Author Archives: Nicole Radziwill

Building a Hugo web site & Hosting on Google Cloud

Note: This example uses Windows 10, git bash, Google Cloud SDK (gsutil), the Google Cloud console, and the Hugo static site builder. Familiarity with each will help. Hugo is beautiful and elegant if you are a skilled tinkerer. If you are not, or if you fear the command line, just head over to WordPress right now.

For the past two years, my personal web site has (embarrassingly) been on Squarespace – due to 1) laziness and 2) a temporary lapse of reason due to effective marketing. They told me it would be “easy” and so I gave them my money, only to have my personal bias that WYSIWYG editors are the work of the devil confirmed many times over. I’ve been wanting to atone for my sins, but haven’t had the time to think about it because 2020.

But it’s holiday season! And, inspired by datalorax and his new data science teaching site, and with the breezy unencumbered mental space of almost 10 days away from work, I decided it was time to get to work and learn Hugo, the “world’s fastest framework for building websites.” It’s a templating system you can use to generate static websites, and it reminds me a lot about the “object oriented web design” program we built in Perl in 1996 to generate e-commerce product catalogs. As a result, the nostalgia was kind of motivating.

I decided to rebuild my personal web site with Hugo, on Windows 10, and deploy to a GCS bucket that one of my Google Domains would point to, and thus serve my web site. This post talks about the big picture, and I’ll drill down into the more detailed steps at the end of this page so you can follow along if you want to build one too.

After spending two days with Hugo, I give it three (out of five) stars:

  • It produces super sharp, super clean web sites and there are lots of themes to choose from
  • Unlike WordPress, all the themes appear to be free
  • You better be comfortable on the Unix/Linux command line though. (This is for people who want to build a car from scratch rather than going to a dealership and paying full price. Granted, they have turned this process into more of an assembly, where you just have to connect five or six different big pieces to make it all work. But the end product will not be a web site that mere mortal business leaders and content owners can make frequent updates, like they might do on a company web site powered by WordPress.)
  • You’ll be happier if you know a little HTML, CSS, YAML too
  • You also need to come prepared with your patience. The giant pieces to assemble are pretty much the same from theme to theme, except for where they’re not, and that’s where you may pull your hair out
  • If it’s the world’s fastest framework, then there is a huge market opportunity open to deliver on that promise, both for developers and content owners. I’d say WordPress is a faster framework, if you’re willing to put up with its (not ubiquitous) performance problems.

Here’s what you need to do before you start:

  1. Install git bash – you’re going to need a command line that’s more useful than the Windows default
  2. Install the Google Cloud SDK – this is for deployment later
  3. Make sure you can get into Google Cloud Platform via your personal http://console.cloud.google.com link
  4. Buy a domain name from Google Domains

Here are the steps to building and deploying your Hugo web site. Each of these steps will go to its own blog post, so if you don’t see links here, I’m still working on those posts.

  1. Download Hugo, get it in your Windows PATH, set up a Hugo directory & check git bash to make sure it worked
  2. Build your Hugo site locally by creating a new site, pulling down a theme, and copying files in unexpected ways
  3. Build your public Hugo site, set up a GCS bucket to host it that has to have the name http://www.yourdomain.yourtld, make that bucket public, tell that bucket a web site will be in the bucket (ie. that the default page is index.html and errors go to 404.html), and then push the built site into the bucket
  4. Set up a CNAME record in Google Domains (no naked domains!) that points to c.storage.googleapis.com.
  5. Enjoy the hard earned fruits of your labor.

The fruits of mine are at http://www.nicoleradziwill.com

BAD MetRICS

It’s that time of year where people are dusting off their strategic plans, hosting their parties and strategy workshops, and making sure the KPIs and metrics on their scorecards are the ones they want to be watching in 2021.

But most people really aren’t that religious about measurement systems, or tightly aligning specific actions with the needle they are most likely to move. The goal of “becoming data-driven” usually isn’t accompanied by the discipline and perseverance to make it happen, even though the payoffs are huge.

And none of us are immune to bad metrics, even when those things are really important. Sometimes, a metric is just too emotionally enticing to give up.

I use one bad metric myself, and no matter how bad I know it is, I keep using it to evaluate (one dimension of) my personal value. PSA: It is never good to tie your worth as a human to a metric (any metric). Gen Z may have more luck than us Gen Xers on this one.

My bad metric, the one I can’t emotionally detach from, is number of citations on Google Scholar. And the reason why I’m thinking about it today is because… I just achieved my 2020 goal of adding more citations than I added in 2019!

Here’s why this metric is so terribly bad:

  • Number of citations is a lagging indicator, and the lag can often be 3-5 years.
  • By the time the needle moves, it’s hard to figure out exactly what happened to make it move.
  • There are very few actions I can personally take to make that needle move.
  • Any actions I do take will be indirect. I can make people more aware of my papers, but can’t force anyone to cite one… so the actions I can take will influence reach, but not citations.
  • There’s an interesting social dimension to past number of citations. The more citations you have on a paper, the more likely you are to attract additional citations; similarly, the more citations you have, the better SEO you get on sites like Google Scholar. It’s a “fit get fitter” scenario.
  • I can’t monitor this metric on a weekly or monthly basis. If it dips, I won’t be able to respond by taking an action to restore growth.
  • I haven’t even thought about using this metric as a signal for when I should take action. Because of all the problems I listed above.
  • I didn’t do anything to achieve my 2020 goal. I just helplessly watched that number creep up, kept my fingers crossed, and (now) celebrated on December 19th when I (just barely) went over the wire before New Year’s.
  • The calendar is arbitrary anyway. What if I achieved the goal on January 5? Would I feel unaccomplished? Probably yes (this is pathetic)!
  • Ultimately, I am not in control of citations. I should have picked an intermediary metric that I am in control of… but that’s really difficult, and I’m not in academia any more so I really don’t even need to pay attention to this (another giant problem! Why am I still even paying attention? Attention is expensive!)

My Holiday wish for you is: Select your metrics carefully! Pick ones that are (ideally):

  • Not limited to lagging indicators with extraordinarily long lags
  • Monitorable on (at least) a weekly or monthly basis
  • Designed so that if you aren’t achieving your target level, you can immediately figure out where the problem is happening, and even know how to dig down deeper to figure out why that problem is happening
  • Triggers for action: every metric that’s not where you want it to be should be link to a thing you can do — that’s in your control — that you know has a pretty good chance of making that needle move the direction you want it to

When your metrics aren’t revealing, actionable, or in your control, you’ve just set yourself up for a special kind of paralysis the entire year.

Productivity Hack: Thinking in layers

I just finished reviewing a colleague’s latest project. It is absolutely beautiful. It’s a collection of very pretty looking documents and forms that you can use to keep track of your professional accomplishments and portfolio. The idea is that each person can use it to cultivate more agency in the professional development process — and it will definitely help people as individuals achieve that goal.

So why would it make my heart sink? Because it’s perfect for one person (or a handful of people) to more easily manage an individual (and isolated) process, but will make it difficult for us to gain visibility into the collection as a whole. It’s a personal management tool, not an organizational management tool. What it won’t help us do is:

  • Search across 10s or 100s of portfolios
  • Scale to 100s or 1000s of employees
  • Keep the content relevant and up to date

So when I see this gorgeous looking thing, I feel sad: so much work went into this, and although it’s going to help solve one problem, it is going to create a maintenance nightmare. In addition, now we’re locked into a single UI and any change will require a ton of effort (and manual changes in each employee’s worksheet). How could we have avoiding painting ourselves into this box?

Thinking in layers is a habit I’ve developed from decades of working in software. By thinking in layers, you can create more maintainable, systematic, and repeatable solutions for solving operations problems. If we had solved this problem in layers, here’s what the solution components would have looked like:

  • Data layer – store all the data in CSVs, with one observation per row and one variable per column
  • Processing layer – a way to create, read, update, and delete documents, records or fields & perform calculations
  • Presentation layer – a way to display the data and make what the user sees pretty

(One of the reasons I love R Markdown is that it gives you a way to easily combine the processing and the presentation in a way that still doesn’t break the layers. If you want to change what people see, you change that in one spot in your Rmd, then re-knit.)

The moral of the story is: you can’t build a scalable system without layers. Think in layers.

Yes, I’ve been gone for 9 months, because 2020

I find it amusing that my last post, exactly 9 months and 1 day ago, was about burnout. That’s before we knew what would happen just 8 weeks later, when we’d all go into a collective (and very dull) sweat lodge to rediscover ourselves by immersion in the ordinary. Which, as it turns out, also leads to burnout. Who would have guessed.

And not unexpectedly, in that interim, WordPress changed Gutenberg again and the editor is unrecognizable. I wish developers would stop making slick UIs that make it difficult to get tasks done, or that surprise unwitting users with an unplanned for cognitive load, without great up front preparation and expectation setting. (I’ll probably end up loving the new interface. Give me until Saturday.)

What’s been going on all this time? Two main things! First, my newest book came out from ASQ Quality Press: <a href="http://<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Connected-Intelligent-Automated-Definitive-Transformation/dp/1951058003/ref=as_li_ss_il?dchild=1&keywords=radziwill+digital&qid=1602615335&sr=8-1&linkCode=li3&tag=qualandinnowe-20&linkId=d315b8ec0b8f723276a9599a6f02c80a&language=en_US&quot; target="_blank"><img border="0" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&ASIN=1951058003&Format=_SL250_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=qualandinnowe-20&language=en_US" ></a>""Connected, Intelligent, Automated: The Definitive Guide to Digital Transformation with Quality 4.0. It’s great for anyone who wants to get a really good, deep-in-the-bones feel for what digital transformation really means, along with its pals AI and Machine Learning, and how to make it happen in a way that will benefit the business. (Have a business person who works in tech on your holiday shopping list who throws around a lot of buzzwords? Do you want to cure them? This would make a great gift.)

The second thing is that I joined Ultranauts, an early stage professional services startup that provides quality assurance and quality engineering via functional, manual and accessibility testing; software test automation; and data quality engineering. We’re unique because over 75% of the workforce is autistic or otherwise neurodivergent… and unlike other similar companies or “autism at work” initiatives, we just focus on creating an individualized work environment where everyone can thrive. (Sounds like something that would be great in any company, right? Exactly… that’s what we’re working on.)

I’m still not out of the pandemic fog. In fact, it’s been so thick since maybe July that I haven’t been able to focus on anything but work and related obligations, and sleeping (so apologies to anyone whose messages I’ve missed; I’ve been firing on fumes). Since I started this blog 11 or 12 years ago, I’ve rarely missed a month on the board… posting is enjoyable to me, and a great way to make sure fleeting thoughts don’t completely fleet away. So here’s to the fog lifting, the posts starting to flow again, and a new life pattern emerging.

Preferably one that includes traveling to other countries. And trains.

Burnout at Work? It’s Not Your Fault

Over the past week, I’ve noticed lots of people on social media talking about burnout — loss of energy, loss of enthusiasm, and loss of self-confidence at work. The holidays have ended, and it seems many are not getting back into the swing like they hoped they might.

Are you burned out? If so, you’ve probably taken steps already to fix it. Most people have a natural desire to do well at work, and to make valuable contributions… and besides, burnout doesn’t feel good day to day. Maybe you spent lots of time away from your email or phone, and with family or friends. Maybe you focused on “self-care” — those activities that are supposed to pull you back to center, to restore your depleted energy.

And if the concerted steps you’ve taken don’t seem to be working, you’re probably even more stressed out (and more burned out) than you were weeks or months ago.

What’s the solution?

The good news is, the burnout won’t last forever. There’s a natural endpoint for burnout, and that’s when you completely reach your limit and don’t even have the energy to remember why you cared in the first place. Most of us would rather not get to this point. So what’s the alternative?

You have two choices, both of which can have huge impacts on your life:

  • Stay, and work on improving the situation, or
  • Leave, recognizing that you’re not able to contribute to a solution.

But how do you know which path to take? First and foremost, it’s important to understand where burnout comes from. In December 2019, Harvard Business Review published a great article that makes it clear:

  1. Unfair treatment at work. If you’ve been treated unfairly, or if you see coworkers being treated in ways that you feel is unfair, your trust in the organization is going to falter. It takes a long time to build trust, but only one or two incidents to break it.
  2. Unmanageable workload. If you’re given too much to do, or if you work on tasks that (for some reason or another) tend to get changed, shifted, or cancelled in-progress, you’ll have a hard time seeing your efforts pan out. Everyone needs a chance to see their work come to fruition.
  3. Lack of role clarity. If you don’t know (or are not told) what to focus on, OR if you’re told to focus on one area and then later discover someone else actually owns it, conflicts are bound to emerge.
  4. Lack of communication and/or support from your manager. This doesn’t mean you don’t talk to each other, or that your manager doesn’t philosophically support your work — it means that they aren’t doing enough to make sure that #1, 2, 3 and 5 aren’t happening.
  5. Unreasonable time pressure. Being expected to pull off heroics can lead to burnout, especially when it’s the status quo. The people who do the work should always be asked to provide effort estimates, particularly when the work is engineering or software development. Failure to develop and implement systematic, repeatable processes for effort estimation can lead to mass burnout later.

But here’s the part of that HBR article that really resonated with me…

The list above clearly demonstrates that the root causes of burnout do not really lie with the individual and that they can be averted — if only leadership started their prevention strategies much further upstream.

In our interview, Maslach asked me to picture a canary in a coal mine. They are healthy birds, singing away as they make their way into the cave. But, when they come out full of soot and disease, no longer singing, can you imagine us asking why the canaries made themselves sick? No, because the answer would be obvious: the coal mine is making the birds sick.

Jennifer Moss, in Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People

The lesson here is: If you’re burned out, it’s not a personal failure.

Burnout is a symptom of structural or process issues… that senior leaders are responsible for repairing.

The “Should I stay or should I go?” question, then, boils down to this:

  • Stay if you can help the organization treat people more fairly, establish manageable workloads, define more clear roles, improve communication with managers, and/or alleviate time pressure.
  • Leave if you can’t.

Granted, the decision process for you individually is probably more complex than this… but perhaps, by realizing that burnout is a characteristic of your environment and not a referendum on your personal resilience, you’ll be able to figure out your own path more easily. Good luck!

Top 10 Business Books You Should Read in 2020


I read well over a hundred books a year, and review many for Quality Management Journal and Software Quality Professional. Today, I’d like to bring you my TOP 10 PICKS out of all the books I read in 2019. First, let me affirm that I loved all of these books — it was really difficult to rank them. The criteria I used were:

  1. Is the topic related to quality or improvement? The book had to focus on making people, process, or technology better in some way. (So even though Greg Satell’s Cascades provided an amazing treatment of how to start movements, which is helpful for innovation, it wasn’t as closely related to the themes of quality and improvement I was targeting.)
  2. Did the book have an impact on me? In particular, did it transform my thinking in some way?
  3. Finally, how big is the audience that would be interested in this book? (Although some of my picks are amazing for niche audiences, they will be less amazing for people who are not part of that group; they were ranked lower.)
  4. Did I read it in 2019? (Unfortunately, several amazing books I read at the end of 2018 like Siva Vaidhyanathan’s Antisocial Media.)

#10 – Understanding Agile Values & Principles (Duncan)

Duncan, Scott. (2019). Understanding Agile Values & Principles. An Examination of the Agile Manifesto. InfoQ, 106 pp. Available from https://www.infoq.com/minibooks/agile-values-principles

The biggest obstacle in agile transformation is getting teams to internalize the core values, and apply them as a matter of habit. This is why you see so many organizations do “fake agile” — do things like introduce daily stand-ups, declare themselves agile, and wonder why the success isn’t pouring in. Scott goes back to the first principles of the Agile Manifesto from 2001 to help leaders and teams become genuinely agile.

#9 – Risk-Based Thinking (Muschara)

Muschara, T. (2018). Risk-Based Thinking: Managing the Uncertainty of Human Error in Operations. Routledge/Taylor & Francis: Oxon and New York. 287 pages.

Risk-based thinking is one of the key tenets of ISO 9001:2015, which became the authoritative version in September 2018. Although clause 8.5.3 from ISO 9001:2008 indirectly mentioned risk, it was not a driver for identifying and executing preventive actions. The new emphasis on risk depends upon the organizational context (clause 4.1) and the needs and expectations of “interested parties” or stakeholders (clause 4.2).

Unfortunately, the ISO 9001 revision does not provide guidance for how to incorporate risk-based thinking into operations, which is where Muschara’s new book fills the gap. It’s detailed and complex, but practical (and includes immediately actionable elements) throughout. For anyone struggling with the new focus of ISO 9001:2015, this book will help you bring theory into practice.

#8 – The Successful Software Manager (Fung)

Fung, H. (2019). The Successful Software Manager. Packt Publishing, Birmingham UK, 433 pp.

There lots of books on the market that provide technical guidance to software engineers and quality assurance specialists, but little information to help them figure out how (and whether) to make the transition from developer to manager. Herman Fung’s new release fills this gap in a complete, methodical, and inspiring way. This book will benefit any developer or technical specialist who wants to know what software management entails and how they can adapt to this role effectively. It’s the book I wish I had 20 years ago.

#7 – New Power (Heimans & Timms)

Heiman, J. & Timms, H. (2018). New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – and How to Make it Work For You. Doubleday, New York, 325 pp.

As we change technology, the technology changes us. This book is an engaging treatise on how to navigate the power dynamics of our social media-infused world. It provides insight on how to use, and think in terms of, “platform culture”.

#6 – A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession (Maldonado)

Maldonado, J. (2019). A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit (CRC Focus). CRC Press: Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton FL, 154 pp.

One of the best ways to learn about a role or responsibility is to hear stories from people who have previously served in those roles. With that in mind, if you’re looking for a way to help make safety management “real” — or to help new safety managers in your organization quickly and easily focus on the most important elements of the job — this book should be your go-to reference. In contrast with other books that focus on the interrelated concepts in quality, safety, and environmental management, this book gets the reader engaged by presenting one key story per chapter. Each story takes an honest, revealing look at safety. This book is short, sweet, and high-impact for those who need a quick introduction to the life of an occupational health and safety manager.

# 5 – Data Quality (Mahanti)

Mahanti, R. (2018). Data Quality: Dimensions, Measurement, Strategy, Management and Governance. ASQ Quality Press, Milwaukee WI, 526 pp.

I can now confidently say — if you need a book on data quality, you only need ONE book on data quality. Mahanti, who is one of the Associate Editors of Software Quality Professional, has done a masterful job compiling, organizing, and explaining all aspects of data quality. She takes a cross-industry perspective, producing a handbook that is applicable for solving quality challenges associated with any kind of data.

Throughout the book, examples and stories are emphasized. Explanations supplement most concepts and topics in a way that it is easy to relate your own challenges to the lessons within the book. In short, this is the best data quality book on the market, and will provide immediately actionable guidance for software engineers, development managers, senior leaders, and executives who want to improve their capabilities through data quality.

#4 – The Innovator’s Book (McKeown)

McKeown, M. (2020). The Innovator’s Book: Rules for Rebels, Mavericks and Innovators (Concise Advice). LID Publishing, 128 pp.

Want to inspire your teams to keep innovation at the front of their brains? If so, you need a coffee table book, and preferably one where the insights come from actual research. That’s what you’ve got with Max’s new book. (And yes, it’s “not published yet” — I got an early copy. Still meets my criteria for 2019 recommendations.)

#3 – The Seventh Level (Slavin)

Slavin, A. (2019). The Seventh Level: Transform Your Business Through Meaningful Engagement with Customer and Employees. Lioncrest Publishing, New York, 250 pp.

For starters, Amanda is a powerhouse who’s had some amazing marketing and branding successes early in her career. It makes sense, then, that she’s been able to encapsulate the lessons learned into this book that will help you achieve better customer engagement. How? By thinking about engagement in terms of different levels, from Disengagement to Literate Thinking. By helping your customers take smaller steps along this seven step path, you can make engagement a reality.

#2 – Principle Based Organizational Structure (Meyer)

Meyer, D. (2019). Principle-Based Organizational Structure: A Handbook to Help You Engineer Entrepreneurial Thinking and Teamwork into Organizations of Any Size. NDMA, 420 pp.

This is my odds-on impact favorite of the year. It takes all the best practices I’ve learned over the past two decades about designing an organization for laser focus on strategy execution — and packages them up into a step-by-step method for assessing and improving organizational design. This book can help you fix broken organizations… and most organizations are broken in some way.

#1 Story 10x (Margolis)

Margolis, M. (2019). Story 10x: Turn the Impossible Into the Inevitable. Storied, 208 pp.

You have great ideas, but nobody else can see what you see. Right?? Michael’s book will help you cut through the fog — build a story that connects with the right people at the right time. It’s not like those other “build a narrative” books — it’s like a concentrated power pellet, immediately actionable and compelling. This is my utility favorite of the year… and it changed the way I think about how I present my own ideas.


Hope you found this list enjoyable! And although it’s not on my Top 10 for obvious reasons, check out my Introductory Statistics and Data Science with R as well — I released the 3rd edition in 2019.

The Endowment Effect: The Ultimate Organizational Rose-Colored (Risk-Enhancing) Glasses

Fifteen or so years ago, I was a member of a review team that assessed a major, multi-million dollar software project. We were asked to perform the review because the project had some issues — it cost nearly $2M a year, was not yet delivering value to users, and had been running for 17 years.

Were I the ultimate decision-maker, my plan of action would have been simple: shut down the project, reconstitute a team with some representation from the old team, and use the lessons learned to rearchitect a newer, more robust solution. It would have customer involvement from the start to ensure a short time-to-value (and continuous flow of value). But there was one complication: the subject matter for this software package was highly specialized and required active involvement from people who had deep knowledge of the problem domain… and the team already had about 60% of the world’s experts on it.

Still, I was focused on the sunk costs. I felt that the organization should not choose to keep the project going just because over $20M had been poured into it… the sunk costs should not factor into the decision.

But then something very curious happened two years later, as the project was still hemorrhaging money… I was put in charge of it. So what did I do? Launched a two-month due diligence to reassess the situation, of course.

I was not on the review team this time, but their assessment was not a surprise — can the project, reconstitute the team, use the lessons learned to plan a new approach to delivering value quickly.

So that’s what I did… right? NOOOOO!!! I decided to try a little harder… because of course we could get the current software project to be stable and valuable, if we just gave it a little more time.

Even I was shocked by my transformation. Why was I feeling like this? Why was I ignoring the facts? Why was I, all of a sudden, powerless to make the appropriate and most logical choice?

Turns out, I was just demonstrating human nature via the Endowment Effect — which says, simplistically, that once you own something you value it more than before you own it. This is not just a curiosity though… because it can get in the way of effective decision-making.

Think about it:

  • Before you buy a house, you psychologically devalue it because you want to get a better deal. But once you move in, your psyche inflates the value because you stand to win as the value increases.
  • Why is it that leaders often value the opinions of consultants more than the opinions of full-time staff? Because consultants are more expensive, and once their reports have been submitted, you now own the intellectual property… and value it more.
  • The same effect occurs if you buy a company. You may be sensitive to issues and opportunities for improvement prior to the sale, but once your signature is on the dotted line… the endowment effect kicks in, and the rose-colored glasses magically appear.

This has a huge implication for quality and process improvement. Once you own something, you are less able to see the problems that need to be solved. This is why we use external auditors for our ISO 9001 programs, or review panels for our government projects, or a quality award assessment process for evaluating how well we are translating strategy to action.

Other people can see areas for improvement that you can’t, if you’re an owner of the process that has problems. The lesson? Get external eyes on your internal issues, and pay attention to their insights.

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