“We Need to Be More Productive”

A colleague attended one of the many “work remotely” sessions popping up everywhere. He heard

Timing rule of thumb shared in virtual how-to session today = expect that timeframes will grow by 25% during remote sessions. If your estimate is 60 minutes, expect it to actually take 75 minutes.

At *least* 25% more time is required to communicate via intermediated means, which even videoconferencing is. My experience suggests that time spent needs to *double* until and if fluency w/ new tools, techniques, relationships are ingrained. Even then bandwidth needs increase, and those are difficult to change rapidly and without incurring  considerably more monthly cost (I’m upgrading to business-class Internet service, which will more than double my charges, because I need it for my work and because I’m fortunate to be able).

Esther Derby posted a superb tweet thread that relates to this topic, and you really should take a look if you’re at all interested in the real-world situation of collaborating at distance:


In that thread, a poster replied that we need “much better performance levels” to survive the Current Crisis.

That’s not possible just because we want it or think we need it, . If we had all this “extra” ability to perform better in reserve, we would have already drawn on it or had it demanded of us. Instead, we all need to accept and embrace that a change is here.

Performance is a function of the person and the environment, Esther points out:

  P = f(p,e)

A sudden shift to a collaborator-at-distance paradigm hugely changes the environment and affects people’s abilities. Therefore, performance must drop. Embrace that, and let’s see where we go from there.


Out of the Crisis

This is an opportunity.

You can turn the Current Crisis into a learning, developing, and growing journey, and even improve what you’ve done before.

Seth Godin expounds at length on this topic here.

Me, this CVcrap™️ has lead me further along my path to reach out to and join with others not in my close circle and immediate vicinity. If you’re one of my friends, you know that I say more, do more, and actually care more, at least as far as you can tell, if you’re around or with me often.

I dislike admitting this, but it’s all too true. And I think I’m a heel, as they used to say, or an ass, as they say now, for doing this–NOT doing things—with those I love who are far away from my self-centered self.

Thus, my attempt to live and work in London whilst my body exists in Seattle…except it’s more than that. I am trying to be present there and here both, not to be one place or the other.

Follow me if you want to see what I learn.

Getting Closer to Those Kinda Close to Me

Having moved across the U.S. 33 years ago, I’m used to being in a different time than my family, by which I mean my parents and siblings, who all live in Massachusetts.

Since the company I’ve worked with for thirteen years joined with two others, the range of people I regularly work with has come to cover the territory of the continental U.S. That broadened to include the globe when our Seattle-based company was in turn purchased by a very large worldwide consultancy.

I rose late-morning GMT today, got my morning latte, and began writing, staying quiet so as not to wake The Love of My Life, with whom I share this little cottage. I posted my initial blog entries to two of the many places I intend to publish it, and was a bit startled when I got likes, responses, and comments. “How can that be?” I wondered—it’s still dark out.

Quickly I realized that my solipsistic view of the “world” was whacking me in the face: my time is not everyone’s time. That is, of course, not true—we all share the same perceived time-space on this planet, true?

Not true, of course. Our bodies recognize night-time as regenerative time; our minds may regard it as lost, or non-existent time. But for others at distance from ourselves, those same minutes are the wakeful, busy, productive minutes and hours.

Each minute of each day is a hello, world moment, a beginning for someone. Shift workers, by which we tend to mean “those who work the shifts that I don’t,” have known this for ages, I imagine. But that’s just it: until today, I’ve only imagined it. “Why,” I’ve silently wondered, “is Janel not responding to me?” “Why does Howard have notifications paused?” “Why don’t I have an answer yet?”

Not a deep realization, but one that today is affecting me deeply.

About Time

The right time means a lot.

I’ve set all my device clocks, and one large digital LCD one, to London time. So my phone, laptops, iPad, Apple Watch—they’re all telling me right now that it’s 15:00.

This idea is, again, inspired by Somewhere In Time, in which the aspiring time-traveler changes his haircut, dress, decor, everything external to take him into the place he wants so desperately to be.

If you’re communicating with me, your devices may notice the time on my devices, and infer my location. But that’s part of this experiment: let’s see if we can break the connection between location and local time.

Speaking of local time, there have been attempts to establish a “world time,” where every clock in the world would show the same hours. What would vary would be what one does at one’s locality. I’m experimenting with that idea, reframed.

How Do I Sleep Late?

Sleep—sleepING—is going to be a challenge.

It’s Sunday. I love sleeping late; it’s delicious and makes me happy. And, if one considers my new situation, today I did sleep late: I got up when it was dark outside my window, and 11:00 GMT in London.

That felt quite different from my experience a day ago, when I arose in my fourth-floor walkup a block from Victoria Station, strolled to get my morning latte, and returned with two Cornish pasties. I ate one at my tiny kitchen-table workspace as I charged devices, made arrangements to leave, and finished packing.

Then I strolled to Buckingham Palace, my only sightseeing of my 71 hours on the ground in the UK save walking past The Monument near the Tower of London as I went to my employer’s office in The City of London.

A quick shower and we were off to Heathrow…all before noontime, my waking time today.

There’s a bit of relativistic confusion here for me: what’s early? Our bodies say it’s before the sun rises. In our westernized world, we mean “before the time on the clock that we generally wake up at on this day of the week,” or “before other people around us get up.”

I’m having to depend on the clock for now; my watch is set to GMT, and the little dial in the middle shows me PDT. My eyes show me darkness, my skin says “cold out,” and the internet tells me that my regular coffee shop isn’t open yet—too early. So I found another. Weird, my mind thought, that there are only two coffee shops open when it’s the middle of my day.

And of course, it is, and it isn’t.

I have so much to (re)-learn. My family, I’m sure, is going to help me with that, as our different senses—different decisions, I guess—about what time it is collide and coexist.

On Being in Two (Or More) Places

I started to title this post “On Being in Two Places at Once,” but can one really do that?

One can more easily appear or publish in two places at once, and I wanted to say a few words on that.

I intend to let these musings emit on a number of frequencies and forms. My personal blog is what you’re reading here. My employer’s employee-blogs site will also contain versions of what I write. And I’m experimenting with one of my favorite tools, Slack, by posting blog dispatches there, where they’ll be joined by comments and contributions by my collaborators at my employer and perhaps even my client,

Here’s what I wrote, in a series of messages, to start out the new channel:

Welcome to a form of my blog that begins today about my experiences living physically in Seattle and working full-time and in real-time in London. This is going to be fun!

Dispatches will post here, where we can treat them like we do posts in any other channel, with comments and other people’s contributions and comments. I’ll also post to my personal blog, FeelingAgile.com, and to an Accenture blog that I’ll create as soon as I ask my friend Janel to guide me through how to create one of those.

Is this effort well thought-through? Most assuredly not. How can one think-through what one can’t yet conceive?

Time is moving fast, or at least events are. A week ago, I was in Seattle, still two days away from boarding a plane to Heathrow to being my first month living and working in London. Seven days later, I’m back here in my Seattle living-room workspace, beginning the various incarnations of this blog. And it’s not even the beginning of the Monday workweek yet!

Tune in, ponder, and contribute! This is—I hope—going to be interesting, both as an experiment and, if I/we/y’all write it well, as a blog!

But first, this message from my spirit guide sponsor. “Remote” seems to be the hardest word; it’s doesn’t have great connotations, even in the “remote control” sense. I picked this title for this blog-channel so people searching for the two other newly created channels, #remote-virtual-teaching and #remote-virtual-coaching-engagements, would stumble upon this one too. “Virtual” is a bit better, suggesting that all the virtues of whatever it is one is doing are still present and delivered, but the virtual-reality wave might have flavored that a bit too much, with it’s uncanny-valley feeling of being not-real.

Semantics, you say, but in the U.S.—I’ll be using that phrase a lot, as my being and heart are in two countries whilst this experiment unfolds—the Republican party has made decades of inroads into dominance of American political life by paying attention to the semantics and metaphors that guide our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, and our choices  (see The Metaphors We Live By and master of re-framing Frank Luntz) among many others, including “noted semanticist” S. I. Hayakawa)

So what do we call this? I’m going to go out on a limb, even though I’m not comfortable or skilled at prognosticating: this is what the future is. The Current Crisis is just one more straw that’ll, instead of breaking the camel’s back, will help build our new house. We’ll see if the wolf blows it down, or if it turns out to be much sturdier than we thought.

One last semanticalistic note: I called this channel “remote_virtual_LIVING” because I don’t think the dichotomous “work-life” balance exists. Rather, we exist in a diunital “both-and” world, where work and living are difficult to tease apart.

From One Cusp to Another

Today I begin an experiment, in the spirit of all experiments always, in which I attempt to live locally yet work elsewhere. Yet that’s not quite it; my body is in Seattle, my work is in London, and my heart? Well, it’s global, it’s many places.

This has been the case for quite some time.

I moved to Seattle “temporarily” for an exciting job opportunity, an adventure in joining a crazily dedicated team of software and hardware engineers working together just outside of Seattle at what we called “DECwest.” Our mission: to build what was then an advanced 64-bit architecture that’d scale from microprocessor to supercomputer, with software that’d embrace leading platforms from UNIX derivatives to our company’s industry-leading integrated operating system, VAX/VMS.

But it wasn’t just the job that drew me to move clear across the country from my family of origin: it was the chance for a new experience, culturally, geographically, and personally. My then-wife and I thought that the Northwest was a great place to visit, although we were certain we didn’t want to live there.

That was some time ago, in a previous century. I’ve lived in Seattle for 33 years.

A few weeks ago, I made a similar decision regarding my work life. I accepted an engagement working with a large British financial-services client that’d require me to be physically present in London for a month at a time. It was thrilling to imagine experiencing living in England, a place and people joined culturally with the foundations of colonial America, but as the old saw goes, separated from the U.S. by a common language.

I’m nearly 63, and this opportunity to see more of the world than I had to date was irresistible, as was a chance to collaborate with colleagues old and new from both sides of the pond.

And so my adventure began, navigating the maze of regulations that govern immigrating for what could be months or more.

Then a coronavirus with the unpleasant designation “COVID-19” changed everything.

Here I intend to record and, I hope, reflect upon my discoveries, insights, downs and ups of attempting to live far from my colleagues, yet collaborate in real time.

Join me: it’s going to be a wild ride as we see what things are like on the other side of this cusp!

On a Cusp

I’m hours away from what is generally seen as a significant point in one’s life: the beginning of my sixtieth year.

My thoughts about this waypoint in my journey are likely to be similar to those of others or even yourself: what a trip it’s been, I’m really 60?, what does the future hold for me and the seven billion I share the Earth with, especially the seven and seventy who are most dear to me.

Decades ago, I wrote an essay about the time and perspective. It wasn’t so much an essay as a letter written late at night to a dear friend, but I expound and address the gathered crowds even in my letters. It’s a grand — or grandiose — tendency I have.

In that long-ago letter, I wrote of Glenn Gould, a Canadian pianist. I first learned of him and his work from my first wife, who was well-acquainted with music and a wide range of topics about which I knew little.

Gould was unique, and even reading the Wikipedia entry on him you’d see what I mean. He began his career brash and supremely talented, and we can hear proof listening to his first recording from 1955, of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The photo of him on the jacket of what was then an “album” showed a 22-year-old who clearly was making his own music, his own way — he insisted on artistic freedom in his first recording contract, at 22 years old, not at all common at that time. 

Since 17, he’d been studying the Variations, little known and performed little. His debut recording sold an astonishing number of copies, then and later. Gould had made a statement.

Yet he soon retired from public performance, preferring studio work where he could try again and again to play perfectly. He acknowledged that mistakes happened; he just didn’t want those to be what he and others heard. Thanks to recording techniques and multiple takes, he could create what he regarded as perfection…in the studio.

Decades later, he recorded the Variations again. While his first recording was stunning in its virtuosity and speed (and length: Gould tended not to play the repeats as the music and tradition dictated), his last recording is somehow even more astonishing: slower, deeper, each passage, each note having been considered for decades. It’s much longer, and steeped in what strikes me as intimacy over virtuosity. 

These two recordings bracket my coming into existence, in May of 1957, and my coming into my own, in 1981, when I left school and began discovering how I would affect the world around me and how it would affect me.

I took a bit longer than Gould to discover what I really meant by being affected and affecting, experimenting and failing, rejoicing and realizing. 

There’s something about those 1955 and 1981 recordings that I discovered late one night, listening at top volume in the dark. Gould, he who insisted on perfection in performance and recording, can be clearly heard in many of the pieces humming along a he played. 

In 1955, Elvis Presley recorded much of his music in one take; that was typical at the time, and Gould’s multiple takes were eccentric and expensive. 

These days, we’re used to perfection, or the appearance of it — AutoTune, recording magic, lip-syncing. By 1981, multi tracking and multiple takes and splicing was typical — but here’s Gould humming along like you or I would when we hear our favorite songs on the radio or our iPhone.
In 1955, what Gould produced was astonishing, superhuman, and perfect. By 1981, it was him, humming and all. This was Bach not performed by him, but channeled through him. He brought the Variations to me, through him, in a way that stays with me always. I’m listening to them, to him, as I write this.

Glenn Gould died of a sudden stroke, days after he turned 50, having channeled Bach, Canada, and himself briefly and brilliantly…and having greatly affected my life.

I’m not Glenn Gould. I’ve only in the last decade or so come in to being Michael J. Tardiff. I’ve spent the last decade or so helping myself be myself, helped and encouraged and shaping and influenced by so many of you, readers and those who barely remember my name. That same dear friend to whom I wrote that letter long ago once told me she loved attending my presentations, because she sensed that even I didn’t know what I was going to say until I said it. In a sense, then, I was channeling myself, in the presence of others.

I’ve spent the years since Julie’s spot-on assessment trying to reconcile the me that is me with my perception of who I am. And here, on the cusp of ending my sixth decade, I’m beginning to feel that I came into being, first son of Arthur and Dorothy, to channel my self, to shine forth. And in the last decade, that’s been my work, guided and inspired by patient friends and idols and geniuses, but even more so by those who sideswipe my life, passing by a little too fast and a little too close,  leaving paint marks on me and taking some of my color along with them as they disappear over the hill.

So here I am, well past the middle way, having spent forty years discovering who and what I am, only to discover that I am a part of all that I have met, and they a part of me. I’ve been asked throughout the years about my aim, my goal, and my answer since my twenties has been the same: to connect, to share, to discover, to learn, to just be…and to be happy. I’d wondered if wanting to be happy was selfish, and it is self-ish. What I haven’t realized until recently is that my connections, my discoveries, my learning, my happiness has a purpose — to affect others, and to effect change towards happiness for others and for all. It seems like an unreachable goal, yet I don’t care: each bit of paint we leave behind makes a bit of a difference, and that difference may be what it takes to make something happen.

You do that, in your own way. I’ve noticed. I’ve benefitted. I’m grateful. I’m who I am because of you.

Help me celebrate. Please give money, time, or anything at all to something that helps other people. Donations, work, things — and to anyone you choose or prefer, from homeless people to needy people to causes or efforts or schools. And make the donation/gift/effort in your name, not mine. Make a mark, a scratch, a dent; leave happiness, betterness, and joy. Please.

And happy birthday.

[For a taste of what makes Glenn Gould so important to the world and me, read his remarkable New York Times obituary.]

Make Resolving Impediments a Habit

Agile Tools


I’ve talked a lot about the rigors of finding and resolving impediments for a team. There is one thing that I have left out: the people part. I learned this lesson at a conference that I was co-hosting. I had been in charge of setting up the food for the event. Getting the caterer, arranging for meals, that sort of thing. As you might imagine, it’s a pretty tough job to satisfy the dietary requirements for a very large group of people. I learned of whole categories of food allergies and needs that I had never even imagined existed! There was a little bit of every imaginable combination. Everything from your standard gluten free diet all the way to lacto-ovo-pesca-leguma-veganitarians (OK, I made that last one up).

We did the best we could to satisfy the needs of most folks and pretty much called it good. About halfway through the conference…

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