I have a “good feeling” about this !


Staring at data is a big part of my job – but it’s very rare that data alone gives me direction on what to do next . Data needs to be put into the context of what I feel (and what others feel) and then some decision gets made . So in reality – I am not really data driven , I am more “data enabled” when it comes to my decision making process .

What I feel – perhaps what can be called my intuition – is based on my past experience . So I often wonder how useful it will be to depend on intuition when it comes to decisions about future . That led me to think about my feelings a little more – and that led me to three (overlapping) possibilities on why I decide to go forward with some decision

1. I like and trust the people who will execute on it

This doesn’t happen unless I know them really well . And amongst the people I know – only a few fall into this category when I think about it more . With such people , I feel strongly that they are so driven that they will make it happen irrespective of challenges I can anticipate . The reality unfortunately is that my success rate is only that of a coin toss . While some data comes into play – it’s really not data driven or data enabled if I am honest about it . I will however add that when everything else is “iffy” – I trust my judgement of people and make bets on it . In such cases – at least so far – it’s been better than coin toss odds for success .

2. I understand it from first principles

These usually turn out to be my best decisions – I understand the problem well from the ground up , and consequently I have a framework to evaluate solutions . All the examples I can think of have ended well – but I am sure there is some bias in my thinking, so let’s say 80% success rate . I can use data to validate my assumptions and mental models – so these are data enabled decisions .

3. I can see the potential tweaks needed to make it work

These are usually things like redesigning the process , having a different leader for the team , resetting the business case etc . I think this is where experience comes in handy – because it’s essentially pattern recognition that is helping me . To increase my odds, I also tap into my network for their experience once I figure out the pattern . Interestingly , this is the category where historic data comes in handy . Quite often – it’s staring at data that gives me a starting hypothesis on what needs to be tweaked .

The time dimension

I try hard to be thoughtful about the decisions I make that have large and/or long term impact . That needs time to deliberate . I conserve my time, energy and brainpower to make such decisions by routinely delegating whatever I can to my team . But even then – a third of the time , I will have to make snap judgments with limited time to deliberate .

As I look back at examples of such decisions – I see an interesting trend . When I have delegated and conserved my time and energy – my snap judgments generally turn out to be ok more often than not .

What is the net net ?

I am convinced that we don’t really need human decision making if it’s purely data driven – such decisions should be automated ( with manual over rides and other precautions on ethics/security etc taken care of ) . Humans (generally) should only have to care about data enabled decisions .

What’s the weakest link here ?

There are two ways to think about data enabled decision making . One is using data to find answers to questions you defined . The other is defining questions based on data . The former is largely a solved problem already . The latter is what keeps us employed 🙂

The “Stupid me” loop


My mornings start early with a ten minute training session with the (not so) little Archie . For the last few sessions, I have been having some trouble getting a certain specific result and yesterday I went into a familiar loop of “Stupid technique – Stupid dog – Stupid me” .

The familiarity is not from training dogs – it is from my past life as a programmer 😆

When I used to get stuck with a difficult problem – and a few attempts wouldn’t solve it , I would get into this spiral of self doubt . I remember the horror on a fellow engineer’s face when I told her “That’s it – I am done – I am switching to sales or management”. My appreciation for source code version control grew manifold those days because I invariably would destroy perfectly good code trying to fix one problem .

In the case of training Archie, it’s just a hobby . There is no real impact if he doesn’t win all the big titles . So it seems illogical that self doubt would even come up like it used to for actual work .

Thankfully the approach to break out of this problem is something I can borrow from my engineering experience . Every time I have run into the “stupidity loop”, the problem eventually got solved by me or another colleague in the team . The problem was never the person really – it was always the technique or approach . I am trusting that the problem I am facing with Archie is not that he or I are stupid – it’s some stupidity in our technique and I just need to figure out a way to diagnose it and then fix it .

A seasoned manager once told our team – I know you guys don’t care about managers like me . But someone needs to be mature enough to know which problems are perfectly fine to leave for support tickets . The man had a point – so after all it might still be “stupid me” behind all my current grief. The common factor in all my disasters is … ME !

For now , we are just going to visit the neighborhood Starbucks and attack some emails .

What I learned about work from cooking


Some of you already know that I enjoy cooking . A long time ago, I landed in Colorado without knowing how to make a cup of coffee or an omelette. But since that time, I have picked up some “hobby” level skills . Talking about cooking with a friend, we realized there are some life lessons – and perhaps some “work” lessons – that can be gleaned . I thought it will be fun to share .

  1. Scale is VERY difficult : I can make a near perfect Biriyani for 6 people . I have failed miserably trying to make it for 20 – and also the one time I tried to make it for just my daughter and me . Much like business – every step change needs a rethink !
  2. The real skill is making a great dish with what you have available : We all want A players to work with , perfectly defined requirements and so on . The reality is you often have to make do with the cards you are dealt .
  3. Solid technique and first principles matter : life is easier and more fun in the kitchen when you have good knife skills , and know the basics of temperature control , how “less is more” and have good tools . Knowing the basics of people/process/tech helps work through new problems at work easier too
  4. Hygiene and organization is your best friend : I clean as I go and try to minimize number of utensils for any dish . I also prep everything I need at hand before I start cooking . At work – there is no compromise on effient ops , and I try hard to reuse what’s already available as information and process
  5. Proof of the pudding : is of course in the eating , but also in the cooking . If I didn’t enjoy the process – I would have just eaten out and left cooking to real chefs . Outcomes absolutely matter , but if you don’t enjoy the sausage making too – you won’t do it well for long . Who you do it with matters too . My daughter is usually my sous chef and chief taster 🙂
  6. Experiment, learn and share : That’s how cooking got better for me . It’s also how work gets better . Mistakes are a given . It’s good to learn from mistakes – but even better if you share with others on how to avoid and mitigate . Share the outcome too – both your finished dishes as well as any goodness from your life and work !

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