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October 1, 2011

How to Measure Anything

Book Review-How to Measure Anything: Finding the Intangibles in Business

Douglas Hubbard certainly knows how to throw down a dare. His book, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Intangibles in Business certainly is a superlative title. The promise is that you’ll be able to measure absolutely anything with the techniques laid out in the book. I have to say that he’s possibly right. Certainly there should be a certain amount of skepticism in any absolute, however, once you understand what measurement is and what is isn’t this makes a lot more sense.

The book starts with some practical examples of measurements that were both simple and very useful. There’s the computation of the circumference of the earth nearly 200 years before the birth of Christ. Then there’s the child who figured out that it wasn’t necessary to measure *how* effective spiritual healers were, it was only necessary to measure *if* they were effective at all. A simple study was able to provide a ton of useful information – much to the display of some now out of work healers.

However, this isn’t where the book stops. It moves on to talk about techniques of monte carlo simulations, fermi estimates, and techniques that can be used to approximate answers in a range. That’s a key point – measurements don’t have to be precise. They need only be accurate. Most folks falsely believe that measurements must be precise – there must be no error in them. However, what Hubbard illuminates is that every measurement has some level of error built into it. We’re far from the hiesenberg uncertainty princple (which says you can’t monitor sub-atomic particles without effecting them.)

Hubbard also talks about estimating and how we have biases that are hard to break in the way that we estimate. As a consultant for my entire career I can tell you that estimating is perhaps the hardest part of the job. Every situation and project is different in some ways and as a result every estimate is a challenge of understanding the impact of the various factors. Hubbard talks about calibrating estimates so that the estimator knows how to estimate better. If you’re a consultant who has to estimate work this part of the book is worth the price of admission.

One of the things I liked most about the book was that Hubbard didn’t get stuck into the statisics and just start talking about numbers and probabilities. While he would tell you that with a random sampling of just 5 items you have a 93.75% change that the mean value for the larger population is in between the largest and smallest sample values. That’s pretty cool. It means that you can check with a really small set of people to get some useful information about the everyone population – presuming your sample is random.

If you have some time to learn more about measurement, you want to check out How to Measure Anything.

Writing Your Own SharePoint Publishing Approval Workflow

Out of the box SharePoint has a Publishing Approval workflow that’s hooked up to libraries to support approval of published content. It’s possible to modify this workflow to support your own needs – but there may be some times when you want to author a new workflow from scratch. This works fine in SPD, except that once created you can’t associate it so that it is started when someone tries to publish a new major version of the item. Take a look at the following two screen shots:

If you want to enable this option you’ll need to directly edit the workflow’s configuration XML files. To do this go to the All Files option

Then go to _catalogs then wfpub and the name of your workflow. Note that there’s a different location for non-globally published workflows but since you want this to work anywhere in the site collection you’ll want to work with a globally published workflow. Once you have your folder you should see something like:

Right click the .wfconfig.xml file, select open with, and SharePoint Designer (Open as XML)

In the file add AllowStartOnMajorCheckin=”true”

If you created the workflow on a content type you may need to remove the Category and ContentTypeID attributes of the Template node to allow the workflow to be associated with the library. The Start this workflow to approve publishing a major version of an item is only available on the library – this start option isn’t available for a content type.

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