Regurgitating?

Well, I just had to write about this since people in general and some, in particular, like to regurgitate the same things again and again. Regurgitating[1], of course, adds value for yourself if you are going to learn and practice but it adds little value to the already existing knowledgebase. Internet especially because of its open nature is a place where regurgitating ideas and information happens on a much larger scale. Sometimes they are just clickbait[2] and sometimes they are outright wrong in the information that is being presented.

This is generally a waste of resources and time since no new information is added. Regurgitation does not extrapolate or induce new ideas to already existing ones. There is no added benefit and/or value (derived / direct / indirect). The best it can do is not distort the information for the unoriented and the worst it can do is create totally false and divergent information with some roots in facts and most other in baseless assumptions.

Parsing information over the net and getting to understand the context, as well as the base of the information, is a very good engineering problem. Identification of fake news, for instance, is one such area where quite a few algorithms are implemented. But the problem with such algorithms is that they only allow for regurgitation of information. Any content which builds up on top of the regurgitated information can be detected as “anomaly” in the fake news detecting algorithms.

Personally, I think academia is doing the right thing. Any regurgitated information needs to be properly referenced. Ideas that are built on information which is not referenced properly should be rejected. This is not something new, blockchain is already based on such a referencing scheme just to name one of the technologies. In the ideal world, if all the information is referenced properly, one can focus on plagiarism instead of an anomaly detection routine to get rid of regurgitated information without restricting the building of new ideas and concepts.

As one of my friends always used to say, everything builds on top of one another. Her argument was that if even our imaginations, dreams, etc. build-up on existing information that is available to us. And I kind of agree with her on that aspect. So to conclude, let’s regurgitate information but make proper references and remove plagiarism.

[1] – https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/regurgitate
[2] – https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=clickbait

Vision & Mission Statements

Vision and mission statements are very important in setting the organizational culture and leadership values in any organization. The organizational aspirations are valued by the vision statements whereas the mission statements put the vision in the context of the business environment and push the organization to execute for the achievement of that vision. In simple words, “a vision is what the company aspires to BE, and mission is what the company is in the business to DO”[1].

The vision and mission statements in any organization ensure that everyone is working towards common goals and objectives. These two statements pave the way and generate a roadmap for defining & aligning with the strategic objectives and goals in any organization. They, in general, define the purpose of existence for the company and also act as guidelines for general decision making within the organization.

The vision of any organization is generally a futuristic one and shows where the company wants to be and what it wants to achieve. The mission shows the path to achieve that vision and is generally embedded into what the organization is doing right now and how it joins the present and the future to align with the vision. Many organizations use these statements interchangeably without understanding the subtle difference in both.

Vision sets strategic objectives and goals. The mission allows one to steer the organization towards obtaining those strategic objectives and goals and associated decision making in any aspect. A correct understanding of these two invariably helps the organization to align and gravitate towards a common point, increasing efficiency and productivity, and reducing unnecessary deviations in the execution of the strategy.

According to Harris (2007), “Identity encourages employees to interpret corporate identity and apply it to their unique situation and skill set. Guiding principles serve as a platform to nurture desired behaviors in the organization. Together, these two tools better prepare staff to respond to customers”[2]. The customers in context can be both internal and external customers as well as stakeholders who are synced and aligned according to the vision and mission statements.

Proper vision and mission statements allow for the generation of corporate identity and guiding principles. Company brand value and brand management also has a huge dependency on the vision and mission statements which builds the identity of the organization. They also allow for power decentralization and delegation as the alignment and orientation of the employee is the same as that of management and allows for quick and rational decision making. What do you say?

[1] – Project Management Institute (2018). The standard for portfolio management. Newtown Square, Pa: Project Management Institute, p.32.
[2] – Harris, P. (2007). We the people: The importance of employees in the process of building customer experience. Journal of Brand Management, 15(2), pp.102.‌

Going back to OpenWRT

About a couple of months ago, I went from OpenWRT to Gargoyle on my Netgear R6220 router. You can read more about it here. I had setup a couple of networks with one hidden and not isolating clients whereas the other one doing the reverse. Now everything was OK but the Gargoyle used to crash my kernel whenever a new device tried to join the unadvertised network. The different interfaces were also brought down. Again, there are certain features of OpenWRT that I really missed with one being the ability to create multiple virtual radio interfaces and the other being the flexibility with adblock host lists.

So, I wanted to go back to OpenWRT. Gargoyle runs on top of OpenWRT but both the kernel and the rootfs were modified to a very big extent by Gargoyle. Telent was not enabled and doing a sysupgrade didn’t work for me. So I did the following procedure to get back to OpenWRT from Gargoyle.

root@Andromeda:~# cat /proc/mtd
dev:    size   erasesize  name
mtd0: 00100000 00020000 "u-boot"
mtd1: 00100000 00020000 "SC PID"
mtd2: 00400000 00020000 "kernel"
mtd3: 01c00000 00020000 "ubi"
mtd4: 00100000 00020000 "factory"
mtd5: 03c00000 00020000 "reserved"

As can be seen above there are 6 mtd devices on the R6220. MTD2 (kernel) and MTD3 (ubi) are the kernel and the rootfs respectively. Since sysupgrade was throwing invalid file format errors, I had to do mtd writes on the respective MTD devices directly using the command below.

mtd -r write /tmp/kernel.bin kernel
mtd -r write /tmp/rootfs.bin ubi

The above allowed me to go back to OpenWRT without the LUCI interface.

opkg update
opkg install luci

Allowed me to install Luci and configure my router like normal. In the middle, I did need to do a

sysupgrade -n -v /tmp/sysupgrade.bin

to get to a nice working OpenWRT version. The packages for the router are available on “OpenWRT Snapshots”. Hope this helps!

Academics & industry

According to the University of Manchester, ” Academics generally work within a university, combining research, teaching and administrative duties. Academics are the life-blood of a university, without whom the institution would not exist”[1]. Academics have a very systematic approach to research which provides lots of benefits when it comes to the introduction or evolution of new/existing concepts and/or processes. The way academics detail out each and every aspect of a subject under consideration is amazing. Exceptions are taken care of from an academic perspective and most of the corner cases are covered in the research subject.

Industry, on the other hand, is the one which uses/builds on top of the research provided by academics to improve various aspects related to the subject matter. For instance, a new pattern recognition algorithm invented by academia is used by the industry to improve the accuracy of object detection and identification by the industry. Most of the technical research by academia is brought to the general public by the industry.

But my feeling is that process implementation, especially on business methodologies is a bit deviant and the research carried on by the academia is not taking real-life aspects into consideration. I was going through the excellent paper on best practices in project portfolio management for dynamic decision making[2]; wherein 9 different best practices have been highlighted. And I do agree that if everything would work as expected in the industry, many more companies would have successful project portfolios to boast about.

Some of these best practices, in today’s world in the industry, is just considered to be unnecessary overhead work providing very little value in terms of revenue generation. For example, one of the best practices mentioned in the paper talks about awareness of PPM in the organization. The arguments given in the paper are very valid but when it comes to the industry, giving training and investing in PPM awareness within the organization means adding overhead costs on people training. If the attrition rate in such companies is higher, it might need to spend more money for training purposes. Also bringing in people from various departments to sit together for such training is a statistical nightmare in large organizations.

Again, some of the projects run by certain departments can be seen as worthless when looked at from a portfolio perspective. An example can be an improvement in the CI process within a small department which takes in supplier deliveries. The improvement in CI process might mean little in terms of what the department is offering to its internal stakeholders. But the improvement might have an impact on the anticipated work in the future. These projects are also known as pet projects in the industry which do not show up on the portfolio’s and/or programs/projects generally run with the blessings of the line management.

Another aspect is political considerations which the academia for the right reasons cannot really concentrate upon. What I would like to see is a more practical approach to research where the research is validated against an industry. Many of the best practices need to be adjusted and probably re-evaluated in terms of investment efforts to check on the feasibility of implementation.

What is your view?

[1] – Manchester.ac.uk. (2019). What do academics do? (The University of Manchester). [online] Available at: http://www.academiccareer.manchester.ac.uk/about/do/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2019]
[2] – Kharat, V.. and Naik, B.K.. (2018). Best practices in project portfolio management for dynamic decision making. Journal of Modern Project Management, 6, pp.89–95.

Leadership & BRM

Leadership has to be one of the key critical factors for the successful implementation of the Benefits Realization Plan (BRM) in any organization. Delegation of responsibilities as well as delegating the needed rights to carry on the successful implementation of the BRM needs flexibility; trust & faith as well as blessings of leadership on all levels. A benefits champion ideally should be a group of individuals from various departments who are more involved with the strategy and business side of the organization. A benefits steering group can be formed which should be directly responsible for not only the BRM but also effective execution of the same with the project management office (PMO) and/or portfolio management teams.

I think both autocratic and democratic leadership would both more or less fail in such an endeavor. Autocratic leadership will be immature to make any kind of relevant information since the information flow would be hampered. And democratic leadership will be simply too busy trying to achieve consensus at various decision points.

A mix of strategic and transformational leadership is the need of the hour for a successful BRM execution. Strategic leaders anticipate future needs and steer the organization in the present so as to meet those future needs. Similarly, transformational leadership allows one to drive the change in the organizational processes and motivates the organization to transform into a high performing asset.

It is very hard for any other kind of leadership to achieve the goals for the BRM and align with the BRM core principles. Higher maturity and higher delivery capability are indeed achieved by the right leadership from top to bottom. One more important thing regarding organizational change is to make sure that leaders don’t frequently restructure the organization based on half-baked or half-thought-through plans.

I had been working for a company where organizational change every 6 months was the norm. The changes would happen in the name of restructuring due to financials, agile implementation, redundancy management, decreasing product turn around times, etc. That organization literally suffered from productivity issues and all the projects were behind schedule most of the time. The best and talented employees in this company left their jobs. These were replaced by fresh engineers without any industry experience. The people who were left in the organization viewed these fresh engineers as fodder for the near future layoffs which were a norm. Worst of all, the managers were revolving like a constellation managing one team to another every 6 months without giving any stable environment to the teams.

Leadership in this particular organization were initiating changes every 6 months, half-implementing them and hoping that things would work out this time. The organization in question was saved after a dramatic drop in its share price, losing almost 100% of its previous market valuation and a change in the very top management with a new CEO (and of course Donald Trump). Now you probably know who I am talking about but the point remains, leadership is an important skill and the top leadership defines the path with mid and lower-level management will follow.

Whats your view?