Categories
Agility Scrum

Simon Kneafsey’s Scrum 1-Pager

Simon Kneafsey of TheScrumMaster.co.uk recently introduced a marvelous “Simple Guide To Scrum – 1 Pager” on Scrum.org.

This is something that you could put in a breakroom, and most anyone in your business would be enlightened after merely one cup of coffee. Great things come in small packages, indeed. It’s so succinct that it made a pet peeve of mine more obvious: the use of the term “Developer.” When I teach Scrum to cross-functional teams of businesspeople, I substitute “Implementors” for “Developers.” It’s simply more relatable, in my experience.

Lucky for me, Simon licensed his work in a way that allows derivative work. I made a non-software version of the 1-pager for you to download and enjoy.

If your Scrum practice is software-focused, Simon’s original is still perfect!

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tspD1GNuTUI.

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Empathy Invisibleism

Introducing The Invisibleism Grids

What might happen if we could see inside someone’s head, and gain a better understanding of what makes that person tick?

We’ve all had it happen. You kick off a new project, and you’re working hard, meeting with all sorts of people to understand what’s required. You schedule a meeting with a key person. But on the day of the meeting, he’s completely disengaged. No worries! You reschedule. The new meeting day arrives, but he cancels. What could be happening?

Or, you may have a meeting with someone you’ve worked with a for a long time. But on the day you meet, she’s “off.” Everybody has a bad day, so you reschedule. When you finally meet, you notice that your dear colleague just…seems…different these days.

What do you do? Do you get visibly frustrated? Do you complain to the person, or to someone else?

Or do you sit back and think, what could I be missing?

How do we better engage the disengaged, or the people who are acting in ways we don’t quite understand?


I introduced readers to the idea of invisibleism in August of 2020. Since that time, that article has become one of the most-read blog posts on The Progressive CIO, and it is something that has sparked more than a few conversations with my own business colleagues.

The natural challenge in overcoming invisibleism is allowing yourself ample time to consider the things you don’t see in the person or people at hand.

Over the last several years, I have groomed a collection of questions that I ask myself when I realize that I am at risk of being an invisibleist. In this post, I share with you, at long last, “The Invisibleism Grids.” (Link will open in a new tab or window.) These grids have been designed for you as a tool. Read on for more about when and how to use them.

[Screenshot of the grids.]

When to use the grids

The Invisibleism Grids are most useful when you are having an issue engaging with someone in the context of solving a business problem (which includes eliciting requirements, service and product development, process engineering, and other similar activities.) The grids are not a complete list of human conditions by any means; they are merely a reflection of my own 30+ years in the workplace, representing the spectrum of personal situations that I have experienced with others. More pertinently, these are all characteristics or conditions that, if you are armed with a little knowledge, you can accommodate or work through to achieve a business goal.

The grids are useful when you wish to develop a more meaningful relationship with anyone, whether in a business or personal setting. But that is not their primary purpose.

How to use the grids

When you have an issue engaging with someone in the context of solving a business problem, scan through the grids, which are divided into the following core categories of human conditions:

  • Psychological Considerations
  • Comparative/Positional/Relational Considerations
  • Considerations of Self
  • Situational/Environmental Considerations
  • Personality Considerations
  • Ability Considerations
  • Addiction Considerations

Think about each item and whether it might be at play. There are more than 60 things to consider in these grids, none of which I would say are uncommon.

The first grid, Psychological Issues, is special, and different from the grids that follow. It includes 38 indicators that will guide you to consider whether a psychological condition might be at play.

The 38 indicators are not an exhaustive collection of symptoms for the conditions at hand; they are merely the indicators that are easiest for a person like you or me to observe.

I am resolutely not a psychologist, and you might be in the same boat, but we are all entitled consider the implications of these conditions in the lives of people with whom we interact. The key difference between us, the mere amateurs, and those with a Ph.D or M.D. is that we can merely surmise, while the doctors can diagnose.

Have a look at the conditions, and think about the possibility that the person in question might be experiencing one or more of them. I have provided a pair of links for each overarching condition — one from an authoritative nonprofit that contributes to the understanding of the condition by the general public, and a second from an authoritative medical source like the NIH — that will help you gain a better understanding if you think you are onto something.

The Addictions grid is decidedly non-exhaustive. I’ve listed five key sorts of addictions I have managed through in my career, with a handy link from the Mayo Clinic that will help you identify personality traits that surround all manner of addictions. If you think you are dealing with a person who has an addiction, there are numerous resources at your disposal through a Google search.

The remaining grids (Comparative/Positional/Relational, Self, Situational/Environmental, Personality, and Abilities) are broken down into subcategories, with many things to consider in each. Where I have been able to find an authoritative or useful article online to help you develop a better understanding of how that human condition might relate to your work at hand, I have linked to one. Where it makes sense, I provide an illustrative spectrum of 3-4 levels of these conditions, and how those levels may be manifest.

As with the Psychological Issues and Addictions grids, there are portions of these grids that are not exhaustive. For example, the “Abilities” grid lists merely two “invisible” things; but these two things are, in my experience, most likely to have an impact on your day to day business work with someone else.

If you take the time to consider the 60+ conditions and the 38 psychological indicators, you will have considered nearly 100 different things that might be going on in a person’s life, all which are generally much more difficult to discern than race, gender, age, and (sometimes) class. As you work through the aspects of the grids, you will reduce your odds of becoming an Invisibleist in the situation at hand.

Two critical considerations

Please do not use the Invisibleism Grids without considering these two points:

  • First, never forget that your own behaviors will affect how others respond to you. To best use the grids, we would do well to exercise a great deal of situational self-awareness, to understand how our own personal traits affect others and the conversations we have with them. Think about aspects of the grids that describe you, and spend time to increase your understanding of how those things may affect your own interactions.
  • Second, there is no doubt that aspects of both your human condition and mine can be unearthed via the Invisibleism Grids. You and I are as subject to the discrimination that comes from invisibleism as anyone else. If your goal in using the Invisibleism Grids is to better discern what might be causing difficulty in your interactions, remember that personal vulnerability goes a long way. If you are comfortable enough to share the invisible aspects of your world, you will increase the odds that your interlocutors will feel comfortable making the invisible visible to you, easing your understanding, and enhancing your relationships.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfUzs4NDa64.

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Categories
Agility

A Miscarriage of Worry

There are two women in my extended family born to mothers who were prescribed DES for the term of their pregnancies. DES was somewhat of a breakthrough drug for baby boom women who experienced miscarriages, helping them achieve motherhood. Unfortunately, DES-supported pregnancies had a downside: a vastly increased chance of cancer for the children born from them — including a 40-fold increase in risk of certain vaginal or cervical cancers for women exposed to DES in utero.

Both of these women spent decades worrying about the impact of DES on their lives. The worry of one woman — buttressed by an aggrievement for the inability of others to sufficiently relate to her worry — arguably contributed to her choice to isolate herself from the rest of our family.

The second woman — whose worry didn’t contribute to a desire to turn inward — wound up getting cancer.

At a family get-together many, many years ago, that second woman inquired about the status of the first, wherein the topic of both women’s worry arose.

“I used to worry about getting cancer as well,” she offered. “But then I got cancer, and I realized what a waste of time all that worrying was.”

My fortune for being present for that conversation was one of the greatest gifts I was ever given.

A few years later, I had a cancer scare myself; doctors found a very large tumor in one of my kidneys that was likely cancer, and my kidney had to be removed. From the moment of my initial diagnosis through the pathology six weeks later, that conversation gave me profoundly useful perspective. Whether I had cancer or not; whether I had weeks or months or years to live; there was nothing good or productive that could come from time spent worrying about any of it. My time was best spent preparing for my surgery, and enjoying the time that I had available to me.

Life throws us unexpected challenges every day. We would do well to remember that our lives — or the lives of our loved ones — could be taken at any time, including today. If we choose to spend too much of the time we have worrying about all that could be, that time comes at the expense of appreciating what is.

None of the above is to suggest that we spend our lives being foolhardy. Worry is worthwhile when it causes us to slow down briefly to consider the pros and cons of a choice we are able to make. But once our worry runs up against a wall of things that we know we cannot control (including those things that we can no longer control!), we would do well to set that worry aside and spend our mental energy on other things. Our time is best spent being honest with ourselves about what we can control that might lead us where we want to go next.

This approach informs all things agile. When we start an agile project, we admit that there are many things we do not know. Don’t obsess over them. If they happen, so be it. Allow yourself to be surprised about the things you find that you could never have anticipated.

Most of all, don’t set yourself up to regret the time you wasted while worrying.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_03uXQiz6eY.

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Categories
Antipatterns Compassion Patience

This Is Not A Human Footer

This post appeared on LinkedIn this weekend, to resounding huzzahs.

“People First; Technology Last,” this isn’t.

Ms. Carter appears to miss that her clever footer amplifies email’s worst traits: email as “The Game of Hot Potato” and email as “Look at me! Working so hard in the off hours!”

Oh, and it gives the recipient even more to read. A lose-lose.

It’s natural and even reasonable to send emails in the off-hours, but such emails should never have to be considered essential to respond to. If you are working after hours and expect an off-hours response, employ something other than email to communicate.

If your after hours email is likely to be interpreted as important enough to force an after hours response in anyone, I suggest you consider the following:

  1. Think about what it is in your personal work relationships that would cause someone to feel compelled to respond in the off hours, and work on that aspect of your relationships. If you need to employ a footer like this, something is amiss in your work culture and/or your work relationships. It might just mean that people don’t know you well enough. Work on that.
  2. Save the email as a draft and send it when you truly need the response.
  3. Compose the email, and employ your email program’s scheduling tool to send it out during business hours.
  4. Or, perhaps, don’t send the email at all. We lived for millennia without email. Schedule some time during a day to talk in person. When we speak in person, we eliminate both the “Hot Potato” and “I’m working hard, see?” aspects of email that are so abhorrent.

Filling up someone else’s inbox just so that you can empty your outbox isn’t respectful in any way, shape, or form.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3_2entulkw.

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Categories
Antipatterns Compassion Empathy Humility

The Most Unwitting Expression of Condescension Known to Mankind?

We lean on each other to get through the tougher parts of life. On our best days, we are eager to help one another.

We watch a friend or colleague struggle with a new task that we have practiced. We want them to know that it will become second nature to them, too, once they get through it a few times. We want to give them hope and promise. We say:

It’s easy! Let me show you.

With those six simple words, offered innocently, we introduce a heap of risk.

Have you ever struggled with a task, only to been told by someone else that “It’s easy!”?

How did that make you feel?

“It’s easy” is possibly the most commonly-tendered unwitting expression of condescension known to mankind. In the world of software deployment, in the context of The Invisible Propeller, it’s downright deadly.

It would take more than both hands of every software engineering and IT professional who ever lived to count the number of times that “It’s easy!” has made people pretend to know what they are doing when learning a software feature.

When “it’s easy” for you (a technology professional) and not for me (a “mere user”), why do I want to admit to you that I now feel like an idiot?

Is there a handy remedy for this? Try this on for size: instead of suggesting that something is easy, experiment with admitting that something is actually a pain in the neck, even if you no longer think it is. We all connect better with others when we come from below them, rather than from above them. In other words, keep a keen eye on lowering your status when helping others.

This doesn’t have to sound negative:

“This might be tricky the first few times you try it. Let me see how I can help you get there. Let’s try this together.”

Although this can create a strong human bond:

“Oh gosh, yes, this can be such a pain. Let me show you some tricks I’ve learned.”

These phrases are disarming. They are vastly more likely to result in open conversations that will get people to admit what they don’t know, without fear of feeling stupid. More pertinently, they are more likely to wind up helping your audience members get where they want to be.

It’s harder to do all this than it is to say “it’s easy.” But every time you try, you will gain momentum…and ultimately, you’ll become a more helpful human. That’s a nice place to be!

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnI_ko3_r_c.

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Categories
Current Events: 2021 Empathy

It’s The Great Recalibration, Charlie Brown

(It’s been a while since I’ve written. I’m sorry. One of the books that I was editing this year finally came out this past weekend. Now I can get back to life as normal. Whatever that is!)

I shared the following this past January 1st:

2021 will be a year filled with job changes. People who have lost their jobs, who have relocated to a city that they don’t care for, who need to get out of a city that isn’t what it once was, who were treated poorly during the pandemic, or who are more or less burned out, will all be eager for change. 2021 will be a year filled with an incredible number of people switching jobs.

This was easy to predict.

Wake up. Poop. Shower. Eat. Get the kids to school (or daycare). Get to work. Work. Work. Work. Get out of work. Get the kids from school (or daycare). Get the kids to soccer. Eat. Pick up the kids. Get the kids to eat. Get the kids to do their homework. Do some more work, or other work. Get the kids to bed. Go to bed.

Work itself is not the highest form of living. It’s work, after all. If it were something else, we wouldn’t be paid for doing it.

Our human form of work is a tortured affair compared to the work of our non-human brethren, who wake up, browse for food, rest, defend themselves, mate, rest, and generally have more time to ponder in the sun, rain, wind and other elements than we do.

Why do we treat pondering and resting as something reserved for the elderly? Aren’t we well-served by both things on our entire route to retirement?

The past 18 months have helped us answer those questions. Vast numbers of people want more time and space to do non-work things. To ponder. To rest. To spend time with families doing “non-productive” things. And as the world turns and we feel this so acutely, your work is probably the most challenging it has ever been. I don’t know anybody who isn’t experiencing work or life impact from global supply chain issues.

Many executives believe that traditional work lifestyles are immutable, underpinned by a natural desire to compete and win and earn money. Many want to ignore the consequences of coronavirus because of the threat to those traditions. They have lost the ability to empathize with people who work merely to get by. They judge people based upon how “productive” they are, and value those who value the same things. This is not a sustainable approach, and 2021 is helping us come to terms with that.

It is time to tend to our collective mental health. As we reinvent the world of work — which we must do — we need to find ways to provide space that allows employees to ponder, and to rest.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO5dcW0P75M.

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Categories
Current Events: 2021

Job Description for the CIO, 2021 Edition

The CIO role has arguably been around for 40 years this year. Even four decades on, I don’t see many CIO job descriptions that capture the requirements in a way everybody can understand. Too many aspects of the typical CIO job description are written by a technical audience for a technical audience. (Imagine requiring your senior management teams to comprehend this Deloitte white paper.) That’s a problem, because we serve our CEOs, our Boards, and our people. If they don’t have a way of defining what they expect from us, then how can they measure us?

Forty years in, I think it’s possible to define the CIO job in a way everyone can understand. The past 18 months of COVID work have made this possibility eminently clear to me. If I were a CEO or a Board hiring a CIO today, here’s how I would frame the job.

Responsibilities

You understand our business in all of its dimensions — people, processes, and technologies — and you actively address gaps in your understanding as these dimensions change.

You ensure that we react effectively to exigencies that change the shape of our work, enabling us to be the best we can be through the worst of times and the best of times.

You recognize that not all information flows through technology…that people communicating with one another at the right junctures in our processes are what makes our company special and relevant to our customers.

You recognize that for information to be effective, we must understand communication in all of its dimensions: language…visual design…signs and symbols…orality…literacy…context…audience…sociology…psychology…history.

You and your team routinely identify areas for us to differentiate ourselves in the face of the myriad forces that we face, from competition through global cultural change.

You help us comprehend the complex technological world around us, from identifying B.S. to translating things to human terms…from communicating risks to crafting opportunities.

You protect us from technology-borne threats.

You coach and condition our technologists to be great listeners and empathizers, so that they can bring us solutions that meet our needs.

You “manage up” to challenge our CEO and our Board when you develop a sense that a new way of working will be better than the status quo.

You provide leadership and comfort to our associates on any journey in which we face the unknown, helping us take steps forward, even when we might exhibit fear.

You nurture a team of people with an aim to help them do all the above.

Qualifications

A career of experiences that provides demonstrable ability to perform all these responsibilities exceedingly well.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_9UgrFGafM.

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Commitment Compassion Curiosity Current Events: 2021 Empathy Humility Patience Vulnerability Willingness

Fixing Today’s Workplace Requires Packing Up Our Politics

Taking a look today (December 6th, 2021) at the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list, I see:

  1. History (THE 1619 PROJECT)
  2. Biography/Entertainment (WILL)
  3. Biography/Entertainment (THE LYRICS: 1956 TO THE PRESENT)
  4. Biography/Entertainment (THE STORYTELLER)
  5. Holiday (ALL AMERICAN CHRISTMAS)
  6. Entertainment / Food (TASTE)
  7. Personal stories (THESE PRECIOUS DAYS)
  8. Biography/Medicine (THE REAL ANTHONY FAUCI)
  9. History (THE PRESIDENT AND THE FREEDOM FIGHTER)
  10. Biography/Entertainment (THE BEATLES: GET BACK)

Compare that to two years ago at this time:

  1. Politics (A WARNING)
  2. Politics (TRIGGERED)
  3. Entertainment (ME)
  4. Politics (BECOMING)
  5. History (SAM HOUSTON AND THE ALAMO AVENGERS)
  6. Communication (TALKING TO STRANGERS)
  7. Personal stories (FINDING CHIKA)
  8. Personal stories (EDUCATED)
  9. Biology (THE BODY)
  10. Politics (WITH ALL DUE RESPECT)

Those differences are telling. Two years ago, post-election, with our cold civil war a-brewing, politics was our fascination. Today, we are weary for just about anything other than entertainment. Our brains and our souls need a rest and a reset.

Interest in work-related topics is also in an ebb cycle. People are not in the mood to read books, columns, or blogs that consist of generalized advice aimed at improving their work lives. I suspect people realize that questions about what’s truly going on right now in the workforce have no easy answers. What’s truly going on is that our cold civil war has bled into our work life.

The Progressive CIO was borne out of my epiphanies in the wake of COVID-19 — a long and turbulent wake that we are still navigating. My writings have reflected my work and encounters along the way. In recent months, however, I’ve slowed. I have nothing to offer that I think can address our cold civil war, and writing more about the eight foundational values of The Progressive CIO seems tone-deaf at the moment. While those values are — and always will be — important, getting back to considering them will require navigating out of our current wake, which requires addressing politics.

We’re not supposed to have politics in our workplaces, though, right? As it turns out, it’s too late for that. As we attempt to return to offices, COVID has brought politics into the workplace as never before, for a simple reason: the semiotics of the face covering.

I cannot think of any symbol in the workplace — or in everyday life — that has communicated a political stance so overtly in my lifetime as the manner in which face coverings are (or are not) worn. This is not to say that wearing a face covering or not is, unto itself, a form of political expression. As with a tree falling in the forest, it’s the junction of the act and the audience where meaning takes shape.

Take a look at these four different face-covering scenarios, and reflect on what they say to you:

At least one of those will strike a nerve within you, wherever you sit on the political spectrum.

Semiotics are a part of everyday communication and everyday life. Face coverings fall into the non-language communication subset of semiotics, which are distinct from the more-commonly-encountered non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication involves a language; that is to say, a system of communication with a learned form and structure. Music is a language, for instance. Non-language communication, on the other hand, lacks any system or learned form and structure. Lines on our roads are non-verbal communication; a driver swerving around those lines is non-language communication.

Non-language communication isn’t discussed much outside of academic circles. If it were, I suppose we might have a better public dialog about face covering techniques. I suspect, however, that it wouldn’t have an impact on our current cold civil war at work. Whether we like it or not, masks have become a form of wearing one’s politics on one’s face. The bigger issue is that non-language communication, through its very nature, makes verbal analysis more challenging.

At the present, only fully-distributed workforces are in a position to avoid face covering controversies in daily work life. We know, however, that not all workforces can be fully-distributed.

Proposed vaccination and testing rules are about to increase the magnitude of the COVID-19 wake, before the current tide has finished going out. How a company reacts to and addresses these rules puts politics on a company’s face as well.

When we are in a place where we know the solution is: “Take politics out of the workplace” and those politics are now a way of life as a matter of public health, then where does that leave us?

It leaves us doing our jobs and trying not to think about them when we don’t have to. It leaves us tired of politics, even if we are energized by them. (Which leaves me to ponder: If one is energized by politics, then what does that say about that person and their priorities?) It leaves us retreating to our homes, our families, entertainment, and the things that truly matter in life. That’s not all a bad thing. But if our lives require us to work, we’re all in a pickle for the time being.

Back to those eight foundational values of The Progressive CIO: I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to reflect on them, and how they play a role in getting ourselves out of our current situation:

Vulnerability: Are we willing to be honest and open with one another about how our current world is affecting us? This will include senior leaders acknowledging that these vulnerable voices need to be heard.

Humility: Are we willing to recognize that this situation is bigger than all of us, and that it is a comedy of errors, of sorts, if not a true human tragedy? It’s difficult to laugh at, but I believe we have to if we are to collectively solve it.

Empathy: No matter your politics or attitude, will you try as hard as you can to see the validity in the other side’s point of view? This doesn’t mean that you agree that the other side is right; it merely means that you work hard enough to try to understand and not summarily dismiss.

Patience: This might be the hardest thing of all. People were tired of not getting their hair colored one month into the pandemic. Do we have the collective patience to deal with one another to move past where we are today? We don’t have a choice, because it will be a long haul. If we can acknowledge this, we stand a chance to get a clearer understanding of what the path to progress looks like.

Compassion: Do we genuinely care about each other, to the extent we are willing to go out of our way to bring comfort to others?

Curiosity: Are we willing to explore the new and unseen options that we have not yet explored to get us past where we are today?

Commitment: Are we willing to make true commitments to one another, and follow through on those commitments?

Willingness: Do we have genuine willingness to do all of the hard work above?

Given how tired we all remain, who can we expect to initiate this sort of effort on a meaningful scale?

Only those who govern us.

I’m not talking about legislation; I’m talking about leading by example, living those eight values. If that sounds like a tall order, it most certainly is. That’s because there is a chasm between politics and governance. The government I am alluding to does not exist today, and has probably not existed in our lifetimes. Until we can pack up our politics, no governing will happen. Until we can pack up our politics, no leadership will happen. Until we can pack up our politics, our workplaces will not flourish. Until we can pack up our politics, the world will not be the place we want it to be. The good news? Packing up our politics starts, apparently, with the books we buy.

Postscript

A friend shared the following response:

I loved your start – the comparison of the top books is quite telling, and I would not have thought to make that comparison. I am right there with you throughout your article until the end. Who should or will initiate these changes? For me it’s all of us, it’s the workers, it’s the everyday people in the workplace, it’s you and it’s me. I think we can be sure right now our leaders are quite absent, especially those who govern.

One of my favorite quotes I encountered along the way of my doctoral studies comes from Ralph Stacey, “Change can only happen in many, many local interactions.” For me, this means it is in the small conversations that spark other conversations and so on that we begin to change culture, that we begin to change each other. I is in those times of making space and being vulnerable that we listen to others and that we speak our truth. In those moments one or the other or both are truly changed, and that sparks a change in the next conversation that we have. For me, it is in this process that true change happens. Not in the top down, governed-inspired or directed change.

But that’s me, and perhaps I am missing some of what you are concluding or alluding to.

I agree with this in spirit—and I had wanted to end with this sentiment. But after reviewing the how the foundational values might address this, and pondering how realistic this would be, I felt this conclusion would sound trite. There is a realist at work in my brain right now. This sort of change benefits from top-down work of unimaginable magnitude. Imagine the impact our governing bodies could have if they demonstrated these values in their everyday actions!

In the “DVD bonus feature” spirit of allowing you to choose your own ending, I encourage you to do just that with this post. I would love nothing more than for everyday people—rather than government—to achieve this change.

In the end, if this post merely encourages discussion, then it will have served a purpose.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-kA3UtBj4M.

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Current Events: 2021 Technology of the Year

Technology of the Year, 2021 Edition

“There were very few things people loved. That was one of them.” So said a dear friend and retired IT director, who introduced this year’s Technology of the Year to me many years ago. Oxymoron? No. Read on.

I assure you that this year’s Progressive CIO Technology of the Year will not be highlighted in any other similar column you will read this season. It’s unfortunate, and I can explain why.

(This is NOT a sponsored post.)


What if you could live in a world where you received no junk mail? Not occasional junk mail—no junk mail.

In 2003, Sendio Technologies introduced its “Opt-Inbox” technology, which was arguably the earliest implementation of a challenge-response technology (patented at the time) whose goal was to eliminate spam. Sendio’s earliest offering was an appliance that you would install in line with your email server. Here’s the Sendio user experience:

  1. Someone from outside your organization emails you for the first time.
  2. You do not receive that email.
  3. The sender receives a “challenge” email similar to the following:

Your email to John Doe john@doe.com is almost there!

We need to verify your email address. Click the button to instantly become a trusted sender.

✓ Verify me

John Doe’s Company is using Sendio’s Opt-Inbox technology to ensure they do not receive unwanted email. Verifying your email address will ensure that all future email from you will be delivered directly to John Doe’s inbox without delay.

Verification using the button above is instantaneous but if you prefer, simply sending a reply to this email will also work.

  1. If the sender reacts to the challenge, the email is delivered to your inbox.
  2. If the sender doesn’t react to the challenge, you do not see the email in your inbox. Automated email systems are unable to address the challenge to verify themselves. Additionally, in my experience, even human beings who receive the challenge emails don’t click on them, for fear they are phishing.
  3. As you desire, you can visit a web page that shows you a list of emails that were not verified. After a few days of doing this, this list is almost all unsolicited email, not deserving meaningful attention. (You will find this to be delightful.)

If, on the outside chance, a real human verifies their email and it arrives in your inbox, you can go back to Sendio’s web interface and block them from ever communicating with you again.

Sendio also allows administrators to configure a greylisting filter as well, which further reduces the amount of email that even invokes a verification process. You can upload your contact lists to pre-identify people you want to hear from. If you send an email to somebody before they email you for the first time, Sendio validates them automatically.

If you’ve read this far and think, “How is this net-net different from me properly marking email as junk and occasionally checking my junk email folder?” then you will begin to appreciate why you don’t see Sendio on any end-of-year technology lists this year. It’s very difficult to appreciate the difference between the predominant way of doing things and the Opt-Inbox way of doing things, in the same way it’s difficult to appreciate certain products (iPhones, Apple Watches, Rolexes, etc.) until you experience them first-hand.

I can attempt to convey the difference using these words: In the Opt-inbox view of the world, there is no need for Bayesian filters or machine learning — all of which are imperfect. In the Opt-inbox view of the world, there is nothing in your junk folder, ever. It’s a wonderful, and one of the few experiences that is truly remarkable. In the Opt-inbox view of the world, the only email you see is from people with whom you’ve definitively decided you want to communicate.

Refer back to my friend’s comment: “There were very few things people loved. [Sendio] was one of them.” Someone else once told me: “You should never love something that cannot love you back.” That’s good advice, but Sendio elicits a response in people that pushes those sorts of boundaries.

So what’s the big deal with Sendio in 2021? Sendio Opt-Inbox for Office 365 Exchange Online.

Whereas Sendio used to involve appliances and/or awkward cloud-based integrations — making it even more unlikely that you’d get a chance to experience it — in Q4 2021, Sendio made its product available to Exchange Online customers for the first time, and the implementation is brilliant. It works via Azure AD’s Application Registration system, and integrates with Exchange Online through a series of Mail Flow rules. Here are some remarkable things about this version of the product:

  1. It does not require any changes to your MX records;
  2. It plays well with Exchange Online Protection (all mail is still processed through your organization’s EOP rules);
  3. It relies on Azure AD, so it provides seamless SSO, supporting your MFA and other authentication rules, with no drama.
  4. It can be enabled for individual people or groups who need it, without needing to be introduced or trained to your whole enterprise for those who have less of a need for a product like this.
  5. It is decidedly inexpensive. It starts at about $56 per user per year, with a 10-user minimum.

Hey.com introduced a nearly-identical opt-inbox capability last year, their How It Works page probably does a better job of explaining how this sort of system works than either I or Sendio have done. But Hey.com is not something that integrates Exchange Online, making it a non-starter for most enterprises. Sendio also doesn’t try to reinvent your email experience with things like Hey.com’s “Feed” and “Paper Trail.” Sendio’s technology is simple, thoughtful, and completely, 100% effective at eliminating spam.

Hey.com and Sendio are pretty much the only two accessible, lucid challenge-response spam elimination products on the market. How many people do you know who use Hey.com? How many people do you know who use Sendio? Why do your answers contain such low numbers? Because it’s difficult to explain in words. It’s something that you have to experience to appreciate. And Sendio for Office 365 Exchange Online significantly reduces the barrier to entry for your organization to experience this first-hand. This is why it is The Progressive CIO Technology of the Year, 2021.

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🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrwfB4aAZZc.

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Albums of the Year Current Events: 2021

Albums of the Year, 2021 Edition

Always remember: work is a means to an end. The things that are not work are the most important things in life. For me, music is one of those things. I like the challenge of distilling a year’s worth of music into six favorite albums. I believe that 2021 was not a great year for music; as Sting recently shared, there has been too much music that wants to remind us of our problems without offering us solutions. Here is some music that tried.

1. Pinegrove – Amperland, NY

https://pinegroveband.com/

Taylor Swift is not the only artist this year to re-imagine earlier material to great effect. Ostensibly a soundtrack, this is really a greatest hits collection — with all tracks recorded and revisited — from a truly great band that wanted to give us all a lift with their melodies and messages.

2. Idles – Crawler

https://www.idlesband.com/

Idles make this list two years in a row. When punk bands are at their most vital, they produce volumes of great work in quick succession. This is a worthy contender for any album of the year list.

3. The Weather Station – Ignorance

http://www.theweatherstation.net/

Of all of the music that was released this year, this album probably has the best chance to be lovingly remembered. It is a masterpiece of music in the Laurel Canyon tradition, in a year that saw Joni Mitchell win a Kennedy Center honor as well as a year that sorely needed music to help us heal. This album will do that. Bravo.

4. Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad Of Dood & Juanita

https://www.sturgillsimpson.com/

I’m one of those folks who feel that Sturgill Simpson rescued country music from the Insinkerator. This is a brilliant album, with Willie Nelson along for the ride. But my favorite track is Sam. I suspect it might become yours as well. It’s one of the finest songs released this year.

5. Abba – Voyage

https://abbasite.com/

Is this Abba’s best album? No. Does it matter? Absolutely not. Voyage was a gift of melody — a warm embrace, really — to a world that needed it, and it couldn’t have been better timed. The two lead singles got all the headlines, but there is more depth to the record than those. Here’s another superb song that you might have missed if you haven’t already listened deeper:

6. Wet Leg – Chaise Longue

https://www.wetlegband.com/

Technically Chaise Longue isn’t out yet, so I suspect you might see this record on the 2022 list if the rest of it as good as the four tracks that have already been released. If you miss music that is not only catchy, but that will make you smirk (think Devo or the B-52’s), then I suspect this record will bring a smile to your face. The world needs a lot more music that can make us smile. Here’s to 2022. Cheers!

Happy holidays to you and yours!

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