Three ways to standardize

Option A.
We’ve already figure out the way.
We’ve a mean and lean team that works great.
Let’s standardize and replicate.
What works for this team will work for the others.

Option B.
We know each team is different.
We’ve unique individuals with their own skills and abilities.
Let’s facilitate each team to find their own way to make it.
Each team knows better how to make it by themselves.

Option C.
We haven’t figure out the way. We understand that each team is different.
But we know how to let each team figure out their own way.
Let’s standardize this.
And replicate.

To sum up…
The three options could work (and did it in the past!) depending on the environment, restrictions, culture and so on. The three options could also fail.

We’d better choose wisely and let ourselves learn from results. Then improve. Standardize. And replicate.

(*) Hint: nothing to do with the Monty Hall problem 😉


You don’t need to be busy to be working

What do I do if I have nothing to do?
I’ve just finished my current task. What should I do now

Chances are you don’t have anything to do right now. Don’t worry. It’s fine.

Industry 1.0 and 2.0 paved the way for people not having to think what to do next. Assembly line workers or people at offices would follow clearly defined procedures and systems. Put a nut into a piece. Put another nut into the next piece. Repeat for 8 hours. Go home. After that, the point was optimizing times and efforts so you could lower costs as much as possible.

But it happened that Lean, Toyota Production System and Theory of Constraints demonstrated that working at 100% (or more!) rate is not beneficial, but decreases productivity.

I was thinking on it last saturday, watching the RTVE Orchestra playing the Star Wars Suite.


An orchestra ensembles dozens of highly trained, highly skilled professionals to accomplish a common goal. They all play together to accomplish it.

They all play together? But then, who are that group of people sitting, silent and still, in the background? There are at least fifty of them. And they haven’t done a thing for the whole first two pieces. They don’t have instruments, by the way.


Are they even part of the orchestra?

In fact, they are. They are the choir. They just remained in the background, for eight minutes and a half, silent, still, not disturbing, maybe relaxing, focusing or doing a mental recap of the notes they are going to be singing for the next piece.

Could they be helping the guy with the drums on his beating. Clearly not.
Would they be of help turning the pages of the score of the man whith the trombone. Of course not.
So they just sit still.

Could they be out of the stage, behind the scenes, chating or having a drink? They always could enter after the end of the second piece.
Yes, they could. But it would not be efficient, nor a nice watch. They would last forever to enter and sit down, ruining the flow of the concert, distracting the crowd in attendance and the performers.

So they just sit still.

Having every people in the orchestra, in the team, busy 100% of the time, is not only bad for morale… it’s highly inefficient.

So whenever you face it, please, think clearly and, if you don’t have anything to do, just wait still, focusing for being ready to start working again the very moment it makes sense.


  • The Toyota Way (Liker): “Toyota management says it is OK to run less than 100% of the time, even when the line is capable of running full-time, yet Toyota is regularly ranked among the most productive plants in the auto industry. Why? Because Toyota learned long ago that solving quality problems at the source saves time and money downstream.”
  • Synchronize your watches (Seth): “The work itself now tells you when to start working on it, as the project is passed from desk to desk, from account to account.”
  • Managing the Unmanageable (Mantle and Litchy): “Prioritize. Sometimes, it is urgent to wait. […] When an unexpected issue comes up, engineers (mostly) tend to want to fix it right away to show their mettle, forgetting their actual priorities. It is actually more difficiult to sit back and wait first to understand the actual priority of the new issue” – Phac Le Tuan

Quotes: Meetings are toxic but so is bleach

Meetings are toxic. So is bleach. And, I hope, you wouldn’t stop cleaning your house.

Whenever a meeting is needed, you should make it as productive as possible

If you decide you absolutely must get together, try to make your meeting a productive one by sticking to this simple rules

* Set a timer.  When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
* Invite as few people as possible.
* Always have a clear agenda.
* Begin with a specific problem.
* Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room.  Point to real things and suggest real changes.
* End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.

DHH & Fried, Rework. “Meetings are toxic”.

But take into account that a productive meeting is not the same for everyone involved.

In order for you to feel a meeting was a great success, which of the following should happen?

A. In a good meeting, a decision is made.
B. In a good meeting, various viewpoints are discussed and debated.
C. In a good meeting, a formal stamp is put on a decision that has been made before the meeting.

The large majority of Americans responding to this question chose option A. The French, however, largely chose option B. And most Chinese and Japanese selected option C.

Erin Meyer, The Culture Map, “The big D, the small d”

What is the meeting for? Why are we meeting? Having in mind what are the expectations for the meeting will be a key step into making the meeting a productive one.

A lesson by the Washington Generals: Winning doesn’t make sense if you are playing an infinite game

“what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971” (Why I love The Washington Generals)

I’m a tennis player. But I do not play tennis to win. I do not play to lose either.

Adolfo, you ask, what do you play for?

play_the_infinite_gameI play for the challenge. And I play for the fun. I play for doing right the right things.

When everything out there was dangerous and risky, when every generation lived through a major war, when roads were dangerous, when it was win or die, you used to need to train to win at all costs. It’s no wonder that the original olympic games were all about throwing weapons, wrestling and jumping over walls and moats.

Many of our current sports are heir to this tradition although it makes no sense anymore. We are not throwing spears to our enemies, but we still keep trainning, and competing, on javeling throw.

But there are lots of sports that are not competitive:

  • Figure ice skating
  • Dancing
  • Tennis played among old glories from the 80’s

Of course you can compete (and we do) on figure ice skating. But subjective judges based on hard to understand criteria are the ones “choosing” who wins.
Of course a doubles tennis match Cash-McEnroe vs Lendl-Wilander can be competitive. But they’re not playing for the result. They’re playing for the fun. Their fun and the crowd’s fun. That’s why they arrange this awesome long rallies, full of trick shots, instead of going for the quick winner.

We have been taught that this is not as valid as a competitive match. We have been taught that this is not serious nor professional. We’ve been told that a professional must win. At all costs.

We have been fooled. Won’t get fooled again.

Every year the market is less about competing and more about cooperating, but win-win relationships won’t prosper until we all understand that sometimes competing is a root cause for the problem. Being able to force your supplier to a 10% cost reduction is not a win if next year you’re obliged to search for another supplier when the current one fills bankruptcy. Being able to sell a broken product to a customer is not a win if news spread and you loose trust and confidence from your customer base.

The Generals are not there for winning. They’re there for the fun.

“Their job is not, nor has it ever been to win championships. Like their long time rivals their job is to entertain a crowd. The fans may come to see the Globetrotters but it’s the Generals who see to it that the Trotters always do their best.” (Why I love The Washington Generals)


  • Why I love The Washington Generals (Dan The Generals Fan): “what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971”
  • The short game, the long game and the infinite game (Seth): “In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is.”
  • Turning competitive into cooperative: “Competitive games are useful for learning things like getting more than your fair share during a negotiation or like killing the enemies of your people.”

My PMP certification experience

First step: Wanting to get it

  • You are not going to get it unless you really want it. What is your key motivator? Having a clear answer is going to help you all along the way, when tired, bored or frustrated.

Second step: Training

  • You need to take at least 35 hours of training. In my experience 35 hours would be a little too little. Better apply for a 60-hour training course, which is roughly four hours of theory and two hours of practice for each of the ten knowledge areas.
  • Living in Zaragoza, the obvious choice was the one by ESIC. Quite expensive but the good teachers and the great classmates worth it. It also provides you with very convenient resources to prepare the exam after completing the training.

Third step: Applying

  • PMI is expecting you to have a few thousand hours of project management experience. The precise number of hours depends on your degree.
  • Good news is you don’t need lots of precision in justifying your hours. If you’ve been involved in projects for the last years, you should be able to demonstrate the experience. If not, you should check the CAPM certification instead.
  • Bad news is one out of ten applications will be audited. If you are one of the “lucky” ones, then you would need to contact some of your former managers or colleagues who can asses your experience. Normally they wouldn’t need to do anything besides signing the experience you have submitted in your original application so, in the end, is more of a hassle than a real problem.

Third step: Booking a date

  • Once your application is been approved, you could book a date, and a place, for taking the exam. You can take the exam digitally or in paper form. With the digital option you would have a more open set of dates. With the paper form your choosing is more limited.
  • Anyhow, I can’t find the words to tell you how IMPORTANT is to chose a date and book the exam. You are going to have a lot to study. A clear goal date will help you to find the willpower to start studying.
  • Try to take advantage of the momentum given by the training course and plan your exam for sometime between six and twelve weeks after the end of the training.
  • The exam is taken in english. When booking, you could check whether a translation in your native tongue is available as a support. If it is, ask for it. Nothing to loose.

Fourth step: keep your pace and try some tests

  • You should have planned your way through the theory. Whether you’ve planned it as a short sprint or as a long marathon, there is going to be ups and downs, so try to keep your pace.
  • You should check your progress every now and then with questions similar to the ones in the exam.

Fifth step: Passing the examproject-management-professional-pmp

  • You have four straight hours to answer 200 questions.
  • Take the first ten minutes in writing the main formulas and the table connecting the ten knowledge areas, the five process groups and the 49 different processes. It would let you use it as a guide when you start feeling exhausted, and you would calm down while doing it, so you would be able to take the first questions better.
  • If english is not your native tongue and you asked for a translation support, probably you would feel like reading some questions in both languages. Sometimes translation could misguide you.

Sixth step: Enjoy 🙂

  • You should get the results sometime between right after finishing your digital exam, or two weeks after finishing your paper-based exam.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, take your partner or some friends to have a nice dinner, and enjoy your success. 🙂

Related: Consejos para estudiar y preparar el examen PMP y CAPM del Project Management Institute (Daniel Echeverría)

Ask for availability, not for sit hours

R&D jobs are not like an assembly line.

You don’t need to optimize each and every second. You don’t need to maintain a pace minute after minute…after minute… after minute.

On the contrary, you need to keep getting your mind freshen up every now and then.

What are you paying for when you hire someone for a 40 hour-week R&D position?
If you are working on R&D, you shouldn’t be paying for presence, but for availability.

we are not in a hurry to be in the juice

“we are not in a hurry to be in the juice”

Being paid for presence implies you need to have your butt on the chair, you need to fill both your daily hour-reports and some arbitrary empty space where work is supposed to happen. You need to use the presence tracking system and you need to show up every day no matter what, if you want to be seen as productive, if you want to avoid punishment…

But if paid for availability, you are focusing on doing the job, on helping others, on flexibility. You are not supposed to be at your desk, or on your chair or any other empty space where work is supposed to happen. In fact, you are supposed to be making work happen, wherever this needs to be done.

Make work happen. Anywhere. Just be sure you are available. Available just in case your co-workers need your help. Available if your customer is trying to tell you that the priorities have changed. Available if someone should rearrange some work because a supplier is going to be late.

What are you paying for when you sign someone for a 40 hour-week R&D position? When in doubt, don’t pay for presence, but for availability.


  • Synchronize your watches, Seth Godin. “Factories required synchronization, so that workers would all show up at the same time […]Today, of course,[…]Work is no longer time-based. It’s now project based.”
  • Trickle down workaholism in start-ups, DHH. So don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking […] It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and well being of others like cannon fodder.

Building bridges, not walls

On one hand there are walls. The people at Troy, the people at Jericho, build walls millennia ago.


A wall used to keep your family, your business, your house, your art and your temples safe from strangers. At night, everyone belonging to the community, gathered inside the safety of the city walls.

But then artillery came in, and military air crafts did it too. And walls were reduced to dust or became touristic attractions. Walls are not a shelter anymore.

On the other hand there are bridges. People have been building bridges for millennia. Ancient Romans built bridges still in use today.

With a bridge you can safely cross through a river and go to the next village. You can use it to go visit your parents, or to reach the market to buy some goods you don’t have on your own town.puente_de_piedra_zaragoza

Strangers will make use of the bridge to connect to you. To reach your village, and your business and your loved ones.

Bridges are still in full use. Every city has been building bridges to ease communication problems. And bridges, the ancient and the new ones, have become touristic landmarks too.

A wall can’t keep your business, your team, your project safe anymore. Your best developer will be tempted by a job offer from a company who operates with remote teams in three different continents. Your competition is operating under some Asian country laws. Your Australian customer is expecting your product to be delivered right to them, no middlemen involved.

But a bridge is more useful than ever, to connect your business, your team, your project. Your best developer will be working with a supplier’s interface to integrate your product into theirs. You will need someone with a clear understanding of how things work in the places where your competition is located. You can send products from one part of the world to the other easier than ever, and you can get direct feedback from your customer in a matter of seconds.

Bridges are at least as safe, and much more productive, than walls.

How much effort are you spending on building bridges and walls?


Related: Burning Bridges (Seth Godin) “A bridge well-crossed gets better over time. When you need to break it down to push through, you’ve not only hurt the person you trampled on, you’ve hurt your reputation.”