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May 31, 2009

OpenOffice.org Draw does DFDs

I've been rather pleased to find out that I can use OpenOffice.org's Drawing module to generate DFDs (Data Flow Diagram)? the data model I use for planning web applications? I'd thought it didn't have this functionality, or at least that it wasn't very well implemented. After digging around a bit I find that it does, and actually somewhat better than Excel 97 did. The only problem I can see is that oval shapes only have 4 connectors points when I could really do with the 8 that Excel had. However, the ability to add labels to connector lines is a big bonus and being able to export direct to PNG, GIF, PDF and SWF (to name 4 of the 20 formats available) is brilliant. The drawing module is rock solid stable and very smooth to use, also an A2-sized version of the rather complex DFD shown below is only 25KB in size!

OpenOffice.org DFD Example

May 30, 2009

The Parthenon Principle

During the Persian War, the building on the Acropolis of Athens was burned by the invading Persian forces. Following the war, which ended in 479 b.c., the Athenians began rebuilding their city, which culminated in the construction of the Parthenon, the greatest of all Greek temples of the Classical Age. Dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and patron deity of the city of Athens, the Parthenon stood more or less intact for some 2,000 years until the middle of the seventeenth century, when it was partly destroyed in a war between the Turks and the Venetians.

The Metaphor
The career or business you are building is as important to you as was the Parthenon to the Greeks. It took many years of painstaking planning and excruciatingly hard work to affect this magnificent temple. The same is true of your own business. A level of commitment that was quite extraordinary was essential to the ultimate success of the Athenians' undertaking. No less is required of you. Like the Parthenon, your career or business is also supported by pillars, each of which is central to its integrity and its survival. The Parthenon was "built to last." So too, your career or business must be based on rock-solid principles.

The Principle
Imagine the result of a small increase in the strength of each of the supporting pillars of the Parthenon. As each is strengthened, it will affect the robustness—the durability—of the structure. Clearly, a small change in each pillar will give rise to a large change in the overall structure. The same is true of your career or business. This gives rise to what we call the Parthenon Principle.

Incremental Changes
Consider the human body. It has several systems—pillars, if you will—each of which supports the body. Improve one and the overall health of the person improves. Improve them all by just a small amount and the individual will experience a significant increase in health, energy, and vitality. Similarly, your business or organization consists of several foundational systems, all of which are interrelated. In our coaching program, we consider seven core systems or pillars: sales, services, pricing, promotion, referrals, productivity, and profitability (i.e. cost controls). As with the human body, an improvement in any of these systems will lead to an improvement in the overall health of the organization or your business.

May 23, 2009

7 Disciplines for High Performance

There are seven disciplines you must develop if you want to achieve all that is possible for you. You can learn these disciplines through practice and repetition until they become automatic.

Goal Setting
Every morning, take three to five minutes to write out your top goals in the present tense. Get a spiral notebook for this purpose. By writing out your ten goals at the beginning of each day, you will program them deep into your subconscious mind.

This daily goal writing will activate your mental powers. It will stimulate your mind and make you more alert. Throughout the day, you will see opportunities and possibilities to move more rapidly toward your goals.

Planning and Organizing
Take a few minutes, preferably the night before, to plan out every activity of the coming day. Always work from a list. Always think on paper. This is one of the most powerful and important disciplines of all for high performance.

Priority Setting
The essence of all time management, personal management, and life management is contained in your ability to set the proper priorities on the use of your time. This is essential for high performance.

Concentration on your Highest-Value Activities
Your ability to work single-mindedly on your most important task will contribute as much to your success as any other discipline you can develop.

Exercise and Proper Nutrition
Your health is more important than anything else. By disciplining yourself to exercise regularly and to eat carefully, you will promote the highest possible levels of health and fitness throughout your life.

Learning and Growth
Your mind is like a muscle. If you don't use it, you lose it. Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.

Time for Important People in your Life
Relationships are everything. Be sure that in climbing the ladder of success, you do not find it leaning against the wrong building. Build time for your relationships into every day, no matter how busy you get.

May 16, 2009

Five Qualities of Top Teams

Over the years, exhaustive research has been done on top teams. There seem to be given characteristics or qualities of peak-performance teams that you can incorporate into your own business. Here they are:

Shared Goals and Objectives
In a smoothly functioning team, everyone is clear about what the team is expected to accomplish. The goals of the team are shared and discussed by everyone. Each team member gives his or her ideas and input into how the goals and objectives can be best achieved. Each person feels like a part of a larger organization.

Shared Values and Principles
In excellent teams, there is regular discussion about the values, principles, and behaviors that guide the decisions of the team. The leader encourages values such as honesty, openness, punctuality, responsibility for completing assignments, quality work, and so on. Everyone discusses and agrees on what they are.

Shared Plans of Action
In this phase of team building, you go around the table and have each member of the team explain exactly what part of the work he or she is going to accept responsibility for completing. At the end of this discussion, each member knows what every other member is going to be doing and how his or her own work fits in with the work of the team.

Lead the Action
There must always be a clear boss or leader in any organization. Democracy is a fine concept, but it goes only so far in business. Someone must be in command and take charge. And that someone is probably you. On a good team, everyone knows who is in charge. The leader sets an example for the others. The leader becomes the role model.

Continuous Review and Evaluation
In this final phase, the team regularly evaluates its progress from two perspectives. First, is the team getting the results that are expected by its customers or other in the company? In dealing with customers, does the team set up mechanisms to continually ask customers, "how are we doing?"

Bringing the Team Together
One of the most important things you do in building a peak performance organization is to hold regular staff meetings. Bring your people together weekly, at a fixed time, to talk, discuss, catch up on progress, learn how the company is doing, and generally share ideas, opinions, and insights.

May 9, 2009

Money as a Motivator of Behavior

It has been said that, “Money may not be the most important thing, but it's way up there with oxygen.” The fastest and easiest way to get the things you want as quickly as possible is almost always to have enough money to be able to buy them, whatever they cost. For this reason, the desire to acquire money, quickly and easily, and as much as possible, is a major motivator of human behavior. But it is not usually money that people really want.

Sometimes I will ask my clients why they want to acquire a lot of money. After thinking about their answer for a couple of minutes, they finally conclude that what they want more than anything else is “freedom.” In reality, they see money as a means to achieving the freedom they really desire. They define freedom as having enough money so they can get everything they want. Having enough money will enable them to be completely free from worry about safety, security, leisure, love, respect and fulfillment. They see having lots of money as the fastest way to a good life.

Ten Million Dollars
In our Advanced Coaching and Mentoring Program, we do an exercise in Values Clarification. When everyone is seated, we hand out individual checks made out to each person in the amount of $10 million dollars. Of course, the checks are not cashable, but the idea of receiving $10 million dollars cash gives people an opportunity to fantasize about what they really want in their lives. We then have participants break into groups, discuss what they would do if they suddenly received $10 million, and then report back to the group. We go around the room and write down their answers on a white board or flip chart. Here is the most amazing discovery: almost everything that our clients would want to do, have, or acquire, does not cost any money!

The Lust for Power
The desire for power is one of the most destructive forces in the world today, and always has been. If the fastest and easiest way to get all the things you want is to have all the money you need, it then follows that the fastest and easiest way to get the money you need is to acquire power over people and resources, both in business and at the political level. Power can be defined as “the ability to control or influence money, people and resources.” It is the ability to force people to do what you want them to do, whether or not it is consistent with their own personal desires.

Money and Power Together
Money starts out as the motivation for an expedient person to fulfill his needs, for himself and his family. It can soon become an end in itself. Once a person has enough money so that he no longer worries about money, it becomes a form of measurement, a scorecard that he uses to compare himself against others. Megalomaniacs and dictators often become obsessed with power, to the exclusion of all other considerations. By the same token, many men in business become preoccupied with money, to the exclusion of other things, especially their families.

How Power is Acquired
There are different ways that power is acquired in our society. In business, power is acquired by getting results, by making decisions that lead to incremental gain in revenues and profits. The most powerful people in the business world are those with the best reputation for achieving financial goals in their areas of responsibility.

May 2, 2009

Ensuring Success at Work

The very best times you will ever have at any job or company are when you are getting along wonderfully well with your boss. On the other hand, the very worst times you will ever have at any job are when you are not getting along well with your boss. And the major reason why employees have problems with their bosses is because of a lack of clarity about what exactly is to be done, and to what standard, and in what order of priority.

It is important to your boss that you are making the appropriate decisions for the company and completing your job. In order to make decisions effectively, you must know the three types of decisions.

Three Types of Decisions
There are three types of decisions in any organization or family. When decisions involve other people, it is important that everyone is clear about what kind of a decision is under consideration.

Command Decisions
These decisions have to be made by the boss or the person in charge. These decisions are so important that one person is solely responsible for making up his mind about what is to be done.

Hiring a key staff member, firing a poor performer, making an important investment decision, or even negotiating a new loan with the bank are all command decisions. They must be made by the person in charge.

Consultative Decisions
This is a decision where you, or the boss, ask for advice and take input from other people. You combine the opinions, ideas, and inputs of others, together with your own, and make a decision. Even though it invites the advice and participation of others, a consultative decision is not made based on that advice.

You may be thinking of hiring a new person, assigning someone a particular task, spending a certain amount of money on a business activity, or embarking on a new sales or marketing campaign. If you are the boss, you can ask for advice from everyone before you finally close the door and make your final decision.

Consensus Decisions
The third type of decision is one that is made on the basis of consensus. This is a democratic decision where everyone gets involved, discusses the pros and cons, and then agrees on what is to be done.

Sometimes, everyone is in agreement, and sometimes the decision is made by a democratic vote, where the majority rules. Once the decision has been made, everyone commits to making the decision successful, however they may have voted during the discussion phase.

May 1, 2009

Programming Ruby 1.9: The Pragmatic Programmers' Guide

Programming Ruby 1.9: The Pragmatic Programmers' Guide
Author: Dave Thomas, Chad Fowler, Andy Hunt
ISBN-10: 1934356085
ISBN-13: 978-1934356081

Book Description
Ruby is a fully object-oriented language, much like the classic object-oriented language, Smalltalk. Like Smalltalk, it is dynamically typed (as opposed to Java or C++), but unlike Smalltalk, Ruby features the same conveniences found in modern scripting languages, making Ruby a favorite tool of intelligent, forward-thinking programmers and the basis for the Rails web framework.

This is the reference manual for Ruby, including a description of all the standard library modules, a complete reference to all built-in classes and modules (including all the new and changed methods introduced by Ruby 1.9). It also includes all the new and changed syntax and semantics introduced since Ruby 1.8. Learn about the new parameter passing rules, local variable scoping in blocks, fibers, multinationalization, and the new block declaration syntax, among other exciting new features.

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