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So I read today:

  • Amazon Fire TV now supports 4K Ultra HD for true-to-life picture quality. Watch high-definition 1080p streams on Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more, even without a 4K TV.

Today is 7/1/2016. By 2018 it will be 16k or maybe 32k true-life picture.

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2013 is the first year ever that I setup an IDP (Individual Development Plan) for my employees. small_336716715 That is any employees I have ever managed throughout my career.  I have to say when presented with the notion of having to do this, I questioned my ability to do it and its true worth.  Now into our first few months of the IDP, I have to say they are a good tool for learning more about your employees and helping them succeed in a direction they want to go.

As a manager the concept sounded like a good one to me.  I approached it as how I would like to construct an IDP with my manager.  The most important part to setting up an IDP is to take the first step to do it.  Yes, it is that simple, take the first step toward implementing them with your employees.

For me I did a small amount of reading to learn what they are.  Reviewed the companies intranet on the resources available to us, and called a meeting with my team.  No plan, no hard structure, just a direction and a desired outcome; to help develop an IDP of each of my employees.

At the meeting with my employees I explained about the IDP and that we will start putting these together on a one-on-one basis. Sure there were a lot of eye rolling, etc., but gratefully most everyone went back to their desks and put some thought behind where they want their career to go.

According to Wikipedia an IDP is, “…a document completed by individual for the plan of self-development over the next period, usually one year.”

Sounds pretty dry to me, but I guess it covers it. An IDP is a document of individual for the plan of self development. Though for the most part the document doesn’t really mean much, its the process of creating the document that has all the impact.

Recall I said most employees went back to their desks to put some thought behind their careers.  There where a few who really doubted the IDP and considered it another corporate paper waste of time.  And it easily can be, and this is where I come in, to work hard with these employees to reveal some direction they want for their career.

After the initial meeting I called meetings with each employee.  The meetings where set for an hour, but I left a half hour of slack afterwards, just in case.  Since I was learning here as well, I wanted to ensure there was enough time to formulate a plan, or at least have a good start of one.  I didn’t fully know what to expect.  The order I set the meetings was not random.  During the initial meeting and a short time after I paid attention to employees reaction to the IDP.  Since this is my first time doing this, I wanted to make sure that I had more willing participants in the beginning–their plans will be easier to put together and this will be a way to get a few under my belt before tackling the more difficult cases.

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What happened during the first month was absolutely amazing to me; my employees were generally excited about their plan and what I was trying to do for them.  It made me excited.  I look forward to our next meetings to find out what they have learned and the progress made on their goals.  

There are four steps in an IDP, create, capture, execute, reflect. It’s a circular process, where creation occurs again after refection.  

During creation the employee considers their strengths, development areas and short/long term career goals.  This information is captured and brought with them to the meetings with their manager.  It is amazing how difficult this step can be for some.  In a couple first meetings, I assisted the employee on focusing on future goals; what it is they want to do.  The focus here isn’t what you may need to do to excel at your current position, but provide the skills required to keep you moving forward.  I found it helpful to remind the employee that this is not, in any way, part of the review process.  This plan is here strictly for them.  I am providing them an outlet to improve themselves and it is up to them to run with it.  I will help in any way I can, but obviously cannot do it for them.

The capture step is where the plan is finalized.  This is where I had very important conversations with employees about their future development and goals.  Some employees had a solid idea of where they wanted to go others had never given it a lot of thought.  For employees with solid ideas we set up goals for to move in this direction.  Where possible these goals were aligned with projects which could assist the company or our department.  In some cases we made up projects which would ultimately assist in some way, but most importantly provide all important focus to complete the tasks.  This is not always possible, and I feel this is okay too.  The goal is their development and if there are no correlating work withing the company I’m okay with that.

Execution is obvious, it is the work performed by the employee outlined in the IDP.  During this sail_underway_400time we try to meet every-other-week to discuss progress, ask questions, and show off what progress has been done.  Much of this is one-on-one is the reflection step.  This is the step I am in with my employees currently.  I am finding to help keep some focused regular meetings are benefitial.  These aren’t long meetings, I am not a meeting zealot.  We set aside thirty minutes every-other-week.  Sometimes we’ve used the time, other times it lasted ten minutes.

Reflection is the final step where the employee and manager use the IDP as a tool to discuss skill development on a regular basis.  Still being new to this process there hasn’t been a lot of time spent on reflection yet.  There will be during the first quarter this year and I plan to fill in more details.  Some good questions for an employee to ask during this step are:

  • What steps have I completed since our last discussion?
  • What obstacles are preventing me from completing action steps or applying my new skill(s)?
  • What else is required to bring me to my desired skill level?

For the employees there are three important question they should ask themselves:

  • Does my manager know and support my short- and long-term career goals?
  • Can I articulate how I will close critical development gaps and continue to build key strengths to achieve my goals?
  • Have I improved at least one skill in the past three months? 

If you have answered “no” to one or more of these questions it is likely you are not performing at your highest level, and may not be fully engaged within your role.  I found these three questions really important and a great way to understand my employees future desires and goals.  Working through the IDP provided great insight into these areas and taught me things about my employees that I never new.  I also believe it taught things to the employees that they didn’t know about themselves.

To build a strong team, their needs to be communication and understanding.  I have found that the Individual Development Plan process is a great way to open new paths of communication and the future desires of employees.  If you are not paying attention to where an employee wants to go, they will most probably head out the door to find it.

The other day our microwave quit working.  It was 10 years old, I wasn’t heart broken.  It is an over-the-range style microwave where there is just barely enough room above the range for tall pots.  To start my search for a new appliance I started looking at the local stores: Lowe’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, etc.  Our current unit is broke, it will be good to pick one up today and get it installed.

I quickly found out that microwaves seem to be bigger these days.  Most of the models are taller and deeper than our current model.  As I said earlier we are tight on space as it is, so a bigger appliance isn’t a great idea.  It’s not surprising the broken model is no longer made, thought there are similar models and they are basically the same size!  There we go I have found the model we are looking for.  Online inventories says they have one at Lowe’s and Menard’s, so off to Lowe’s we go.

I packed up the family and drove down the street to Lowe’s.  We get there, wait around for someone to be available to help us, and find out that they actually don’t have that model at the store.  Ugh.

We go back home and I leave solo to Menard’s.  The wait is longer at Menard’s.  There seems to be no workers around the appliance area.  The sign of no commissions I assume.  As I look up and down the isles I see the exact model we are looking for. This is a great sign. I continue to wait and wait.  Finally someone comes by who doesn’t work in appliances but offers to help anyway (thank you).  No units on the shelf and the computer says they have one, the floor display.  Damn.  There are two at the Morton Grove store, too bad that is 16 miles away through city traffic.  No thank you.

Sitting in the parking lot I do a quick search for the model on line.  I find one at good store for the same price as the local ones.  People always say to support your local communities , etc. so what the heck, lets stop at a few places on my way back.  Needless to say nobody has them in stock.  Many have display units and can order them, but none in stock.

This is just silly, why would I order this appliance from a local store, which comes to a higher total cost after tax and “brick and mortar” charge, when I can just order it online myself.

All in all, I probably spent two hours (on my solo trip) trying to find an appliance and found nothing.  To me that seems to be a great fail and a large reason why the local stores cannot stay in business.  It is just costs too much to keep a bunch of stock on hand.  What would be a better business model for say Sears, is, no, sorry we don’t have any right now, let me order one from our warehouse and have it shipped to your house for the same price listed here.  You should have it in three days.

Much better customer service.  I don’t want to order something, wait eight to fourteen days, and then also make my way back to the store.  A model like this doesn’t work any longer and the stores need to learn this.  You need to embrace online sales, make them part of your overall delivery method.

People still love to walk around stores, touch and feel the products.  Stores can’t remain competitive with all of the overhead required to keep these stores open.  So their business models need to change.  If any one of the stores I went to today would have given me the option to order and receive the unit in the mail, I would have done it and saved myself a bunch of time too.

You Just Can’t Secure Them

As I dig deeper into IT security and am exposed to more and more about security I can’t help to think about things from a security point of view.  It is getting to the point where the security point of view to something is my first point of view.

As usual this time of year, I am involved in a lot of different audits and reviews.  While going through a clients requirements for their vendors I started to think about mobile phone.  Not any in particular, but all of them in general and how much the space has changed over the last five years.

What I am really curious about is why nobody seems to be leading the enterprise space for mobile phone and devices.  Sure it seems iPhone is taking over and are a huge presence in corporate environments; though from a security point of view its all a scary proposition.

What is missing is the ability force policy and lock-down mobile phones and devices.  I can’t set policies to say, all phones must have a password, and that password must be at least six digits long.  Sure these parameters can be set from the phone, but not being able to centrally control this stuff is a big fail.

Now Windows phone 6.5 was a big piece of crap, I know this, but what it had that most others do not is the ability to set policy on the phone from active directory.  Exactly what you need to do in an enterprise.  If you are running a Blackberry server you have some good controls around the phone, though I know fortune 500 companies who are dumping their BES servers for Blackberry Express Servers because it’s just too much money to maintain the BES server for an ever-dying space.

I guess I understand why Microsoft jumped after the consumer phone space, wanting to jump on iPhone bandwagon, but they left a huge space untapped.  I saw a tweet today that only 6% of Chinese have cell phone, and what a space to get into.  I guess there is a lot of potential there, but personally I find it easier to make money closer to home, and here in the States we need enterprise class phone.  Top functioning iPhone, Windows Phone 7 class phones with a solid ability to set policies on them and restricting users from overwriting those policies.

I am not sure who will be first but I can’t wait.  Whomever it is, they will produce billions in revenue, billions.

Perhaps what needs to be done is not rely on the phone development companies but third parties to develop controls for mobile phones, so a whole gamut of phones can be locked down by central policy.  The company would need to build apps for the different phone types and be able to lock those apps down so they cannot be uninstalled by users, or if they are the needs to auto-wiped at the same time.

It’s not horrible that phone development companies are concentrating on the user experience, there are a lot of really great phones being produced.  Someone needs to move on the security space around these phones as the continue to infiltrate deeper and deeper into corporate America.

A Software Application Idea

I work in a Windows world, so this idea is from a Windows Server view. Build an application which installs in active directory which allows you to register users phones with their user accounts.  On the phones an application is installed which is used to force the policy on the phone.  I wonder if there would be issues controller password, and other security aspects of a phone.  Meaning, will the manufactures allow you access to those parts of the phone with their SDKs.

Load the application on the phone, register the phone with AD and allow the system to lock down the phones based on the policies you have set.  As long as the application is found on the phone (plus verification through certificates) the phone may be used and send/receive email, etc.

If the application is removed from the phone, the phone is auto-whipped.  This application can also provide encryption services for the phone.  PGP verify emails on your phone anyone?

This can’t be an original idea, but I do like it.  It is a great way to allow the phone development companies to concentrate on UX and someone else enterprise security.  Hardware support for this would be useful too.

Tell me what you think of this idea, or if it already exists, point it out to me, I would love to check it out.

3/11/2012 Update:

So my new employer is using a company for this exact purpose, http://www.good.com.  Good technology which interacts with the companies Exchange server instead of the phone.  It allows the removal of service without having to wipe everything on the phone when an employees leaves.  To me not a great solution, but a solution nonetheless.

 

Like most Americans I have no idea what controls the prices of gasoline.  There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to why the prices fluctuate.  The local state government lifts taxes on gas for a short period to reduce the prices (Something Illinois did a few years back).  Though for some reason the price per gallon doesn’t go down by the amount of the tax removed.  Okay, perhaps the price of gasoline kept rising and offset this a bit.  What is really disturbing is when the tax was put back on the gasoline the price rose more than the tax!

What I have been trying to understand is what happened in September of 2008.  Starting in September 2008 until mid December 2008 the price of gasoline dropped by $2.70 (from $4.30 -> $1.65 ref.)  No government “stimulus”, no action by other groups.  Basically the economy was officially in the shit and gas prices plummeted, but why?  I wish I have an answer, but I don’t.

Now, sixteen months later gasoline has been on a steady increase, rising as the “economy improves” (so they are saying).  No reasoning, no rationalization, it just is.  The true control of gasoline prices is so controlled.  I believe it is used as a way to control our economy.  If you think about it there is currency more important to the global economy than oil.  NONE.  If you come up with one, I would love to here it.  Everything relies on oil and its prices have a heavy affect on the lucrativeness of all operations.

We saw this prior to September 2008 when gas was expensive and everyone was crying about it.  I am not saying it wasn’t a real issue because it was.  Nobody enjoyed paying $80+ to fill up their vehicles.  But of course it hit everywhere.  Carriers increased costs and added “surcharges” to offset the increased fuel costs. Airlines did the same.  They needed to show their customers that their price is low, but there is an extra charge for gas.  To me their price is high as I always conciser the bottom line, its irrelevant how they got to it.

So keep an eye on the general gasoline prices in your area and listen to the Markets reports. As the markets improve you will surely see the prices rise and rise.  The will keep rising until  the masses start crying again and everyone ends up paying for their ‘relief’ (the money has to come from some place, right?).

Maybe there is something to using gasoline prices as an economic measuring stick.

Take control of your social network, don’t let your social network take control of you!

From the news today:

MOSCOW (AP) – The crash of two satellites has generated an estimated tens of thousands of pieces of space junk that could circle Earth and threaten other satellites for the next 10000 years, space experts said Friday.

Images from Pixar’s Wall-e are not far off at all!

Wall-E ship through debris

“in a cup!”

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