Posted by: guywinterbotham | June 21, 2015

Stitching Work and Play

“What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do” – John Ruskin

A trip through southwest England made with no expectations surprised me with a bridge between the Ages of Guilds and what remains of a culture of craftsmanship. The Arts and Crafts Movement was a response to the mass production and commoditization of design that came with the industrial revolution. The the decline of guilds as the backbone of manufacturing was not the end but maybe the beginnings of a new stage of design centered thinking. Its leading lights may be less well known now but the threads of their influence remained interwoven in the architecture, furniture design and jewelry making well into the 20th Century. Where is that joy of crafting in work now? Are we moving to further separate work from craft and play or are we seeing the first signs of their reintegration? Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | June 9, 2015

The Point of Play

Lap Pic

On our big crazy learning adventure of a government software project, we had returned so soon to plan a new release. Once again anointed to do a Fist of Five commitment exercise at the end, I had challenged myself to make it more playful than the last. After the flat out fun I was asked a pointed question: “What was the point of that exercise?”. Essentially, what was the point of play? The short answer may mean this is the last time I’m invited to invite others to play. There was no point. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | May 25, 2015

Pulling at the Roots of Culture

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s that time of year again when I have to make the executive decision. Extract a garden from the wilderness of the backyard or let nature continue its inevitable reclamation. As the house has emptied over time the requirement to do it as part of being a family has drained but never quite the enthusiasm. I have no authority over plants. They will grow as they see fit. I can do my bit to encourage plants that fill my need for a fresh veggie or two. I can make the conditions right for the needs of plants. Then I must let the seasonal symbiosis takes its path.

So why then must the focus be the dread of pulling at the roots? Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | April 26, 2015

Wanted: Corporate Fool

Jester wanted. Must be mirthful and prepared to work summer weekends. Must have own outfit (with bells). Bladder on stick provided if required. ~ The Times, August, 5th, 2004

I’m lucky to be on a large crazy project. Large enough to have its own ways but with a leadership willing to step back and ask the question – “Who do we want to be in the future?”. Who are we now? A collaboration of contracting companies working on a large legacy government portal, heavily interconnected with other departments and agencies in such a convoluted way I lovingly refer to it as Conway’s Nightmare. The program director had gathered what amounted to the royal court of the project – the leadership team. I was invited to join. A facilitator led us through a pretty neat icebreaker that reminded us to be empathetic to our different management styles. Part of the introduction involved a description of our roles. I dutifully announced my current label from the 2-D Org Chart but on a whim decided to describe how I saw the part I played. I said I was the Project Jester and somehow it felt right. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | March 30, 2015

New Games of Old: In Search of the Well-Played Game

… of Old

I had won.

At the of eleven I had come first in a competition at the local high school fair. The goal was to decorate your ride. Atop the decorated spokes of my bespoke scooter, I took my rightful place at the head of the parade, itself the culmination of the day’s festivities. The adulation I awaited never came. I expected to be flanked by the bikes and other scooters I had conquered. As it turned out I was the only entrant. Playing to win didn’t feel like play at all.

As the parade formed the excitement seem to come from behind me. The crowd I expected to move towards me was in fact forming around what appeared to a giant ball decorated to look like the earth. Anything taller than me was by definition giant so a six foot diameter ball certainly qualified. The crowd jostled the ball. The crowd found play in keeping the huge ball aloft, moving in the direction the parade moved. I can remember that image to this day, decades later.

I can’t remember what I won. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | November 23, 2014

Flying Agile – Play and the Cost of Delay

My last post discussed the game of traveling non-rev to Brighton, UK. It triggered more thoughts about the my Agile software development analogy and valuing features. We often talk about delivering the highest value first. Figuring out what is valuable seems like a recurring challenge. I work on large clunky government projects using some vague approximation to Agile. With the pressures of politics and the absence of customers voting value with a purchase, it is difficult to groom a backlog. The trip back from Brighton to Richmond,VA had analogous issues with planning. There is a cost to the delays we suffer in commercial travel. Not surprisingly, looking at valuation using the Cost of Delay (CoD) can be a useful tool in valuing travel options. Sometimes it’s easier to think of what you would lose as an option expires as a proxy for value. The curve of that loss does not have to be as binary as an opportunity cost. It can change with time, making the timing of last responsible moment more complex. In these cases I find it useful to look at the situation as a portfolio of Real Options with the overall value changing over time. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | November 22, 2014

Flying Agile – Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

On  recent trip to Brighton in the UK I once again took the plunge of flying agile with my wife. On previous posts I have talked about the fun and games of flying non-rev, a benefit offered to employees of airlines, whereby you can fly cheaply but always on standby. I have referred to this as “Flying Agile” due to the parallel of being inserted into a standby list (backlog) and being prioritized against “seniority” parameters until you are applied to the limited resources (empty seats) hoping to be part of the release (flight).

In a previous post I talked about how Real Options thinking has helped me in the high uncertainty of non-rev flying. In hindsight, it doesn’t always result in the best travel experience. However it does make a game of it. One my wife noted that I take “pretty seriously”, just as good play should be. Real Options (think potential future choices) have value, do expire and you never commit early unless you know why to keep options open. I’ve covered the idea of creating options in traveling and I’ll do a bit here. I’ve looked at how deferring commitment helps with the high uncertainty. This trip to Brighton gave me pause to think about what the value of choices could be when monetary value is less important. Value is relative and transient. It is affected by the needs of those involved as well as the emotions they are feeling at the time close to commitment. Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | October 8, 2014

Conflict as Drama

In his book Finite and Infinite Games James Carse talks about the nature of play as it relates to two forms of games. He see most of what we refer to as play as a form of finite game. In order to play in finite games we must veil ourselves of the reality that at any time we could leave the game. In order to remain serious about the game, we must enter the role and be able to convince ourselves that our freedoms are temporarily suspended in order to stay in that role. I see here an analogy with conflict and how we tend to enter and remain in conflict allowing ourselves to self-veil. As Carse notes playing these finite games of conflict then becomes theatrical. If so then what form of theater? Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | September 30, 2014

An Org Chart in Four Dimensions

There it is. Sitting in your inbox. Once a cycle a new Org Chart arrives. Maybe that cycle is once a year, a quarter or in my case each release. In some way it provides the comfort of imagined order. A belief that information flows gently down from some respected and inspiring parental entity, directing purpose towards some unknown end. In return the outcome of work rises to be judged in glowing terms to be followed by a reward. A world of possible relationships constrained to two dimensions.

I find 2-D Org Charts tend follow the accounting structure and reflect the need to track cost more that anything. People’s places are broken down and bucketed according to where they need to be poked. The analytical mind assuming an organization is the sum of its parts. People are seen as their roles like leaves hanging off an organizational tree, losing color as the seasons of their career pass by until they inevitably fall off.

If only it were that simple.Org

Read More…

Posted by: guywinterbotham | September 7, 2014

The Praxis Patch

Picture of vegetables

I didn’t bother planting my vegetable patch in Spring. Between the run up to becoming an empty nester and the theater of work, it never seemed to be worth the effort. Summer came and went with a linear life grating against the cycle of the seasons. Despite my disinterest in it, the patch grew. It became an ugly thatch of weeds. With the first weekend of staring at each other in the absence of children, cleaning up the thatch became a worthy reason to detach myself from the Internet.

As I pulled back the weeds, the unintended consequence of neglect revealed itself. The vegetable patch had taken it upon itself to make its best attempt to be something more than an eyesore. I spent the first hour discovering robust cucumbers and a myriad of tiny red gems in the form of cherry tomatoes pictured above. Despite the decay of diligence in my meager farming skills, my patch had inadvertently still produced something.

Then the inevitable questions. What if I had tried? What if I made made the effort to break out a portion of my day to attend to the patch? Had my focus on creating the perfect patch in prior years sapped the joy of having what the patch could offer? Had the desire to be recognized as a master craftsman of cucumbers detracted from the simple play of puzzling through planting and plucking? Most importantly, if I know I had lacked some form of discipline then what might a new discipline be?

It occurs to me that the same could be said of my own mind. That patch of thought buried in my skull has suffered equally from neglect. The gardens of Google and teaming terracotta tubs of Twitter have revealed a potpourri of ideas that have been growing for years if not decades. Read More…

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