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Runners: slow down every so often

8 March 2017

Recently I have been focusing my running on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) thanks to one of Tim Ferriss‘ podcasts where he interviews Martin Gibala. I learned from the podcast and subsequent reading that my Interval sessions weren’t hard enough. To be more precise, my hill intervals were fine but many of my other sessions needed to be more intense.

Most of my runs for the past few weeks have either been 3 x 5 min with 2 min recoveries or 10 x 1 min with 1 min recoveries. It’s hard work but I think it’s paying dividends. It’s also an efficient use of the limited time I have for running. Most of the runs were on pavement so that I could focus on speed and effort. I much prefer running off road as it gets me away from cars and the views are nicer too.

I hadn’t just gone out for a run for a few weeks – a run with no goal apart from running itself. So the day after one of my HIIT runs I decided to go for a run through some local woods. 20 minutes into the run I reached a clearing where the sun was shining down on the green grass. I heard the birds chirping and singing and enjoyed the scenery.

I had missed it! I had been so focused on the HIIT training that I had forgotten one of the reasons I love to run: the joy of being outdoors, allowing my mind and body to wander wherever they wanted to go. I find that the mental benefits I get from running at least equal the physical ones.

So, if you find yourself focusing on training to the exclusion of anything else then try slowing down once in a while. Your immediate goal might be a 5k PB or completing a marathon but that shouldn’t detract entirely from the other reasons you run.

Avoiding the 10,000 step fallacy

16 February 2017

In March 2016 I was given a Garmin Forerunner 225 watch. It’s a running watch that tracks where you are running and your pace using GPS. It also has a wrist-based heart-rate monitor. I wanted this watch because I find the chest-strap heart-rate sensors uncomfortable. My Garmin Forerunner 405 and Polar running watch both used chest straps. After over ten years of using this style I was pleased to see that Garmin had adopted optical technology, which I presume is similar to that used on the Apple Watch.

But this blog post isn’t about heart-rate monitors….

To facilitate distance tracking when running on a treadmill, the Garmin 225 also has a sensor that counts steps. I’ve used this feature a few times when running in hotel gyms and it appears to be quite accurate. So it’s not a big leap for Garmin to add a step counting feature to the watch to help people achieve the Utopian 10,000 steps per day.

I had previously flirted with a Soleus Go activity tracker, which I received as a gift. But after a few weeks I gave it up. I can’t remember exactly why but I do remember that Soleus didn’t have an equivalent web application to Garmin Connect, which I have been using since 2009. I does a good job of helping you visualise and understand your exercise patterns, what’s working, where to improve, etc.

As the Garmin 225 had a step counter I thought I’d turn it on, mostly out of curiosity. I don’t need a device to tell me how active I’ve been during the day. On a weekday I find I typically have three levels of activity: If I have a meeting in London then I’ll achieve 10k steps just by walking to & from the tube stations. If I’m working from home I will usually manage to get out for a short run at lunch time, which gets me most of the way to 10k steps. And If I’m driving to a meeting then I’ll probably only walk a few thousand steps – and most of them are getting the kids ready in the morning and bath & bed-time in the evening.

Many people are obsessed about counting their steps. My colleague Lisa Seacat DeLuca’s desire not to miss counting a single step led to us filing a patent that would address her angst! However a significant proportion of these people are not counting quality steps. Just ambling around the shops or between the kitchen and lounge does not count – particularly if it’s go get another cake or packet of crisps. You don’t need me to tell you that a healthy lifestyle has a combination of exercise, sleep, good nutrition and avoiding stress. But so many people appear to be deluding themselves that by achieving 10k steps per day they are being healthy. Of course it’s better to walk 10k steps than not, but if the steps are not raising your heart rate, getting you out in the fresh air and generally exercising your body I believe that the benefit is marginal.

There are a wide range of exercise philosophies, and it certainly depends on how fit you currently are. Most sports scientists and doctors would agree that for exercise to be effective you need to raise your heart rate. It doesn’t have to be High Intensity Training (see Dr Martin Gibala). Raising your heart rate above its normal resting level is a good start. And walking fast enough to get out of breath every so often is even better.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself missing my step counter! I had been having issues with the Bluetooth connection on the Garmin 225. It has a great feature where it will communicate with an app on your phone to upload details of your runs, sleep and steps to Garmin Connect. It saves having to connect the watch to your computer. I had returned the watch to Garmin as we weren’t able to fix the problem by performing all the usual resets. I received an email yesterday informing me that a replacement had been dispatched, which I should receive in a few days. I was looking forward to receiving it as I do make use of the heart-rate monitor. I had been using my Garmin 405 in the interim but couldn’t be bothered with the chest strap. So I had a fair idea of how intense my running intervals had been. The data just makes it a little more scientific – gives me the confidence to know I can push that bit harder.

I was walking to the station this morning, safe in the knowledge that I’d cover 10k steps despite not having time for a run. Ten minutes into the walk I started wondering how many steps I had walked so far. “What the ****?” I thought. How did this happen? How did I become a slave to the activity tracker? It’s probably just because the feature was there. It sucked me in – or, more accurately, I had subconsciously convinced myself that the step count was useful information, which I intellectually believed it wasn’t. Some people like to accumulate data, often just for the sake of it. They are data hoarders. This can be great if you’re a curious person as you might discover some interesting insights by looking for correlations between data sets. However I feel that much of the data that is collected is stored “just in case” or “because we can”.

When I graduated from university, my Dad bought me a lovely TAG watch. I really like the design – it has a metal strap and a granite watch face. I love watches and someday would appreciate a Rolex or Breitling – but even in those brands there are ony a few models that I favour above my TAG. Since receiving the Garmin 225, it had become my day-to-day watch. Meanwhile, the battery on the TAG has run out and I haven’t got around to replacing it.

Given that I’m not planning on making any lifestyle changes based on the number of steps I walk in a day. And I already know whether I have been active or not during any one day, I plan to keep the Garmin 225 in a drawer apart from when I’m going for a run. I’ll replace the battery on the Tag and resume getting pleasure from wearing it again.

Shorter outsourcing contracts demand Agile transformation

22 June 2016

At the noa symposium Kerry Hallard shared her view that outsourcing contracts are reducing in duration to perhaps three years. This presents a challenge to delivering cost effective transformation.

When an organisation decides to outsource for the first time or switch to a new partner they do so because they expect (and contact for) a benefit. The outsourcing provider has their systems, tools and processes that they deploy to deliver cost savings and efficiencies. But this deployment is often costly and time consuming. It’s not unheard of for the first year of a large outsourcing contract to be spent on transformation, with the upfront costs spread over the ten year duration.

So if contracts are only going to last for three years how can the cost of an extensive transformation be economically recouped?

I suggest that it can’t, so we need another way:

One option is not to transform – just take on the service and run it as-is. But if you don’t do any transformation then how will the benefits be delivered?

Perhaps, instead of applying the transformation to the complete service, a Design Thinking approach can help focus the minds of the customer and supplier on the areas that really matter.

– Start by understanding why the customer wants to outsource. What benefits are they hoping to gain?

– Identify and prioritise the components of the outsourced service are core to delivering the required benefits (be that accounts payable, recruitment, IT infrastructure, facilities management, etc.)

– Run Agile sprints to transform these components into the new way of working.

– Measure the benefits delivered at the end of each sprint, and compare to the cost of delivering it.

– Don’t transform the non-core components if there isn’t going to be a measurable benefit in doing so

This approach does make me concerned about what is called technical debt in the IT world. Eventually everything will break if it isn’t improved. The non-core components could be addressed as part of a continuous improvement programme that runs throughout the contract.

These are just some initial thoughts. What do you think?

Success invoice for week beginning 17th August

18 August 2015

So here’s my second attempt at a weekly success invoice. It’s interesting to see how much discipline is required to actually fill this out! I’ll update the content as I progress and hopefully have several successes by the end of the week.

What difference do I want to make? Support colleagues in running a client innovation day for a telco client

Continue to help progress the Extreme Blue project

Make progress on an internal reporting project

Write up another innovation success story !

Present to the Extreme Blue Interns about IBM Global Technology Services – to help them understand more about working in IBM

Support client teams by running quarterly innovation reviews

Help a client team plan an innovation day for a retail client

Successes this week Completed an innovation success story describing a cloud and security initiative

Agreed the way forward for an internal reporting project and already have an updated template for the innovation plans I ask each account team to complete every quarter.

Value I’m adding Created and distributed the joining instructions for an Innovation Leaders Masterclass in September

Reviewed the structure for a white paper produced by the Extreme Blue team

Presented to the Extreme Blue interns about IBM, my career and Global Technology Services. (You can read the Extreme Blue blog here).

Ran some innovation reviews with client account teams. Suggested some people who could help progress some of the innovation initiatives.

Helped a client account team with their planning for an innovation workshop

Hosted the researchers I am working with from Loughborough University – shared my insights into IBM’s adoption of Design Thinking and Agile in the context of innovation.

Key contribution this week Helping the Extreme Blue team keep focussed on delivering the core functionality that our client has asked for. I reviewed their work several times this week – and it improved significantly each time!
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? The Extreme Blue teams

Loughborough University Researchers

Client account teams I am supporting

A new approach to the success invoice

10 August 2015

Who would have thought I’d find it so hard to make time to complete a success invoice every day? I guess a combination of work and family pressures meant that I missed a few days last week. So I’ve decided to do a weekly success invoice instead. At the start of the week I’ll post my plans, and at the end of the week review how well I did.

What difference do I want to make? Support a Smarter Buildings meeting with a client – help to align client requirements with IBM and partner capabilities.

Produce a client innovation success story

Progress updates to our Innovation Masterclass course

Continue to mentor the Extreme Blue team I am working with – in particular help them to keep focussed on the specific data requirements our client specified last week.

Start to plan an internal idea online generation event focussed on bringing Agile practices to part of the business.

Successes this week Completed a Taste of Agile course, which has inspired me to encourage the teams I work with to approach innovation in a more agile way.

Completed a client innovation success story ready for internal publication

Learned about Watson for Technical Support services – will look at how we can help clients benefit from this innovation

Value I’m adding Provided a collection of innovation examples and resources to a colleague who is working on a proposal for a new client.

Helped the Extreme Blue team gain clarity on some of their work and effected introductions to some people who can help them make further progress.

Key contribution this week Ran a successful smarter buildings client workshop and gained agreement to define a Proof of Concept to be run in one of my client’s offices.
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? A student who is spending his summer with IBM shadowed me at the Smarter Buildings meeting – I think he learned a lot from this client meeting.

Helped a colleague with her plans for a major client project

Success Invoice – 4th August – plate spinning can become a full-time job!

4 August 2015
What difference do I want to make? Help to make progress on an internal data analysis project

Write-up a success story for an innovative cloud & security project some colleagues delivered for a client.

Successes today Completed the success story – almost ready for publication; just needs a final review

Agreed the scope & content for a Technology Innovation Exchange presentation.

Value I’m adding Provided feedback about the members of a team I’m working with to their manager to help with their development & progress evaluation
Key contribution today Agreed a plan for the internal data analysis project – and successfully logged-in to the server where the software will be installed (small victories!)
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? No immediate benefit today – however I expect that many colleagues will eventually benefit from the insights we gain with the data analysis project. Similarly, I hope that the success story will benefit many colleagues as & when they need to design similar solutions.

Success Invoice – 3rd August 2015 – a morning of progress and an afternoon of agility

3 August 2015
What difference do I want to make? Support the extreme blue team so that they have a successful client presentation.

Share insights into Agile adoption

Successes today Gained client agreement to take a proposal to the relevant business leader for their support.

Agreed with a client that the Extreme Blue team can borrow some technology for their project – this will help make the demos more real

Value I’m adding Shared some ideas and insights on Agile with a team who have a mission to help their client’s CIO to enable his team to become more Agile
Key contribution today Supported the Extreme Blue team in their client show & tell session
Who is benefiting from what I’m doing? The Extreme Blue team

The client account team I was discussing Agile with