The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

Helping Your Teams Grow Through Coaching

By: Phil Holberton, Adjunct Faculty at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies, and President & CEO of Speaking of Leadership®

As team leaders, we evaluate our team members and expect them to do the job up to our standards. Sometimes our standards are out of sync with their ability or training. After all, imagesthese individuals have not traveled in the same shoes as we have and may not have the skills or cognitive preparation to achieve what we expect. Therefore coaching becomes an integral part of helping teams grow to the next level.

In my experience, the most effective leaders shine when they are helping others day in and day out. This is where coaching enters the picture. Those team leaders who are really performing up to their capability (in a leadership capacity) are consistently coaching their colleagues (and not trying to micro-manage their activities). Individuals don’t appreciate being managed. But, they are more open to coaching if the coach immediately establishes his or her desire to help the individual meet their established goals.

The first and most important coaching skill is to be in the moment, not distracted by six different things on your mind. Coaching is about respect for each other. There is no more predictable way to show lack of respect as not being “present” or “engaged” during a conversation. I once had a boss whose eyes would become “fish eyes” during our conversations. Do you think I was being heard? Do you think I respected him?

Secondly, a good coach (team leader) will seek to understand by asking open-ended, empowering questions. It is very difficult to understand what is going on in someone else’s head if we ask simple yes/no questions. Questions need to be open-ended so we fully understand the complexity of an individual’s state of mind.

A third critical skill is the need for the coach to suspend judgment and remain reflective and objective. Being contemplative shows that you understand the thoughts or feelings in 0x600-636x310the conversation. These first three skills will help develop understanding, balance, and respect—all very important ingredients in a successful coaching relationship.

The fourth critical skill is affirming the conversation. This action brings into focus the individual’s desire to move ahead, whether it’s an improvement in performance or learning new skills and growing as a professional or human being. These skills, when practiced and used daily, will help you become the most effective leader imaginable.

Help your team grow. Be a coach not a just a team leader or boss.

Reblogged from: http://holberton.com/helping-your-teams-grow-through-coaching/

PhilAuthor

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How Predictive Analytics Can Improve Healthcare

The below is the winning essay for a Brandeis GPS’ contest written by Health and Medical Informatics student, Davis Graham. Join Brandeis GPS is a free webinar 7/17 at 7pm: Long Term CareThe Last EMRFrontier

 

“My specific interest in predictive analytics is the ability to merge the once vacant silos of health information into a model which engages a person into the maintenance of a healthier lifestyle.[1]  Genomics and health information technology has the potential to help predict disease before it becomes chronic.  Predictive analytics will allow us to change from a treatment oriented to a preventive oriented healthcare system contributing to the efficiency of healthcare.

Predictive analytics gives the foundation for an individual to step onto a healthier path in life when substantial knowledge supports the first step.  There is a survival instinct which takes place in every individual when faced with the loss of health or life, giving them a fearlessness to assume responsibility to preserve their health and life.

The key element of a healthier population is engagement and implementation of a program which improves health.  For example, if a person has knowledge from predictive analytics showing they would have a 98% probability of being a candidate for colorectal cancer, then the barriers of fear currently existing in our current health care system would program-hero-strategic-analyticsinspire the patient to seek preventive care.  No one should die of colorectal cancer in this country or in the world.  Getting the patient to have a CT Colonography (CTC) would decrease the mortality rate for colorectal cancer substantially.  The cost of a CTC due to just the volume would decrease into the $250 range.  The current cost at our facility is $495; it costs us $200 to have the CTC read through teleradiology by a radiologist who reads these studies frequently.  Predictive analytics could change the whole landscape of CTC cost by pure volume.  Radiologists who are not reading CT Colonography (CTC) now would learn how to read them and would become experienced because of the increase in volume.

It is my hope that predictive analytics is steering healthcare back to the “doctor-patient relationship” of a patient driven healthcare.[2]  It is my belief that patient driven healthcare is the most efficient and effective way of providing health to a population.  With the aid of predictive analytics, the robust information gained from predictive analytics data will enable a society to engage in healthcare, which would educate the population with Stethoscopeknowledge as to how to predict their health outcomes.  Thus, the future patient population would embrace preventive health.  With patients engaged in their health, predictive analytics could reverse the current wasteful trend of 80% of healthcare expenditures being spent on 20% of the population, to one that is healthier for the economics of a country and a population.[3]  I could see in the future where 70% of the healthcare dollars is spent on 100% of the population with the remaining 30% going to research and development in healthcare and predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics would reverse the 20 to 30% of profits now going to health insurance companies into increased health dollars invested into healthcare.  A great example is William McGuire from United Health Care who earned $1.2 billion in one year.  This should be a light to the world that the $1.2 billion which William McGuire made did not go back into the healthcare system;[4]  it went into his pocket to spend and donate where his personal interests lay.  To put it in perspective, $1.2 billion could open 925 doctors’ offices each being 7,000 square foot for a cost of $1,297,400 each[5] or 4.8 million CTCs reimbursed at $250 each.

A key component to predictive analytics is the unbridled sharing of information. With quantum cryptography and the recent efforts of quantum computer (such as D-Wave), we are on the edge for sharing and processing healthcare’s “big data.” Predictive analytics in how-predictive-analytics-can-make-money-for-social-networks-46ce73d0c0the United States will be a new frontier for all health information which is electronically collected around the world. With predictive analytics, a combination of pharmaceuticals used to cure a chronic disease in one area of the world will enable population health to take steps in preventive care in advance of the chronic disease in other parts of the world.

In essence, we are embarking on a voyage into a new land of opportunity to process big data to predict solutions into the future. Healthcare is a team effort and aligns with Ernest Shackleton and his eclectic team, all of whom survived the harshest environment of being beset in the Antarctica.  Our healthcare system needs such a team to drive through the storms of economic pressure and the current healthcare system into one which perseveres.  Predictive analytics is the system which will not only benefit the United States, but predictive analytics in healthcare also has the potential to benefit the health of the world in a way healthcare has yet to be seen.”

About the Author: 

photoDavis Graham is currently earning his M.S. in Health and Medical Informatics with Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies. Davis is the Executive Director & CFO at the Manatee Diagnostic Center in Florida.  This essay won a contest for free entry into Eric Siegel’s Predictive Analytics World Conference.

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A First Look at the New Degree Transforming Online Education

Join us for a free webinar “Online Learning for Professional Development” on Wednesday, June 25th and learn more about Brandeis University’s Division of Graduate Professional Studies’ brand new Masters of Science in Online Instructional Design and Technology program at the Virtual Open House Thursday, June 26th

Education does not look the same as it did ten – or even five – years ago. Rapid technological innovation combined with evolving economy has made online learning much more prevalent. In many ways, the internet has democratized education, making it possible to learn anywhere, anytime and at a much more affordable price point.

By unlocking greater access to education, online learning has exploded. There is a massive demand for the convenience of web-based learning, and especially for high-quality programs that can match the rich experience of classroom learning.

The result is a tremendous expansion in the field of instructional design and technology, or the creation of dynamic learning content for online delivery. Organizations desire skilled professionals able to translate classroom curriculum into an engaging, instructive online education. They need instructional designers who understand how users interact with these online portals and how to optimize their learning experience.

But developing digital courses requires a dynamic skill set, not easily acquired from any single educational program or work experience.

Until now.

Brandeis University’s Division of Graduate Professional Studies has launched an innovative new program transforming the landscape of online learning: Master of Science in Online Instructional Design & Technology. Students will develop extensive knowledge of the theory and practice involved in bringing cutting-edge quality learning experiences to the web. From conception to execution, graduates will have the skills they need to design and develop industry-best learning environments and experiences.

Interested in innovating the next frontier of education? Here are six reasons you should pursue a career in instructional design.

Industry Demand

Industry Demand

The popularity of online learning has skyrocketed in recent years. The convenience of the web makes it possible for working professionals to advance their careers or update their skill set without having to put their job on hold.

 “As public and private interest and money flow into this space, the need for highly trained professionals versed in the art and science of instructional design has almost certainly never been higher,” said Jason Gorman, a member of the professional advisory board for Brandeis’ master of science in online instructional design.

The total job postings for employees with instructional design skills and graduate degrees has increased by 63 percent between 2010 to 2013, according to Brandeis’ Advisory Board, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects above average growth as high as twenty percent for instructional design jobs between 2010 and 2020.

Opportunity for the pros: over 36,000 jobs will be created in just the next four years, according to the Bureau.

Dynamic Day-to-Day

Dynamic Day-to-Day

One of the most appealing aspects of instructional design is it is a dynamic field in which professionals are able to wear multiple hats in their quest to deliver cutting-edge educational experiences. Instructional design is about so much more than building cookie-cutter programs. It’s about understanding how we learn, harnessing technology to improve learning, and creating engaging and effective content to support educational objectives.

Instructional design is a multistage process that calls for a diverse of set of skills. Designers analyze past learning outcomes, and leverage that knowledge to design and develop enhanced instructional programs. They also partner with industry experts or professors to design the curriculum and produce content. They must even act as project managers to oversee how content, instructional tools, and technology integrate to create a dynamic learning environment.

Brandeis’ M.S. in Online Instructional Design & Technology equips students with an extensive and impressive skill set preparing them to meet the diverse demands of instructional design. Glance below to see a preview of promised program outcomes:

  • Apply evidence-based learning science and online pedagogical principles to the design, development, facilitation, and assessment of online courses and programs.

  • Design dynamic, adaptive, and interactive online multimedia-based instructional content and courseware.

  • Evaluate and integrate instructional technologies, platforms, and collaborative tools for use in diverse instructional settings and applications.

  • Demonstrate creativity and innovation in the application of instructional design principles and technologies to respond to instructional challenges and emerging trends.

Collaboration & Creativity

Collaboration & Creativity

Far from a mundane profession, instructional design involves considerable collaboration and creativity. Instructional designers partner with industry professionals or academic professors who are experts on topics to to create optimal eLearning experiences. Together, they brainstorm ways to improve upon past programs, add interactive elements, and other measures to make the educational experience more engaging and effective. They also partner in content creation and management to ensure the best possible learning materials are integrated in the curriculum. The wealth of opportunities to get creative and collaborate with others makes instructional design exciting field.

Bridging Theory & Practice

Bridging Theory & Practice

Instructional designers exercise both sides of their brain to translate theory into practice. They must possess the soft skills needed to nurture a sophisticated understanding of how people learn. There is a theoretical science behind learning that should guide and inform the creation of online educational programs. Educational models like ADDIE and other pedagogical principles must form the blueprint of online course design.

But professionals must step beyond theory and apply these principles to build a product. They must master the practice of utilizing technology to develop courseware solve challenges.

The opportunity to put theory into action and see the tangible results is a stimulating and satisfying part of an instructional design career.

Opportunity Across IndustriesOpportunity Across Industries

While educational institutions represent a large portion of the instructional design field, it is far from the only industry implementing web-based educational programs.

“Instructional design has become a crucial skill set for both educational institutions and training and development organizations across a variety of industries and sectors,” said Brian Salerno, who chairs Brandeis’ new master’s program.

Numerous organizations need educational, training, and professional development resources to maintain a productive workforce. Online materials are a cost-effective way to address onboarding, internal training, and various other instructional needs in private, governmental, and nonprofit industries.

From higher education to giant corporations, opportunities are wide open for instructional designers.

Be on the Cutting-Edge

Be on the Cutting-Edge

Instructional designers are on the forefront of technological evolutions. Because they often operate in the trenches of development, they have early access to cutting-edge new tools and softwares as they strive to build innovative, forward-thinking web experiences. Brandeis’ new master’s program will train students to effectively implement tools and technologies to build industry-leading courseware. Once in the field, however, this knowledge will only expand as more sophisticated technology emerges in the future.

 Brandeis University’s Division of Graduate Professional Studies

Brandeis University's Division of Graduate Professional Studies

Brandeis’ game-changing M.S. in Online Instructional Design & Technology prepares students to be on the forefront of the next frontier in education and training. Not only will they develop a crucial skill set coveted by many organization, but be able to do so on their schedule in small, interactive online courses.

join Brandeis’ Brian Salerno for free webinar “Online Learning for Professional Development” on Wednesday, June 25th and learn more at Brandeis University’s next  Virtual Open House on Thursday, June 26th. 

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How Big Data Has Changed 5 Boston Industries

By: 

Emerging technologies have unlocked access to massive amounts of data, data that is mounting faster than organizations can process it. Buried under this avalanche of analytics are precious nuggets of information that organizations need to succeed. Companies can use these key insights to optimize efficiency, improve customer service, discover new revenue sources, and more. Those who can bridge the gap between data and business strategy will lead in our new economy.

Big Data’s potential impact on enterprises and industries as a whole is boundless. This potential is already being realized here in the Hub. Boston has been ahead of the curve when it comes to Big Data, thanks to our unique innovation ecosystem or our “Big Data DNA,” the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council says. As a result, Boston is home to an especially high concentration of Big Data startups, but also powerhouse industries that have strategically leveraged analytics and transformed the space.

Check out how data and analytics has changed these five Boston industries.

1. Marketing & Advertising

Marketing & Advertising

In our age of online marketing, marketers have access to mountains of data. Pageviews, clicks, conversion, social shares…the list is endless. That doesn’t even account for the demographic data marketers collect and interpret every day.

These analytics have enabled marketers to access a more comprehensive report of campaign performances and in-depth view of buyer personas. Armed with these insights, marketers are able to refine their campaigns, improve forecasts, and advance their overall strategy.

Big Data also enables targeted marketing, a crucial component of today’s online strategy. You know those eerily accurate advertisements on your Facebook page? You can thank Big Data for that.

Analytics have unlocked enormous potential for marketers to better create, execute, and forecast campaigns. As a result, Boston has boomed with organizations entirely devoted to providing data-driven marketing solutions. HubSpot and Jumptap have emerged as leaders in this space, raising about $2.5 billion combined. Attivio, Visible Measures, DataXu are also leading marketing solutions providers.

2. Healthcare

Healthcare

It shouldn’t surprise that healthcare represents a top industry in Boston’s Big Data ecosystem. The healthcare industry collects and analyzes enormous volumes of clinical data on a daily basis. Partners Healthcare alone has some two billion data elements from over six thousand patients, according to the Massachusetts 2014 Big Data Report.

Big Data’s impact can be seen first and foremost with the electronic health record. Big Data has launched the electronic health record into the twenty-first century, revolutionizing patient care, and empowering the success of companies like athenahealth based in Watertown.

“The meaningful use of electronic health records is key to ensuring that healthcare focuses on the needs of the patient, is delivered in a coordinated manner, and yields positive health outcomes at the lowest possible cost,” the report said.

The space has expanded even more since Massachusetts passed legislation requiring all providers to adopt electronic health records and connect to the health information exchange, Mass HIway in 2012.

The Shared Health Research Informatics Network (SHRINE) is another local innovation linking five hospitals (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Boston, Brigham and Women’s, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Dana Farber Cancer Center) in a centralized database to improve efficiency and quality of care.

After genomic data and patient data from electronic medical records, medical devices like pacemakers or a Fitbit, for example, are the fastest-growing sources of healthcare data. All of these rich sources of information can – and are – being leveraged by Boston healthcare providers to improve care and lower costs.

 

3. Government

Government

The State of Massachusetts and the City of Boston lead the nation with a sophisticated public sector approach to data and analytics. Governor Patrick made Big Data part of policy, launching Massachusetts Big Data Initiative and supporting Mass Open Cloud Initiative, a public cloud that utilizes an innovative open and customizable model.  In 2009, the Commonwealth launched the “the Open Data Initiative” inviting the public to access the government’s data library from nearly every department.

But analytics’ impact on the public sector is only beginning. Big Data can significantly improve the quality and efficiency of city services, and do so at a lower cost. But most importantly, data will unlock the future of urban living. Imagine if we knew the location of every bus, train, car, and bike in real-time? Imagine if we knew the profiles of every city building? This is the vision of Boston’s future as a “connected city” outlined in Mass Technology Leadership Council’s 2014 report Big Data & Connected Cities.

“Boston is making great strides in using technology to improve how city services are delivered but we can and will do more,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh about MassTLC’s report.  “We are making vast amounts of the city’s big data available online to the public to not only increase transparency but to also spur innovation.”

Walsh has shown support for a data-driven, connected city and plans to hire a City of Boston Chief Digital Officer to help make this vision a reality.

4. Energy

Energy

Big Data is a big reason Boston has evolved as a leader in the energy industry. Tapping into Big Data yields much more comprehensive, accurate reports of energy usage and also illuminates how these building can operate more efficiently. As a result, the industry has boomed with companies helping buildings go green to save green, including local leaders EnerNoc, Retroficiency, and NextStepLiving. Buildings in Boston and beyond are being constructed or retrofitted with building automation systems – cloud-based, centralized control centers – which collect massive amounts of data, report on energy consumption in real-time, and can continually adjust building performance for optimum efficiency. This “smart” living is the wave of the future and entirely driven by Big Data.

5. Financial Services

Financial Services

Financial services is the fifth largest vertical for Big Data in Massachusetts. Big Data has made it possible to analyze financial data sets that previously weren’t accessible. Financial analysts now can examine and interpret unprecedented amounts of information and do so in new and innovative ways. For example, stock traders can collect and mine mass amounts of social media information to gauge public sentiment about products or companies, Information Week said.

Top companies Fidelity Investments, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Baystate Financial, LLC and others in Boston’s financial services sector heavily depend on big data to compile reports, forecast market future, and guide their decisions.

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Brandeis launches MS in eLearning design, technology

Repost from Brandeis NOW: http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2014/june/onlinedesignandtech.html

Brandeis University’s division of Graduate Professional Studies has established a new master’s of science degree in online instructional design and technology.

Brandeis developed the program, which will be offered online, in response to the growing need for professionals highly skilled in the development of digital learning resources to support the rapid proliferation of online education courses and e-Learning powered training programs.

FLIPPEdThe Advisory Board reports that the demand for graduates with instructional design skills has increased in recent years, with a 63 percent increase in total job postings from 2010 to 2013, and a 50 percent increase in job postings for instructional designers and technologists. They also found that employers increasingly demand instructional designers with content development and collaboration skills.

“As public and private interest and money flow into this space, the need for highly trained professionals versed in the art and science of instructional design has almost certainly never been higher,” said Jason Gorman, a member of the professional advisory board for Brandeis’ master of science in online instructional design and technology program and vice president of learning experience design services at Six Red Marbles, the largest US-based development house for learning materials.

The Brandeis program will prepare students to harness educational technologies in the development of online courseware, use iterative and formative course development processes, and apply evidence-based learning methodologies to the design of dynamic online learning courses.

The program includes courses focusing on how to effectively apply various instructional design methodologies and principles of learning science to online course development, as well as courses focusing on the creative utilization of instructional technologies such as learning management systems and rich interactive courseware authoring tools. The program is designed to help instructional designers, educational technologists, and training and development specialists to successfully manage instructional design projects, work effectively with subject matter experts, apply evidence-based course design principles, and develop dynamic learning content to support fully-online course and program design and delivery.

Six core courses and four electives are required (a total of 30 graduate credits). Students may enroll in up to two courses before officially applying for admission.

“Instructional design has become a crucial skill set for both educational institutions and training and development organizations across a variety of industries and sectors,” said Brian Salerno, who chairs the new program. “The Internet and mobile platforms have emerged as a desirable delivery medium for learning and training materials, as well as educational courses. Instructional designers help organizations not just transition their learning content online, but help them to design effective online courses that harness all the advantages that instructional technology has to offer.”

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Apply evidence-based learning science and online pedagogical principles to the design, development, facilitation, and assessment of online courses and programs.
  • Develop online instructional products and environments utilizing ADDIE and other models of instructional systems design.
  • Design dynamic, adaptive, and interactive online multimedia-based instructional content and courseware.
  • Evaluate and integrate instructional technologies, platforms, and collaborative tools for use in diverse instructional settings and applications.
  • Demonstrate creativity and innovation in the application of instructional design principles and technologies to respond to instructional challenges and emerging trends.
  • Lead and manage online instructional design and technology teams and projects, utilizing effective written and oral communication strategies.

This is the eighth part-time, online master degree program offered by Brandeis’ division of Graduate Professional Studies. The programs are geared for professionals looking to advance in their fields and keep up-to-date on the latest practices. Students are taught techniques that they can apply immediately in their places of work. The course instructors bring their applied experiences into the online classrooms, and the programs’ professional advisory boards help ensure that the courses and programs remain current and relevant.

More information about the master’s program in online instructional design and technology, as well as registration for the virtual open house on Thursday, June 26, 7 pm EDT, is available online or by calling call 781-736-8787.

Are You Running from Problems or Solving Them?

By: Johanna Rothman

Originally from: http://www.jrothman.com/blog/mpd/2014/05/are-you-running-from-problems-or-solving-them.html

Back when I was a manager inside organizations, I had many days that looked like this:

  • Meetings at 9am, 10am, 11am.
  • Working meeting through lunch (noon-1pm)
  • Meetings at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm.

I finally got a chance to check my email at 4pm. That’s when I discovered the world had blown up earlier in the day! (This is before cell phones. Yes, there was a time before cell phones.)

resource-schedulingI then ran around like a chicken with my head cut off until I left work at 5:30pm, because, yes, I had a family, and, yes, I had to leave at 5:30pm. I either made dinner or picked up children, depending on my agreement with Mark.

We did the family stuff until 8pm, and when the kids went to sleep, I went back to work.

No wonder I was exhausted. My decision-making sometimes suffered, too. No surprise there.

Luckily, I had some days that did not look like this. I could solve the problems I encountered. And, some of these meetings were problem-solving meetings.

However, I had jobs where my senior managers did not manage their project portfolios, and we had many crises du jour. My VP would try to catch me on the way to my next meeting, and attempt to get me to “commit” to when a patch would be available or when we would start, or finish a project.

I swear, one of my VP’s used to know when I went to the ladies’ room. He did yell at me through the door, just as in this management myth.

I finally put my foot down, and said I was no longer going to meetings that weren’t problem solving meetings. Have you read the chapter about meetings in Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management? I wrote it for project managers and for ProjectManagement_03managers who run around like the proverbial chickens. I wrote Manage Your Project Portfolio for managers like me who had well-meaning senior managers who had trouble making decisions about which projects to do.

This management myth is something I see often in organizations. This one is the one where people are running around so often they don’t actually solve problems.

Many problems are a combination of several problems. You might have to separate the problems and attack them in sequence. But, you might have to see the whole first, because there might be delays. The overarching problem is this: if you don’t give yourself enough time as a problem solving team, you can’t tell what the problem is. If you can’t tell what the problem is, you can’t solve it.

Problem solving tends to go through the process of:

  • Problem definition: What do we think the problem is?
  • Problem discussion: Let’s get all the divergent ideas on the table. Brainstorm, whatever we need to do.
  • Select a solution: Converge on a solution, trying out the ideas, understanding the results of each potential solution
  • Determine an action plan, with dates and people’s names associated with each step

Your problem solving might vary from this a bit, but that’s the general idea.

If you never give yourself enough time to solve problems because you’re always running around, how can you solve problems? It’s a problem. (Like the recursion there?)

That’s this month’s management myth, I Can Concentrate on the Run. Maybe your myth is that you can concentrate in a 10-minute standup. Maybe your myth is that you can concentrate on your drive into work. You might be able to, for some problems. Complex management problems require more than one person to solve them. They require more than a few minutes thought.

How do you solve complex problems in your organization? Do the problems run around the organization for a while? Or, do you solve them?

Johanna Rothman

Is an Average of Averages Accurate? (Hint: NO!)

by: Katherine S Rowell author of “The Best Boring Book Ever of Select Healthcare Classification Systems and Databases” available now!

Originally posted: http://ksrowell.com/blog-visualizing-data/2014/05/09/is-an-average-of-averages-accurate-hint-no/

Today a client asked me to add an “average of averages” figure to some of his performance reports. I freely admit that a nervous and audible groan escaped my lips as I felt myself at risk of tumbling helplessly into the fifth dimension of “Simpson’s Paradox”– that is, the somewhat confusing statement that averaging the averages of different populations produces the average of the combined population. (I encourage you to hang in and keep reading, because ignoring this concept is an all too common and serious hazard of reporting data, and you absolutely need to understand and steer clear of it!)

hand drawing blue arrowImagine that we’re analyzing data for several different physicians in a group. We establish a relation or correlation for each doctor to some outcome of interest (patient mortality, morbidity, client satisfaction). Simpson’s Paradox states that when we combine all of the doctors and their results, and look at the data in aggregate form, we may discover that the relation established by our previous research has reversed itself. Sometimes this results from some lurking variable(s) that we haven’t considered. Sometimes, it may be due simply to the numerical values of the data.

First, the “lurking variable” scenario. Imagine we are analyzing the following data for two surgeons:

  1. Surgeon A operated on 100 patients; 95 survived (95% survival rate).
  1. Surgeon B operated on 80 patients; 72 survived (90% survival rate).

At first glance, it would appear that Surgeon A has a better survival rate — but do these figures really provide an accurate representation of each doctor’s performance?

Deeper analysis reveals the following: of the 100 procedures performed by Surgeon A,

  • 50 were classified as high-risk; 47 of those patients survived (94% survival rate)
  • 50 procedures were classified as routine; 48 patients survived (96% survival rate)

Of the 80 procedures performed by Surgeon B,

  • 40 were classified as high-risk; 32 patients survived (80% survival rate)
  • 40 procedures were classified as routine; 40 patients survived (100% survival rate)

When we include the lurking classification variable (high-risk versus routine surgeries), the results are remarkably transformed.

Now we can see that Surgeon A has a much higher survival rate in the high-risk category (94% v. 80%), while Surgeon B has a better survival rate in the routine category (100% v. 96%).

Let’s consider the second scenario, where numerical values can change results.

First, imagine that every month, the results of a patient satisfaction survey are exactly the same (Table 1).

patient-satisfaction-survey-table1

The Table shows that calculating an average of each month’s result produces the same result (90%) as calculating a Weighted Average (90%). This congruence exists because each month, the denominator and numerator are exactly the same, contributing equally to the results.

Now consider Table 2, which also displays the number of responses received from a monthly patient-satisfaction survey, but where the number of responses and the number of patients who report being satisfied differ from month to month. In this case, taking an average of each month’s percentage allows some months to contribute to or affect the final result more than others. Here, for example, we are led to believe that 70% of patients are satisfied.

patient-satisfaction-survey-table2

All results should in fact be treated as the data-set of interest, where the denominator is Total Responses (2,565) and the numerator is Total Satisfied (1,650). This approach correctly accounts for the fact that there is a different number of values each month, weights them equally, and produces a correct satisfaction rate of 64%. That is quite a difference from our previous answer of 6% — almost 145 patients!

How we calculate averages really does matter if we are committed to understanding our data and reporting it correctly. It matters if we want to identify opportunities to improve, and are committed to taking action.

As a final thought about averages, here is a wryly amusing bit of wisdom on the topic that also has the virtue of being concise. “No matter how long he lives, a man never becomes as wise as the average woman of 48.” -H. L. Mencken.

I’d say that about sums up lurking variables and weighted averages — wouldn’t you?

– See more at: http://ksrowell.com/blog-visualizing-data/2014/05/09/is-an-average-of-averages-accurate-hint-no/#sthash.WCltUtKb.dpuf

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Cloud Computing and the OpenStack Advantage

by: Nagendra Nyamgondalu, Senior Engineering Manager at IBM India and Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Software Engineering Alum

It was only a few years back that most IT managers I spoke to would smirk when they heard  the  term  “cloud” in  a  conversation.  They  either  didn’t  believe  that  cloud cloud-iaas computing  would  be  viable  for  their  businesses’  IT  needs  or  were  skeptical  about  the maturity  of  the  technology.  And  rightly  so.  But,  a  lot  has  changed  since  then.  The  technology, tools and services available for businesses considering adoption of a public cloud, setting up their own private cloud or treading the middle path of a hybrid one, has  made  rapid  strides.  Now,  the  same  IT  managers  are  very  focused  on  deploying  workloads and applications on the cloud for cost reduction and improved efficiency.

Businesses  today  have  the  choice  of  consuming  Infrastructure  as  a  service  (IaaS),  Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS). As you can imagine, these models map directly to the building blocks of a typical data center. Servers, storage and networks form the infrastructure on top of which, the required platforms are built such as databases, application servers or web servers and tools for design and development. Once the two foundational layers are in place, the applications that provide the actual business value can be run on top. While all three models are indisputable parts of the bigger picture that is Cloud Computing, I have chosen to focus on IaaS here. After all, infrastructure is the first step to a successful IT deployment.

Essentially, IaaS is the ability to control and automate pools of resources, be it compute, storage,  network  or  others  and  provision  it  on-­‐demand.  Delivering  IaaS  requires  technology  that  provides  efficient  and  quick  provisioning,  smart  scheduling  for deployment  of  virtual  machines  and  workloads,  support  for  most  hardware  and  of  course, true scalability. OpenStack is an open source framework founded by Rackspace Hosting  and  NASA  that  takes  a  community  approach  to  make  all  this  possible.  It  was  designed  with  scalability  and  elasticity  as  the  overarching  theme  and  a  share­nothing, distribute-­‐everything approach. This enables OpenStack to be horizontally scalable and asynchronous. Since inception, the community has grown to a formidable number with many  technology  vendors  such  as  IBM,  Cisco,  Intel,  HP  and  others  embracing  it.  The  undoubted advantage that a community-­‐based approach brings, especially to something like IaaS, is the extensive support for a long list of devices and cloud standards. When a new type of storage or a next generation network switch is introduced to the market, the vendors have a lot to gain by contributing support drivers for their offerings to the community. Similar support for proprietary technology has dependencies on customer demand and the competitive dynamics amongst the vendors -­‐ this almost always results in delayed support, if that. While proprietary versus open source is always a debate, the innovation and cost benefits that open alternatives have provided in the recent years, has  clearly  made  CIOs  take  notice.  Support  for  a  variety  of  hypervisors,  Open  APIs,  support  for  object  or  block  storage  and  the  mostly  self-­‐sufficient  management capabilities are some of the common themes I hear on why businesses are increasingly adapting OpenStack. Additionally, the distributed architecture cloud_securityof OpenStack where each component (such as Compute, Network, Storage & Security) runs as a separate process connected  via  a  lightweight  message  broker,  makes  it  easy  for  ISVs  looking  to  build  value-­‐adds  on  top  of  the  stack.  All  the  right  ingredients  for  a  complete  cloud management solution for IaaS.

Most  IT  managers  dream  of  the  day  when  every  request  for  infrastructure  is  satisfied  instantly by the click of a button regardless of the type being requested, workloads run smoothly and fail-­‐over seamlessly when there is a need to, resource usage is constantly optimal  and  adding  additional  hardware  to  the  pool  is  a  smooth  exercise.  Business  managers dream of the day when they have instant access to the infrastructure needed to run their brand new application and once it is up, it stays up. Aaah Utopia.

The good news is it is possible here and now.

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Nagendra Nyamgondalu is a Senior Engineering Manager at IBM in India. He is a 2003 graduate from Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies’ Master of Software Engineering Program.

 

Design Your Agile Project, Part 1

by: Johanna Rothman

Find the original post here: http://www.jrothman.com/blog/mpd/2014/03/design-your-agile-project-part-1-2.html

The more I see teams transition to agile, the more I am convinced that each team is unique. Each project is unique. Each organizational context is unique. Why would you take an off-the-shelf solution that does not fit your context? (I wrote Manage It! because I believe in a context-driven approach to project management in general.)

One of the nice things about Scrum is the inspect-and-adapt approach to it. Unfortunately, most people do not marry the XP engineering practices with Scrum, which means they don’t understand why their transition to agile fails. In fact, they think that Scrum alone,without the engineering practices, is agile. How many times do you hear “Scrum/Agile”? (I hear it too many times. Way too many.)

I like kanban, because you can see where the work is. “We have a lot of features in process.” Or, “Our testers never get to done.” (I hate when I hear that. Hate it! That’s an example of people not working as a cross-functional team to get to done. Makes me nuts. But that’s a symptom, not a cause.) A kanban board often provides more data than a Scrum board does.

Can there be guidelines for people transitioning to agile? Or guidelines for projects in a program? There can be principles. Let’s explore them.

The first one is to start by knowing how your product releases, starting with the end in mind. I’m a fan of continuous delivery of code into the code base. Can you deliver your product that way? Maybe.

How Does Your Product Release?

I wish there were just two kinds of products: those that released continuously, as in Software as a Service, and those with hardware, that released infrequently. The infrequent releases release that way because of the cost to release. But, there’s a continuum of release frequency:

Potential Release Frequency

How expensive is it to release your product? The expense of release will change your business decision about when to release your product.

You want to separate the business decision of releasing your product from making your software releasable.

That is, the more to the left of the continuum you are, the more you can marry your releases to your iterations or your features, if you want. Your project portfolio decisions are easier to make, and they can occur as often as you want, as long as you get to done, every feature or iteration.

The more to the right of the continuum you are, the more you need to separate the business decision of releasing from finishing features or iterations. The more to the right of the continuum, the more important it is to be able to get to done on a regular basis, so you can make good project portfolio decisions. Why? Because you often have money tied up in long-lead item expenses. You have to make decisions early for committing to hardware or Non Recurring Engineering expenses.

How Complex is Your Product?

Let’s look at the Cynefin model to see if it has suggestions for how we should think about our projects:

CynefinI’ll talk more about you might want to use the Cynefin model to analyze your project or program in a later post. Sorry, it’s a system, and I can’t do it all justice in one post.

In the meantime, take a look at the Cynefin model, and see where you think you might fall in the model.

Do you have one collocated cross-functional team who wants to transition to agile? You are in the “known knowns” situation for agile. As for your product, you are likely in the “known unknowns” situation. Are you willing to use the engineering practices and work in one- or two-week iterations? Almost anything in the agile or lean community will work for you.

As soon as you have more than one or two teams, or you have geographically distributed teams, or you are on the right hand side of the “Potential for Release Frequency” chart above, do you see how you are no longer in the “Complicated” or “Obvious” side of the Cynefin model? You have too many unknowns.

Where Are We Now?

Here are my principles:

  1. Separate the business decision for product release from the software being releasable all the time. Whatever you have for a product, you want the software to be releasable.
  2. Understand what kind of a product you have. The closer you are to the right side of the product release frequency, the more you need a program, and the more you need a kanban to see where everything is in your organization, so you can choose to do something about them.
  3. Make sure your batch size is as small as you can make it, program or project. The smaller your features, the more you will see your throughput. The shorter your iteration, the more feedback you will obtain from your product owner and “the business.” You want the feedback so you can learn, and so your management can manage the project portfolio.
  4. Use the engineering practices. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you do not keep your stories small so that you can develop automated unit tests, automated system tests, use continuous integration, swarm around stories or pair, and use the XP practices in general, you will not have the safety net that agile provides you to practice at a sustainable pace. You will start wondering why you are always breathless, putting in overtime, never able to do what you want to do.

If you have technical debt, start to pay it down a little at a time, as you implement features. You didn’t accumulate it all at once. Pay it off a little at a time. Or, decide that you need a project to prevent the cost of delay for release. If you are a technical team, you have a choice to be professional. No one is asking you to estimate without providing your own safety net. Do not do so.

This post is for the easier transitions, the people who want to transition, the people who are collocated, the people who have more knowns than unknowns. The next post is for the people who have fewer knowns. Stay tuned.

Johanna Rothman

My Student Experience

by: Daniel Mongeon

Twenty-three years.  That’s the length of time that has eclipsed since I last enrolled in a “for credit” course.  I earned my undergrad at that time and never looked back, until recently.  I had been contemplating taking a course for both professional development and as a possible gateway to applying to a Masters program, but I didn’t really want to do it.

My two sons are 5 and 3.  Seeing them when I arrive home from work is the best part of my day, but it’s still stepping from one job to another.  The second best part of my day is when they’re tucked into bed and I can indulge in some “me” time.  I guard that “me” time jealously and I didn’t want to have my vigorous schedule of TV and reading interrupted by coursework.  Thankfully, my wife and my mother, an educator, wouldn’t allow me to rest on my laurels and I enrolled in RCOM 102 Professional Communications for the Spring 2014 term.

As the opening day for GPS courses approached, my dread increased but I tamped those program-hero-itm1feelings down with hollow sounding (to me) platitudes about “stepping outside of one’s comfort zone” and prepared for the 10 weeks to follow.  After reading through my syllabus and posting my initial introduction, I mapped out a schedule that seemed doable.  Wednesday would be my day for required readings.  Thursday would be for researching and posting my response to my instructor’s discussion post.  Friday would be for working on assignments and responding to posts by my classmates.  Saturday would be a day off, a break from schoolwork.  Sunday, Monday and Tuesday would be for completion of any tasks that needed to be wrapped up by the end of the course week.

It was a good plan, but what is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?  Right.  Life happens.  Sometimes a buddy I hadn’t seen in a while would only have Wednesday night free to hang out.  Perhaps I had a commitment on Friday.  There was that wedding to attend in Brooklyn on the weekend of Week 8.  There were times that I just couldn’t wrap my head around getting my work done and would stare at my computer screen, trying to will an idea to pop into my head.

skills-pmpI got through it, however.  Mores to the point, I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed reading posts from other students and constructing a decent response.  Through the research I had to do for my discussion posts and assignments, I learned things that could assist me in not only my job but my day to day life.  Our instructor was excellent at keeping our discussions moving if they bogged down. I found satisfaction in logging in to the class and seeing if there were any responses to what I had posted.  Getting my grades back and reading my instructor’s feedback pushed me to shore up the areas that needed strengthening.

Mostly, I found that stepping outside of my comfort zone wasn’t just an empty platitude; it was a way of “exercising” unused mental faculties and coming out the other side having discovered that I have the capacity to fit more education into my hectic life.  I found that you can come to like something you initially dreaded.

I got an ‘A’ in the course and plan to continue my studies. Although for now, I have some Red Sox games to enjoy, an instructional baseball team to coach and waves to catch.  See you in class.

About the Author:

Daniel Mongeon is a Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Student Advisor. He has been with GPS for over 3 years and knows all there is to know about your student experience. He is a graduate from Emerson College and loves to surf, watch the sox and spend time with his family.

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