Haupz Blog

... still a totally disordered mix

Arvo Pärt

2022-10-01 — Michael Haupt

Back in 12th grade, our music teacher gave us an overview of several musical styles through the ages. To give one example of 20th century music, he played a piece by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. I was immediately hooked.

The music our teacher used was Pärt's St. John Passion, or rather its beginning. Hear for yourselves. Well, so that got me really interested, and off I went on some exploration.

I soon found that Pärt had written music in a rather progressive style at first, before he stopped composing for some time only to emerge with his typical personal style called "tintinnabuli". Before he fell silent for a while, he still finished his third symphony, which combines large orchestra (Bruckner style) with renaissance polyphonics. That already gave an indication of what was to come.

The new Pärt is highly meditative, contemplative even, and typically slow paced, using simple harmonics. It's "simple" or "minimal" music in the best possible sense: nothing can be taken away any more. Listening to it can be surprisingly challenging because it involves dealing with silence.

I recommend every single piece he's ever written. A wealth of them is available on the 'tubes.

Tags: music

Management Styles

2022-10-01 — Michael Haupt

What a nice little catalogue of management styles this is. Mine is a mix of 1+3, with a bit of 5 and 6 and a very occasional nugget of 10 (if I have to). Or so I believe. People should just tell me.

On a somewhat more serious note, this is an interesting guide not just for managers, but also for people who are thinking about switching career tracks to take on managerial roles, or who have just done so. I believe that two things will be true about the ultimate style someone exhibits:

  • First, it's going to be a mix of some of the ten styles, and never just one. Add in some situational sensitivity, and that becomes a good thing.

  • Second, it'll emerge from someone's personality rather than being a conscious choice. The latter may be possible, but the acting will show, and it'll look (and feel) unnatural.

The catalogue is even helpful for people in individual contributor roles - it can help them recognise certain behaviours and can serve them a framework for giving feedback in case they feel their manager isn't doing quite the right thing in certain situations. (Heck, I'd appreciate being told I'm in bureaucratic mode when I shouldn't be!)

Tags: work

Outcome Over Output

2022-09-18 — Michael Haupt

In the light of what I wrote about reducing the whole agility hoo-ha to just two questions for everyone to ask themselves some time ago, this article has some nice insights on a common misconception that has agility confused with speed of delivery. At a lower level and applied to software development, the confusion often is about project management vs., well, software development. If we measure velocity, we don't measure quality. Ultimately, what we should care about is quality, not velocity. Our customers most certainly care about quality more than about velocity. A prematurely released update that introduces bugs just doesn't land well. Anyone who ever installed a major macOS upgrade before the .1 version came out will know what I mean. But I digress.

Do yourself a favour and read the article, please - and in the two-questions framework, doing the most important thing can also mean to have a measurement in place that actually measures what's being delivered, instead of how much time is invested.

Tags: work

Bad Bones

2022-09-08 — Michael Haupt

I'd like to introduce another fun board game: Bad Bones. It's a board game rendition of a classic theme: tower defence.

Up to four players are facing the risk of having their tower and village raided and razed by an army of skeletons, who advance from the nearby woods. Whenever a skeleton reaches a tower or village, it inflicts damage, and as soon as either the village or tower of one player are destroyed, that player loses. Happily (?), those skeletons aren't too smart (how would they, without the brains to think) and move in very predictable ways. Also, they're just bones, so they can easily be smashed by the player's hero, who moves about the field freely.

The players can control how the skeletons move by placing traps. A skeleton hits a wall? It bumps off of it, takes a 90 degree turn, and continues moving in the new direction. A skeleton trips on a catapult? It flies off into the woods. And so forth.

Skeletons hitting walls and being sent off by catapult has consequences for those traps - they need to be repaired or will be permanently damaged after a second encounter with a skeleton. Skeletons moving off in new directions or flying around also has consequences - a skeleton entering the forest again will end up in the neighbouring player's playground, and catapults mean the player can choose which other player a skeleton is going to pester next.

Bad Bones can also be played in cooperative mode, wherein the players have to coordinate wisely to work with a shared pool of traps.

The game has very simple mechanics - which have complex implications. Players need to pay a lot of attention to using their resources, agree to losing some of their towers and village houses, and look ahead a few moves to anticipate skeleton movement. The random element of other players sending their skeletons one's way adds some spice.

It's a lot of fun, highly recommended.

Tags: games

Communication Traps

2022-09-04 — Michael Haupt

When communicating, we can fall into some common traps - and it's not just people in leadership positions who are prone to falling into them. I'll give them each with a headline including a symptomatic phrase, description of how one's behaviour looks in the trap, questions one can ask oneself to validate one's position, and suggestions for behaviour to get out of the trap.

  • The solution trap: "I know how to do this!"

    I'm being prescriptive rather than collaborative, I come with a canned solution rather than allowing one (probably better?) to emerge from discussion.

    Do I really know better? Am I bored and want this conversation to end?

    I should put myself in the other’s place, take their perspective, and try to ask myself open questions from there.

  • The ego trap: “I’m right about this!”

    I'm imposing yourself on others, rather than seeking common understanding.

    Am I really right? Am I too lazy to explain my point?

    I shouldn't counterargue. I should avoid using “but” / “no” / “however”; I should rather respect the other’s view and develop the next iteration from there by offering alternative perspectives.

  • The judgment trap: “This is why you did that!”

    I'm jumping to conclusions about the other’s motives rather than thinking about what might drive them.

    Am I seeking confirmation for some prejudice I have? What prejudice might I have? Might the other be after the same thing as I?

    I should assume good / shared intentions and ask questions to understand.

  • The Sinatrap: “Do it my way.”

    I'm imposing my way of doing things on the other rather than letting them find or follow their own way.

    Am I so convinced of my way that I don't see merit in any other? Do I just want the other to follow my rules, am I defending some ground?

    Unless actual harm is done, I should let the other be and seek to understand why they address things the way they do.

There are many overlaps between these, and the differences are often nuanced. They lie in the ulterior motives, which the validating questions hint at.

How does this work?

Tags: work, coaching

Billy Joel, Voices Only

2022-09-03 — Michael Haupt

Why is it that Billy Joel songs just seem to lend themselves to being converted to stunningly beautiful a-cappella renditions?

Here are two especially beautiful (and impeccably presented) examples. The vocal version of "And so it goes" was originally produced and performed by the excellent King's Singers, and here we have a performance. Another beautiful piece, "Lullabye", is here performed by the aforementioned King's Singers together with the equally wonderful Voces8.

Tags: music

Agile

2022-08-20 — Michael Haupt

I'll be bold here and try to wrap all things agile in just two questions. Let me know what you think.

The first one is this: Are you currently surely working on the most important thing the company needs from you?

If yes: good! Carry on!

If no (and this is the second question): Is it (a) because you're distracted/impeded or (b) because you don't know what the most important thing is?

In case it's (a): removing the distraction or impediment is now the most important thing the company needs from you. In case it's (b): finding out about the most important thing is now the most important thing the company needs from you. Communication is key in both cases, that's knowing, finding, and involving the right people.

That's it, no process hoo-ha is needed.

Process can (and will) emerge from applying this, e.g., having daily check-ins to regularly answer question 1 and ensure to stay on track, or disciplined paces to take note of distractions and impediments that keep happening (read: retrospectives).

Basically though, these two questions suffice and everybody should be empowered to be consequential about them.

Nuff said.

Tags: work

Anki

2022-07-27 — Michael Haupt

At the beginning of this year, I took a two-week intensive course to learn some basic Chinese. The intense vocabulary and letter memorisation that came with this refreshed my interest in flash cards. Preferably in an electronic form that synchronises across devices.

Thankfully, there's Anki. Note that this is an unpaid and unsolicited ad. I'm just very excited about this.

Anki runs in the browser, on desktop, and mobile. It synchronises flash card decks across all of these seamlessly. It has a price tag on mobile, but it's worth it.

What makes Anki really strong is that the design of flash cards is up to the user. There are HTML and CSS templates. It also automatically generates multiple cards from any entered content; that is, if you have a note describing a front and back side of a card, it'll generate two cards so that you can exercise the memorisation both ways. Of course, the note formats are also editable.

In my case, with Chinese, my notes have three aspects: the German word, the Pinyin transcription of the Chinese word, and the Chinese letter. I've built three card templates - each of the three aspects can be the front side so that I can memorise everything in every way possible. When I add a new piece of vocabulary, three cards will be generated, and next time I go through the deck, I'll be given those three questions.

The spaced repetition logic in Anki, too, is configurable, of course. The amount of daily new cards is limited to a low number at first, but it can be changed for times of super intense learning (like these) to have a higher limit - and that's even possible to configure per deck.

Anki is a bit idiosyncratic at first, and takes some getting used to, but it's a true power tool. Definitely worth the price. Did I mention it has a plugin interface?

Tags: the-nerdy-bit