years typically have done a better job in this. Indian start-ups need to catch up on this in a faster way.

  • If we build it, they will come!”:

This principle may have worked for Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams‘; but unfortunately this may not apply in real-world start-up scenarios. In the initial stages of the start-ups, the entrepreneurs have to think about from the perspective of earning each and every of their customer. And let me tell you from my experience that it is not easy. Entrepreneurs may have invested a lot in building their product; however if they cannot invest in the Marketing & Sales effort their success may not be guaranteed. Start-ups in India need to increasingly focus on this aspect of their go-to-market plan.

I am of the view that Start-ups/Entrepreneurship in India is booming, however it is in its end success rate where India might be struggling. The above suggestions are more from the learning of what the US counter parts are doing better. Compared to them, Indian start-ups probably also do not have access to the best of environments, infrastructure, or an ecosystem. However, I have also heard from many US start-ups envying business opportunities and possibilities that India offers and to which Indian start-ups have easy access to.

[Image Src – “Start-ups That Work” by Joel Kurtzman]

[Update|Feb. 24, 2010 – New York Times carried the news today about Intel’s initiative to pump in about $3.5 Billion into technology start-ups in US fearing that America might be losing its competitive edge to countries like China and India. Interesting article which covers some interesting points as to how each country view’s start-ups in the ‘other’ countries.]

Weekly retrospectives and my two cents! [Jan 31 – Feb 6]

February 8, 2010

[Series which captures my thoughts/2 cents on the weekly take on the list of events/news/observations with some satire thrown in. Previous week’s retrospectives can be found here. Look forward to hearing your feedback.]

Sunday, January 31’st -

Monday, February 1’st -

  • Double Giveaways from US – The popular panda – Tai Shan – from the Washington DC National Zoo (I had the pleasure of seeing him in his early years) was shipped to China by US. Incidentally, US also shipped arms to Taiwan this week too.

Tuesday, February 2’nd -

  • Coming of age for Mr. R. R. Patil – Sometimes we do have to give credit to the politicians where it is deserved. For example – following the incident in Mumbai where the girl drove under the influence of alcohol and killed two people, the Hon’able Home Minister of Maharashtra – Mr. R. R. Patil needs to be complimented for not saying “these things happen!”. See he has come a long way and matured since his Mumbai 26/11 goof-up. He also announced that there would be a 2000% increase in drunk driving fine. When asked as to how did he come up with the number 2000  and why not less or why not more – a confused Mr. Patil immediately asked his secretary – “why didn’t you tell me that a number more than 2000 existed?“.
  • US Deficit / Dalai Lama / Vaccine Development vs. Aishwarya/Salman – Lots of important things which are happening and being discussed in the world today. For example – the growing US deficit and its impact on the entire world for decades to come; China getting upset over upcoming Dalai Lama visit to US; Bill and Melinda Gates making $10 billion pledge for vaccine development; and ofcourse last but not the least Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai having smiled at Bollywood actor Salman Khan (video link).

Wednesday, February 3’rd -

  • Should you be serving hot tea or iced tea to your guests? - Should that be the host’s choice or the guest’s choice? Well if I understood the article published by Natalie Angier in New York Times today titled “Abstract Thoughts – The Body takes them Literally” the answer is – well, it depends! If you as the host are keen in having your guest/s having a warm and favorable opinion about you – then better serve them a hot drink. Else leave the choice to the host.
  • Animals as Protagonists in Action Movies - This week I owe the old Bollywood movie directors an apology! Now that I have grown up – my grudge against them was that time-and-again they fed me movies based on old folk-lore where animals like snakes, etc. were the main protagonist keen on taking revenge on human beings (assuming that these human beings had done something bad to them). This week – however – researchers from University de Toulouse, France came out with a study proving that bees can recognize faces. So if they can recognize faces, then the guess is that they can interact with human beings, and if they can interact then movies can be made out of them. I do understand that snakes are no bees – but then the USP of Bollywood has also been about stretching an imagination.

Thursday, February 4’th -

  • Chauvinistic Barking - How often do we pay attention or step out of the house to check when a dog barks on the street? Then why are we paying so much attention to all the chauvinistic barking which is currently going on in Mumbai? My apologies for the insensitive comment. I have the deepest amount of respect for the canine family.

Friday, February 5’th -

  • Thackeray knows his history quite well - We certainly need to give credit to the old man Bal Thackeray as he is raising the bar in his attacks on the Gandhi family – both literally and figuratively. He started with Rahul Gandhi, then his mother and then went after his grand-mother – Indira Gandhi. Then he attacked his great-grandfather – ex. Prime Minister Nehru. Today he attacked Rahul’s great-great-grandfather – Motilal Nehru. Now does anyone know the name of Motilal Nehru’s father? Bal Thackerey is asking for it for his forth-coming attack.
  • Who is hiring in Corporate Messaging/Media Relationships area? – Where can one find the best jobs in Corporate Messaging and Media Relationships? My answer is that this week they are all in Toyota.

Thats a wrap for this week. I will be back next week with another one in this series. Until then, have a great week ahead. In the meanwhile – don’t forget to check out the previous editions of the weekly retrospectives.

What is common between Agile Methodology and the Three Monkey story? Its simplicity!

February 5, 2010

It has been some time since I have blogged about any topics associated with Agile Methodology. Quite honestly – over the last 1-2 years, I had started observing that a set of simple and beautiful guiding principles were getting over-stretched and over-strained and over-complicated by few individuals/groups/companies possibly to out-do the others or simply to rake in some money. IMHO, much to the detriment of Agile – a simple concept was getting converted into a complicated science. This is when I started switching myself off. Well, until this week…

This week I refused to attend an organization mandate to undergo training in Agile. For me, the word ‘training’ threw me off. What was there in Agile that required training and could not be learnt by simply reading? It is one thing that one does not know what Agile is (so one just has to read about it), but the premise that one needs to undergo training in it somehow creates an impression that we are dealing with something complex. Quite honestly it is not and the complexity in it is a man-made thing.  Let me explain why I felt that by giving a slightly non-related but similar example.

Almost all of you must have seen the three wise monkey picture – popularly also known as Mahatma Gandhi’s Three Monkeys (see picture below). These three monkeys represented the proverbial principle – “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil”.

Three Monkey Methodology

Three Monkey Methodology - Is it complex to understand?

For the sake of this blog post let me call these principles as  “Three Monkey Methodology“. What I like about this methodology is that it clearly describes the three maxims (i.e. see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil) in a simple and crisp way such that it is self-explanatory to almost except possibly five (or less) years old. The additional thing which I like about this representation is that they have not tried to explain it in any more details and have left it to the understanding of the individuals as to how they would like to interpret it based on their surroundings and experiences.

Now imagine if this Methodology evolved today. I have strong feeling that in today’s world driven by hype and monetization  (analogous to what is happening to Agile Methodology) – we might have seen the following -

  • Paper or Book Titles – “Three Monkey Methodology for Product Management”; “Applying Three Monkey Methodology to Configuration Management Practices”; “Learn Three Monkey Methodology in 3 days”; “Three Monkey Methodology for Dummies”, etc.
  • Training Courses – “Three Monkey Methodology for CEOs”; “Power your Engineering Team with Three Monkey Methodology”; etc.
  • Certifications – “Certified Three Monkey Methodology Developer”; “Three Monkey Methodology – Level II Certified”; etc.
  • Marketing Messages – “We provide engineering services using Three Monkey Methodology”; “Best Three Monkey Methodology Expertise Shop in Town”; “We follow Three Monkey Methodology in all our Departments”; etc.

Once the activities or messaging such as above begins to happen, our simple Three Monkey Methodology suddenly now starts to appear or feel complex. However, hopefully you will agree with me now that this complexity is now a man-made thing and not inherent in the methodologies principles. This is exactly the same way I feel with this whole Agile thing.

Similar to Three Monkey Methodology – IMO Agile Methodology also has four maxims (check out the Agile Manifesto) written in simple yet crisp manner and left to the interpretation of the Software Practitioners for its implementation as they see fit. The hope there was that anyone who had experienced Software Development even in a slightest manner would be able to understand where these four guidelines were coming from. There-in lied the beauty and power of these four principles. Simple yet powerful enough to be individually interpreted and applied to real-word circumstantial scenarios!

In my opinion, the challenge started when few started taking the ownership of interpreting Agile and forcing that interpretation on others. This is where the essence of Agile was lost because it opened the doors for over-complications, mis-interpretations, un-required group’isms, consultants, trainers, etc. while closing the door for plain vanilla common sense. Agile was meant to be simple and it needs to remain simple. As simple as the Three Monkey Methodology!

Look forward to your thoughts and comments!

[Update|Feb. 17, 2010: Looks like there are others too who are thinking that this whole Agile and its associated certification/training beginning to sound like more of a marketing gimmick. Read the article (along with the discussions at the bottom) titled “Is Scrum Certification Having Another Makeover?” published at InfoQ.]

Weekly retrospectives and my two cents! [Jan 24 – Jan 30]

February 1, 2010

[Series which captures my thoughts/2 cents on the weekly take on the list of events/news/observations with some satire thrown in. Previous week’s retrospectives can be found here. Look forward to hearing your feedback.]

Sunday, January 24’th -

  • Bad roads are safe – What happened in Haiti last week was heartbreaking. One simply cannot quantify or measure the human tragedy. However, without losing the sensitivity behind that – this week US Army Engineers brought the good news – Haiti’s bad roads were not damaged by the quake (src – Washington Post). Two cents worth to cheer about!

Monday, January 25’th -

Tuesday, January 26’th -

  • Corporates or Cartels? - Now that the Hon’able Home Minister of India, P. C. Chidambaram has spoken on the IPL mess last week, I also feel safe to express my opinion about it. With the whole issue around the non-selection of the Pakistani cricket players in IPL beginning to stink, Lalit Modi came forward to clarify few things. He said there was no conspiracy in the non-selection of the Pakistani players. It was the collective IPL cartel decision!
  • Young or Old – And India celebrated its 60’th anniversary of being a Republic country today. And immediately the debate of “60 years young” or “60 years old” was kicked off by many so-called intellectuals in the media! Some of these intellectuals came from Lalkrishna Advani generation and the remaining came from Rakhi Sawant generation!

Wednesday, January 27’th -

  • This is what happens when you snore through your history classes - After Sachin Tendulkar’s comments about a month back that Bombay or Mumbai belonged to India, today his IPL employer Mukesh Ambani made a comment on the same line. I am guessing that as a similar reaction to Sachin’s comment, another so-called Tiger is going to roar (or purr – whatever!) in the next few days trying to ask Mukesh Ambani to manage his own business. And the debate will continue as whether Mumbai belongs to India, Portuguese, or simply Maharashtra. Here is my 2 cents about this whole thing. IMO, the perpetrators of this debate know that the opposite party do not have any perspective to disagree with them. How many of us have read through the history of Mumbai? How many of us appreciate the interesting journey which the city of Mumbai has taken in the last 3000 years before the newly created state of Maharashtra in 1960 had an independent state of Bombay merge with them? But then again as I said before – we did snore through our history classes.

Thursday, January 28’th -

  • Valentine’s Day, Hamburgers, and the ‘steamy’ celebrations - New York Times carried an article today talking about what various businesses are doing to attract customers on the upcoming Valentine’s Day. While looking through the various offers which businesses were planning to roll out to attract customers for their special day – the offer from White Castle (a fast food burger shop primarily based in US) caught my eye. I have to confess here first that I personally do not have the right insights as to how to best celebrate Valentine’s Day. However, I am not able to imagine going with the Valentine to have a combo meal for two of 10 ‘heart attack‘ hamburgers, two orders of French fries and two 21-ounce sodas and then promising an eternity of love for each other. White Castle is also claiming that this offer is going to make Valentine’s Day steamy! Once again, I am just reconfirming that I really do not understand Valentine’s Day that well!

Friday, January 29’th -

  • Thank you Mr. Osama Bin Laden – Felt very enlightened today after hearing Mr. Osama Bin Laden’s thoughts on climate change. I am now also looking forward to Mr. Laden enlightening us on cancer research, same sex marriage, extra-terrestrial life, Facebook, etc. etc.
  • And someone did purr - And as I had predicted above – the ‘old’ tiger did purr!

Saturday, January 30’th -

  • Modi‘ism – Quote from Pradeep Magazine in Hindustan Times – “Lalit Modi – Amar Singh of Indian Cricket” (link to article). Damn, the man stole my line!
  • Parsing a Sorry - Next time someone apologizes to you or if you hear someone apologizing – this article by Alina Tugend in New York Times today – “An Attempt to Revive the Lost Art of Apology” – can certainly act as a cheat sheet to analyze whether they really meant it. With the way apologies and sorry which tends to flow out so easily nowadays – knowing the science behind apologies can be a handy thing.
  • Tony Blair’s resume is ready – I thought I would get an opportunity to use the above theory if Mr. Tony Blair were to apologize for unilaterally invading Iraq in his testimony yesterday. But Blair said that he is not sorry for invading Iraq and added that he would do it again. He also added that his experience in invading Iraq would be very valuable if West decides to invade Iran.

Thats a wrap for this week. I will be back next week with another one in this series. Until then, have a great week ahead. In the meanwhile – don’t forget to check out the previous editions of the weekly retrospectives.


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