Bright Stove

Reflecting information risk journey

Archive for August 2014

REMOTE – Office not required – a brief review

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Working remotely is a practice that is familiar to many, especially in where I work today, so much so that we often take for granted its benefits, without even realizing their significance. I happened to come across this book recently, and enjoyed a new understanding and realization of what working remotely really has to offer, and how to make it work even better for us who often work from remote sites.

Remote – Office Not Required“, written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founders of 37Signals (recently has its name changed to Basecamp) is a highly successful company that developed the online project management tool, Basecamp. In “Remote”, Fried and Heinemeier shared their philosophy of “free to live and work wherever you want”. I found their articulation of the pros and cons, and how to deal with the cons while leveraging the pros refreshing. As such, I’m listing here what I have jotted down while going through the book; some of the key benefits, and suggestions on how to make remote work arrangement works effectively, both from the manager, and individuals’ perspectives. If anyone is interested to get a copy, the book is available at Amazon.com.

Benefits of Remote Work arrangement:
  1. Time saving
    • Commute – 1 to 3 hours a day, depending on where you are, that’s between 5 to 15 hours a week saving per employee
    • Can work anywhere that you feel comfortable; don’t need to stick to an office, or a home office
  2. Productivity improvement
    • Less interruption than working in the office (interruption factory) – possible to get work done only before or after others have arrived or left
    • Interruption disrupt flow and rhythm of work
    • True productivity happens only with uninterrupted span of time is made available for quality work to be done
  3. Work-life Balance
    • Improve quality of life of individuals
    • Have time for your hobby, interest (don’t need to wait for retirement) – music, biking, etc
    • Have more time with family
    • Improve employees’ loyalty and satisfaction
For it to work effectively, managers need to change mindset:
  • Trust
    • Employees are adults, don’t treat them like children – respect them and trust them to do their best work in their career
    • When people are respected and able to do their best work, they would stay with the organization
  • Control
    • Urge to have physical daily oversights
    • Shift to ensure people are working on meaningful work rather than seems working on something
  • Meetings
    • Meetings can be toxic and disruptive to productive work
    • An hour meeting involving five people is 5 hours of productive work loss.
    • Use email and IM in productive ways to replace need for meetings
    • Involve least number of people in a meeting wherever possible (a short chat will be more productive)
  • Office
    • Should be like the library, a place to learn and focus
    • Create separate private space for collaborative discussions
    • If you are going to have an office, it has to be inspirational – this is not possible for everyone; Remote gives people option to choose where they can be most comfortable to get the most done
    • Implement a “no-talk day” (NTD) in the office – tremendous amount of work can be done when there’s no interruption for a day; this would make the office a productive place, a go-to place when need to get things done (on the NTD).
  • Respect peoples space
    • Slow down to get more – use the email or other communication tool effectively. Again, use of collaborative workspace such as WebEx Social allows one to read, comments, feedback, and updates project status at their own convenient time.
Some other important considerations:
  • Time zone overlap – 4 to 5 hours overlap the best.
  • Great for creative and knowledge works
Face to face and social connection are still important – organize regular gatherings and offsites for such connections to get everyone closer will be more meaningful.

In addition to the book, I have found a number of Youtube videos, which Fried and Heinemeier shared some of their thoughts. Those videos should come in handy if you don’t have time to read the book:
Have a good time working remotely!

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Written by mengchow

August 10, 2014 at 10:00 am

Hard and soft bacon

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Last week at the 14th RAISE Forum meeting in Bangkok, the hotel served breakfast every morning. Among the wonderful selection of western and eastern dishes were two choices of bacon, crispy (hard), or soft, arranged in a specially shaped Yin-Yang Taoist design plate (see picture below). As shown in the picture below, the crispy bacon looks hard and slightly burnt, whereas the soft bacon looks tender and seems delicious. Most hotels serve crispy bacon but not the soft ones as part of the breakfast buffet menu. I took two slices of each, which perhaps nullified the five kilometer run I just had early that morning. I have not taken soft bacon for quite some time now so I went for it first, thinking that it would be more delicious and an easy start, since it must be soft and tender. On first bite, I then realized that it was actually neither tender nor soft. It’s texture was rather rubbery, and kind of hard to chew. Strange. It was a bit more salty than I liked as well. Not a good experience after all. On the other hand, the crispy bacon was neither hard nor tough to eat. A soft bite and it cracked in the mouth, releasing the juiciness of the bacon, and the slight burnt was indeed fragrant. The verdict – crispy bacon was delicious.

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At that moment, it reminded me of the notion of “hard” versus “soft” problems. Hard problems are such as those technical or engineering problems. They often seemed hard in the sense of difficult, or complicated, but normally can be solved if one put in the time, thinking, and efforts to work on them. On the other hand, soft problems are often not straight forward or as tender as they may sound like. Soft problems are problems relating to people, and group, the so-called “Human Activity Systems” (HAS). Every human being is different, and sees problems and challenges differently. Many personal and psychological factors could influence an individual’s decision, non-decision, action, non-action, and related behaviors, and often time a solution cannot be guaranteed. When people comes together forming groups, large or small, the problems become even “softer”, more complex to navigate, dissect and understand.

As I discussed in chapter 2 of “Responsive Security“, “information security risk management problems are considered ‘hard’ (difficult and complex) but are not ‘hard’ from a research perspective. Instead, information security risk management systems are essentially parts of human activities systems (HAS) and therefore classified as “soft” problems.” Just like the soft bacon, such problems are often harder to chew than the crispy ones, requiring more research efforts to understand the complexity and devise suitable solutions that address them. As the nature of our information environment are very much embedded and integrated with technology these days, we must also consider two other critical aspects of information risk that fall under the technical research paradigm: (a) the close relationship of information risks and information technology; and (b) the constantly changing nature of the technology, business systems, and environment. These two aspects, social-technical aspects in short, are but two of the many facets that we need to consider and address. For a more in-depth discussion on how we may approach this in the practice environment, and the issues and dilemmas that were surfaced as part of the research, check out chapter 3 of the book on “Responsive Security“.

Meanwhile, enjoy the good taste of the bacon, whichever you prefer 🙂

Written by mengchow

August 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

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