Internet of Things

Are you interested in the internet of things? Whether you're in facilities or federal program management or general business, here are a handful of articles I found helpful when I went looking for more than just the basic definition to try and wrap my head around the magnitude of all of this stuff that will be connected and communicating in the future.

Fascinating, right?!

The Internet of Things Is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes, by Daniel Burrus

A Simple Explanation Of 'The Internet Of Things', by Jacob Morgan (INCLUDES A VIDEO!)

The Internet of Things, by Michael Chui, Markus Löffler, and Roger Roberts

Welcome back!

Welcome back!?! I say that in part as a greeting and part as a little personal pep-rally.  The buying, wrapping, cooking, celebrating, honoring, remembering, and forecasting-- it's all done for 2015. I'm both a little sad and immensely grateful that "things" will be getting back to normal this week. 

How were your holidays?  Great, I hope. The Christmas part, frankly, seems like a distant memory at this point. We had the kids home for the last four days. I'm obligated to say how wonderful that was-- and it was, of course-- but it's all-consuming and has the effect of erasing my short-term memory.  What were we talking about? Oh yeah, the holidays... 

So what's true for me about the ups and downs of the holiday season is that a perfect storm is created with the over-buying, over-eating, and over-self assessing.  All of this is done just in time for New Year's Resolutions. We're all feeling pretty icky so it's no surprise that most of us spent a little time over the last couple of days coming up with a couple of goals or, at least, acknowledging that last year's resolutions are still undone so they can just be dusted off for 2016.

Goal-setting is something I look forward to each year. I have a lengthy process that includes a lot of google image searching with some Pinterest pinning breaks (for recipes and outfits totally unrelated to whatever I'm trying to accomplish.)  This year was the mostly the same. I'll be serving my existing clients in new ways and working on winning a couple of new ones along the way.  I'm really excited about that.  I'm finetuning my writing to focus on the audience most near and dear to my heart-- younger, professional women facing many of the same challenges that I did earlier in my career. So, I'm really excited about that too. I have the common ones around health, finances, and personal relationships that are really more reminders of my values instead of out-in-out goals.

There were a couple of things I found interesting and helpful this year. This blog post about writing your goals in the past tense-- as if it were a year from now-- came from my wonderful author coach, Angela Lauria.  It's an interesting way to think about it.  After I read hers, I rewrote a portion of mine and was surprised about how easily the words spilled out. And I don't know about you but I'm dying to see the pictures of her upcoming Medieval Ball wedding!

If you're still on the fence about whether or not writing goals down is for you or not, my question would be this... if nothing changed next year, would that be ok? Most everyone I know is interested in some kind of continuous improvement. I'm a big believer in personal goal-setting and this quote from Zig Ziglar sums up why..."With definite goals you release your own power, and things start happening.”  

So get after it! Your 2016 is waiting!

deliciously technical and controversial

My meetings started here this morning. As my grandfather would have said it, "We couldn't have had a prettier day." And, it's AUGUST.  In DC.

Gorgeous weather aside, I had the pleasure of working with a group of scientists gathered in DC this week to share their climate change research and talk about the challenges they see in doing this work going forward.

As is so often the case with highly-skilled experts, the technical challenges are big-- no doubt-- but those don't scare them. The issues that keep them up at night are around talking about their findings, building understanding and acceptance, gaining support, and, ultimately, seeing behavior change. In short, all of the communications stuff. I learned this week that answering the common question, "what do you do?" can start a debate in a bar.

The vested man above is Paul Ollig. He's a National Park Service employee and the Chief of Interpretation for the National Mall and Memorial Parks.  He's a fantastic storyteller-- if you ever have a chance to walk the Mall with him, you're guaranteed to learn something new. So, Paul led a tour today for this group of climate scientists to talk about climate change impacts to the Mall and the city and park's adaptation efforts-- including the construction of a massive levee to protect the monuments from storm surges.

Before setting off, he opened up a discussion on what techniques are effective when talking about climate science. The insights shared by the group were great-- and I think can be a good starting point to communicating any highly technical and controversial material.

  1. Humanize your work. Describe why you personally are drawn to the specifically challenges. What experiences or beliefs lead you to this point?
  2. Chunk the message. Talking with someone who is incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their work can feel like being sprayed with a fire hose. Be able to chunk your message into "bite site" points and know how to sequence them in case people ask for more information.
  3. Avoid trigger words (audience-dependent). Know your audience and what trigger words might cause them to shut down and stop listening. For some, "climate change" are those trigger words that have such a strong association that it might be difficult to overcome someone's position. The goal often is to talk about the impacts, the risks, the behavior changes needed, etc. Being flexible enough to do that with more general language can keep a much-needed conversation going.
  4. Make it visual. Snow, I learned, is a visually compelling way to talk about climate change. What are the pictures that help people understand the risks and impacts of your issue?  Use those.
  5. Take opportunities to talk with kids. Of course, any conversation with a kid has to be age appropriate-- and ideally pre-approved by a parent or teacher.  The point is though that kids help you test how accessible your message is. Can a 5th grader understand your point? Kids will also has great questions and will typically come to a conversation with fewer preconceived ideas. If nothing else, you both might learn something.

One of my colleagues has this great picture of Einstein with a quote that reads, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."  I love this because it's so true. Times (many, many times) in the past that I've stumbled over technical messages have come down to precisely this problem.  My understanding was more superficial that I realized. Engaging with an active listener can quickly reveal those holes.  

So, if there was one overarching recommendation, it would be to know your topic well.  Know it so well that you can avoid jargon or terms that only another technician would understand. My key takeaway from meeting with these awesome scientists this week is that they're not out to impress anyone with their smarts-- though their knowledge and skills certainly are impressive.  They've trying to make a difference in the world and you can only do that by bringing others along.

move right

When we win a new consulting job there is excitement and movement. The win justifies the research, writing, thought, and collaboration work invested. That’s exciting. The hunt is over and it paid off this time. 

There is also movement- a state of being our business model depends on.  Without much seasonality to the sales cycle, we need a reason for things to happen. Wins mean new project assignments and elevated responsibilities that are certainly good for the victors. The vacancies left create a trickle-down effect that is generally good for everyone else.

Without the swirl and churn of a periodic win, the business feels stagnant—even as billable hours flow and profits earned.

So we go in search of more wins. Because of the limits on discretionary spending and the finite nature of most budgets, we push beyond the clients serve today to find a client we’re not yet serving. In and of itself, this pursuit isn’t wrong but in practice it is distracting. 

Between wins, there is a better way to create movement. Instead of bouncing to the next RFP, we can dig in—really dig in—on the issue we were hired to solve. While fulfilling the client’s need, we can find the others working this issue (wherever they might be), start conversations, do the primary research, explore, talk to, test out, and refine the solutions. 

Every win should mean fulfilling the commitment to the client AND making a contribution to the community.


what are you talking about?

No, really. It's an honest question. What are you talking about?

I came across The Good Men Project during a typical click to click to click browsing session. I was curious to learn what was meant by "good men" and why the hell this too had to have the "project" bit at the end. (I think PMI's relentless marketing is to blame for the runaway use of this term for anything and everything people want to say, do, or explore on the Internet. Time for a universal find and replace!)

Anyway, I got sucked in and spent a good hour or so clicking around trying to understand what good men are talking about. Scanning the site, I saw stuff on social and family issues, professional challenges, and personal values. This are thoughts on how to raise good children, achieve work/life balance, and improve relationships.

I was surprised. I guess not surprised that men were talking about these things (after all there are men's opinions all over the place) but previously unaware that they were swapping views within a circle of other men.

Prior to coming across this site, I'd imagined that most man-to-man conversations (outside of work or direct father to son type stuff) were focused on sports, maybe a little politics, and on the one slow sports day each year, you might get a a calendar review that went something like, "I went to X, then ate Y, then sat in traffic back to X."

To my knowledge, no such site exists for women. In fact, women have been trying to un-have the conversation about what makes a "good woman" for more than 50 years now.

It made me wonder what people are talking about within their circles of same-ness.  For me? I have a pretty good handle on running conversations among federal management consultants (procurement is broken), working moms (there's never enough time), and half-assed vegans (green smoothies count, right?)

Reflecting on what people are talking about with others they view most similar to them (in life stage, circumstance, interests, race, religion, and so on) provides a lot of insights into their worries and priorities. Understanding these ongoing conversations is important-- not so that we can parachute in to solve them-- but so that we can better understand each other, be more empathetic, and more helpful when the opportunity presents itself.

It's sometimes difficult to answer the question-- what's on your mind? To get to the same place we might instead ask, what are you talking about?

the truth about change

Didn't George Carlin have a classic joke about driving? It went something like -- anyone driving faster that you is a maniac, anyone slower is an idiot. So, so true. And actually, the same is true about change at work. The bottom-line is that we're all most comfortable when we're in the driver's seat and controlling the speed.

So, counter to the concept that “people hate change,” the desire for change is fundamental to who we are. We just want to be in charge of change and how it impacts us. We can’t help but observe our surroundings and think of all the ways our processes, relationships, and environments could be better. 

And we crave impact from that change—and not in a static, predictable kind of way. We crave being part of a team and being connected to others. This isn’t an introvert versus extrovert thing, but a recognition that we all need and want to feel part of something greater than ourselves. 

We want to leave our mark by making changes—even slight ones—to our world. This desire is most often channeled through our work but because we’re paid to do so, an immediate, dynamic tension is created. As we arrive at the office or log on in our jammies from home, we become a force driven to make change. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’m thinking when slogging through hundreds of e-mails each day.

And on that point, what if you’re already feeling overworked and overwhelmed? Doesn’t pitching new ideas just make matters worse? Is it even worth it?

This is one of those cases where the opposite is true. You feel better when you proactively pitch ideas and pursue the changes that you want to see at work because it puts you in the driver’s seat. Conversely, we get anxious when we cede control of our days and stop being the director of our own energy.

All of our organizational constructs—the org chart hierarchies, networks, training sessions, meetings—were all created to tamp out, fan, guide, or otherwise control all that energy. Taking some of that control back can be accomplished by thoughtfully pitching an idea.

this is your career

Available on Amazon!

Available on Amazon!

This is your career. Whether you have your dream job or “just a job,” you owe it to yourself to bring your best ideas forward. If you’re doing work today in exchange for money, it all counts toward the body of work that is your experience, your contributions, your career.

Waiting to do your best work until a better role comes along is a lost opportunity regardless of whether you plan to stay in this line of work in the future.

Once you make the decision to fully participate in your career (and if you’re reading this, my guess is that you made that decision a long time ago), getting leadership buy-in and support for your ideas is essential. Not taking action because you can’t (or because you don’t want to try) to earn your boss’s buy-in is, ultimately, an excuse and one that completely impedes your ability to meaningfully contribute.

Don’t you owe it to yourself—and your ideas—to share them?

Today, I'm launching my first book, Flock: Getting Leaders to Follow. It's the why and how to gain leadership buy-in and support for your ideas so that you can have the kind of impact you want in your career.  Click here to download a copy and let me know what you think!


fit in or stand out

To advance your career, you can only do one at a time. Trying to do both will make your head spin—and not in a good “just a glass of rose on the patio” kind of way.

Ahh. It’s really lovely here in DC at the moment. And, it’s really just for the moment because, as any resident will tell you, the weather here is exempt from complaining only about 2 days a year. It’s either too cold or too hot and humid to do anything—so we all just work, instead.

Some of the lovelies that I have the pleasure of working with daily had me thinking about this tug we all feel from time to time. It’s a tug that pulls us in-- seeking ways to make ourselves fit. At other times, it’s a tug the other way—a pull to stand up and stand out. 

Both states of being at work are right and are both important. Despite what your coach or momma might tell you, you can’t be all one way, all of the time. Building awareness of where you are in your career, what the organization needs from you at the moment, and how to intentionally toggle between the two is an important skill.  

Understanding that being new to the job or newly promoted probably warrants a period of learning the ropes and fitting in. Your days might be filled with a lot of active listening, reading, studying others, and sticking pretty close to delivering what you’ve been asked to produce. 

Other times demand that you intentionally stand up and stand out. Big changes on the horizon? Is leadership needed to set a more profitable course for the future? Assuming that you’re working under normal office conditions (i.e., not managing a crisis response team in Nepal), efforts to stand out are more effective when done from a foundation of understanding. When you have a solid grasp of your organization’s purpose and culture, your ideas and suggestions come from a point of strength and awareness, as opposed to wild ass guesses about what might just work.