A Lesson for BER and other burgeoning airport terminals.

By any measure, Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital Airport is impressive. Built in less than four years… it commenced full operations on March 26, 2008 without any notable problems


The next day, half way around the world, Heathrow Terminal 5 opened for business. At one-third the size of Beijing Terminal 3, the new London terminal had taken twice as long to build and cost twice as much…. hundreds of flights were canceled in the first few days of operation, and about 28,000 bags went missing the first weekend

What a great article by Mary Poppendieck, showing us some clear lessons from the Chinese teaching us about managing large complex construction projects and software projects.

I can’t recall how many times have I had to argue with senior managers about the value of deploying and testing on subsets of real people before big bang launches, but still with knowledge as starkly presented as this, I wonder how many projects will continue to fail due to rampant manager egotism and plain ignorance of these simple truths.

Quote on centralised power from Jacob Appelbaum

I finished reading CypherPunks – Freedom and the future of the internet while I was on holiday. I really like this notion they discuss of the nature of centralised power and architecture.

Architecture actually defines the political situation, so if you have a centralised architecture, even if the best people in the world are in charge of it, it attracts assholes and those assholes do things with their power that the original designers would not do.

It’s so true of any hierarchical organisation I’ve been in, if there is someone with absolute power, then they always get surrounded by assholes!


Need to print out a big map to put on your wall of a remote location that you can’t easily buy online?

I recently needed to print a map of a small town in germany to fill up a wall and used this tool. You set the area you want, it takes the map data from open street maps, then if formats it into separate sheets and creates a pdf for you to download and print. The hardest part is cutting the pieces of paper and sticking them together. Apart from that it’s awesome!

Try it here : mapsomatic.

Also not a bad team building exercise, if you have a really big one to stick together…

Quote from Ablert Schweitzer

Success is not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

It’s origin’s aren’t 100% confirmed, but I saw this quote on my recent travels and it struck a chord with me.

Sobering talk on the state of global affairs

I just finished watching this rather stark warning about coming change from Peter Senge, author of the fifth discipline, about globally distributed systems. In particular the changes to the global food system affecting climate change. It’s a long talk but worth watching to be informed about what we are doing to our planet.

The secret to building large organisations

I saw this quote about Javascript programming recently :

“The secret to building large apps is never build large apps. Break your applications into small pieces. Then, assemble those testable, bite-sized pieces into your big application” –
Justin Meyer, author JavaScriptMVC

It made me think the same is true of organisations, so to riff on the original:

“The secret to building large organisations is to never build large organisations. Create or break your organisation into small pieces. Then, teach those small bite-sized pieces to self organise into one large emergent agile whole.” – Simon Kenyon Shepard

Debunking the hype of corrective feedback.

If I read another article like this one: my-best-mistake-getting-fired-and-then-crawling-back-from-the-dead about a narcissistic CEO who needed extreme feedback to have an epiphany that he needed to stop being an arrogant dickhead and change his ways. I will probably vomit, all over my nice LED the screen.

Don’t get me wrong now, feedback is important, every parent knows that there are some circumstances where you have to use corrective feedback to stop a child hurting itself or hurting something else, but these cases are the exception not the rule.

If you are a CEO and you need to be almost fired to realize you are doing something wrong then you need THERAPY not corrective feedback from the board. Most normal people should have the ability to survey the real sentiment to events and pick up when you are doing something wrong versus right. You don’t need to be hauled in front of the board, just ask the person sat next to you – can you give me some feedback?

The problem with all these articles is that they lead to this image that a leader should be a mini-hitler, marching around giving orders, eviscerating people who don’t perform and setting people against each other in a display of darwinian primalism designed to get the best product ever made. The only thing this results in is a team of broken, fearful, demoralized employees and a leader wondering why his team isn’t working when he’s read all the latest articles on the web about leadership and corrective feedback.

Peter Senge has some more thoughts on what real leaders do best:

If you’re really interested in the relative value of collective feedback on your employees vs. other improvements in your company I suggest you read W.Edwards Deming’s “Out of the crisis” first.

Most important industries of our time.

I was thinking on the way up the stairs to my flat. What are the most important industries of our time? Let’s say a top six. Mine would be:

  1. Education
  2. Health
  3. Energy production
  4. Tele-communications
  5. Transport
  6. Entertainment

Have I missed anything important? What do you think?

Simple principles built on solid foundations.