Dan Pink

More than money or perks, Daniel Pink, author of Drive, suggests that what drives people to do their best work and therefore results in happy teams are three things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy and teamwork doesn’t sound compatible. However, if each person on the team does their own job well, playing the role that the system needs and dictates, then they can have significant levels of autonomy. A fire inspector given the right tools, should be able to conduct inspections without significant intervention. Checklinked can provide those tools at their fingertips.

For example, if they don’t know a particular code requirement well, they can use Checklinked’s notes section that can function like a help section providing reference notes which can have links to the actual code section or other webpages with more detailed information about how to handle the issue. In many cases, they can continue their work without the need for additional people to be involved, providing them the autonomy that that leads to increased job satisfaction and happiness. Perhaps more importantly, every inspector gets the same help from the same source. This consistency impacts the satisfaction of everyone involved.

Without this system, they would have to leave the inspection, go back to the office, get the code books out, potentially discuss it with their boss or colleagues, and then decide what to do. This inconsistent, unproductive, and haphazard method benefits no one and certainly doesn’t lead to happiness.

More autonomy benefits everyone involved. Their boss, perhaps the fire marshal, doesn’t have to be consulted, freeing their time. The builder doesn’t have to wait on their inspection approval as the process can move faster. The developer and general contractor move the schedule along easier with less friction and stress. The Checklinked system allows more autonomous workflow which provides benefits to the worker and those they ar working with.

Beyond autonomy and being able to conduct your work with less intervention, workers desire to be really good at what they do. No one likes to make mistakes, but just not doing it wrong doesn’t mean your doing it well or showing mastery. The difference between not doing any thing wrong and being a master can be viewed as the difference in saying all the right words on stage and being an good, or master, actor. With a bit of practice, anyone can can memorize and verbalize a script, but it takes more than that to really be an actor.

Mastery during inspections takes many forms and is not just memorizing code sections so rulings can move quicker. People with mastery anticipate problems and work to avoid them. They create the education and the systems that allow the autonomy to occur. They organize the workflows to catch the big problems at the beginning so as to not waste time on areas that would have to be redone if there are big problems. They communicate authentically, with clarity and reason. They make the people they are involved with better off.

Checklinked systems do far more than provide a reference to requirements or things to do, document the process, or collect data. Checklinked pushes everyone to become a master of their craft. The simplest example comes from organizing the work into a system. This allows review and adjustment, eliminating mistakes and providing improvement, all of which creates mastery. Haphazard workflow leads to misery not mastery as workers really don’t know what to do next, killing any autonomy they have, and leaving them with a job not a craft.

The ability modify a workflow to include new information or reorder to adapt to field conditions used to be daunting, if it was possible. To change a form in a government bureaucracy could take months or even years. But it’s not just paper based systems that prevent mastery, it’s the behavior modification of the workers that provided the stiffest challenge.

Because the documentation doesn’t get lost in a file cabinet or in someone’s memory, learning from past events can be inserted quickly into future workflows. For example,  a workflow may no longer be the most productive way to do things. To do it differently next time would typically require memory and a changing of habits. But with Checklinked the workflow doesn’t come from memory or habit. It comes from the next item on the list. Instead of thinking, “Okay what’s next?”, users will simply look to the next item and do that.

Imagine the relief that will come from trying to figure out what to do as opposed to just doing it. The energy and anxiety differs completely. This becomes obvious when you consider how many habits we all have. We brush our teeth the same, cook the food the same, drive the care the same.

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Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas!

Once again we cross paths to share a moment that reminds us of why we never see each other during the year.

As has been the case, our lives fell short of expectations again this year. Yours probably did too. It’s starting to feel like we should lower the bar. It’s just so exhausting trying to Keep Up with the Kardashians. They’re everywhere. Gosh, I wish they weren’t. I’m sure you agree life would be better without them. In fact, we were talking the other day about Kim and Kanye West naming their son North West. How is someone supposed to Keep Up with that? Our only thought was to adopt a little girl and name her Sushi Rice.

Brenda continues to age like fine wine. Every year she becomes better, more nuanced and complex. Doug continues to age like fine cheese. Every year another layer of mold and a bit more pungent.

One event of note was Brenda’s dad’s 80th Birthday. Brenda went up to the mountains with the whole family and spent the week enjoying the outdoors. While a lovely time was had by all, there was a small issue with a bee hive that had been disturbed and those bees were none to happy about it.


I found this out as I arrived later in the week to the welcome screams of, “Run! Run into the house!” Followed by “No, not in the house, you’ll let them in! Run into the bushes!” “No, not the bushes, jump in the pool!” “Just run!” The pesky bees weren’t dissuaded easily and that’s when I realized that it had been a while since I ran. In my defense, I had been driving and I didn’t get a proper stretch. Bees 1, Doug 0. Thank goodness there was no video.

By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, gas driving to the mountains $50, boring gift that will likely be a donation to the White Elephant sale, $100, having your son-in-law greeted at your birthday party by having everyone screaming at him to run around like a crazy person, priceless. Happy Birthday Dad!

Brenda and Dad

The more pedestrian things include Doug finishing another degree, Brenda lower her handicap to a “bogey” golfer, and way, way too much work. Doug didn’t play one round of golf all year. He started a software venture and on top of his teaching load begins every day at 6am pulling his hair out trying to reinvent the world. However, 2016 should see that work come to fruition and we can finally “Keep Up.” If not, we’ll see you here again next year.

Until then be safe and well. You’re all awesome.

Happy Holidays,


Still working on this site

For different aspects of Doug, use the links above.

If you need to contact me, email me at doug at douglasrice.com.

Cover of my most recent book

Cover of my most recent book

Christmas 2014

Seasons Greetings!
Many of you have sent us holiday junk mail, spam, and other semi-illegal communications already this year, so this retaliation shouldn’t be unexpected.
It’s time to intrude with holiday minutiae once again.
Saddened by the loss of our beloved golden retriever Buddy, this year’s festivities lack panache. There’s no barking, no muddy paws, no wanting in…then out…then in…then out. While time helps, the daily routine things are still missed. For the last 14 years, I can’t remember finishing the last bite of a sandwich. It always went to Buddy. He wanted out in the middle of the night so often Brenda could do it in her sleep. After he passed, a couple of times she tried to put me out. She said it was out of habit, but I have my doubts. While we still miss our Buddy, we know he had a good life. We should all be so lucky.
Otherwise our mundane lives continued.
Brenda ages like a great masterpiece, getting more beautiful and valuable all the time. After improving the lives of patients with her physical therapy equipment, she steadily improves her golf game as she plays weekly with her girls. She went to Hawaii with her parents and sister for a family wedding this year and spent some time with Haley in San Diego, going to the world famous zoo and kayaking in the caves of La Jolla.
Doug rolled along like a well worn tire; balding in some places, bulging in others, and occasionally leaking air. His students rolled along too; most downhill, some with speed, but others clearly needing a push as they faced a steep uphill climb.
Besides his typical stuff, this year he has new software start-up, co-authored a chapter in one book, re-wrote two others, and began another graduate degree. So not much golf this year as in his spare time, he slept.

We hope you all live more interesting lives.
Have a safe holiday and new year.
Merry Christmas,

Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas!

We hope everyone has had a great year. Instead of email, snail mail, or a glittery card delivered by reindeer-driven sled, we have moved into the digital world and we’re simply making a Christmas blog post for our Christmas card/letter this year.

Less personal? Yes. Less costly? Yes. Easier? Absolutely.

As anticipated, I navigated the year wisely continuing to fool Brenda into thinking I am a good guy. This is my record 31st year of doing so.

Brenda Tuscany

My smartest move was handling her big birthday by planning it around exactly what she wanted to do. While not always wise enough to listen to what she says, the importance of the event mandated a bit more attention on my part.

Brenda wanted to go to Tuscany and take cooking lessons. I thought about telling her about our proximity to an Olive Garden and their endless salad, but in a brief – and rare – moment of self discipline, I held my tongue. So off we went to Rome, Florence and the Tuscan countryside.

She loved the trip. On her birthday, we took a cooking class on making “pici” pasta (basically thick hand rolled spaghetti) at the farm house we stayed at in the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany while drinking wine made from the vines right outside. Couldn’t have been better. Score one point for Doug.

brenda dough

While overall the trip exceeded expectations, there were moments. We stayed in rental apartments though VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner). These were great prices in wonderful locations. However, they were basically peoples homes, so there were some differences from the typical hotel room.

Most notably was the bathroom in Rome. As we arrived, the room wasn’t ready. In fact, the people that were staying there were going down the stairs as we were going up. Bianca, the landlord that lived next door, said we could leave our stuff, but would have to go out for a few hours until the room was cleaned. She seemed to be in a bit of a rush, but said I could use the bathroom before we left.

In my rush to get in and out, I walked into the dimly lit bathroom before hitting the light switch. Anyone that has ever gone in the middle of the night knows, that you really don’t need a 100 watt bulb to get the job done. So as I stepped in the door toward the toilet, I quickly learned that there was a step up inside the bathroom to the toilet. The step, which I didn’t see at all, slowed my lower body progress to a halt. My upper body however had a mind of it’s own and marched on. At this point, there was no time to communicate stop my progress. I was going horizontal.

As I never did get the light on, I really couldn’t see what I was going to hit. Turned out it was my left shoulder into the wall – which was build at the beginning of the Roman empire and is still standing for a reason. I bounced off the wall like a ball of pizza dough and across the toilet into the bidet.

Now completely horizontal but finally at rest, I started to take inventory of what might be battered, bruised, or broken. Nothing too bad, so now to get up. Easier said than done. I kinda wanted to just roll off the fixtures into the floor, but I wasn’t going let that damn step get me again. So it’s the hand into the bidet, a solid push, and up I pop right onto toilet – my original goal. I felt like saying, “Ta Dah!”

One could think this ruckus might be loud enough for someone to notice. But since the walls were so thick, they didn’t hear a sound. Also, I kept in mind it was Brenda’s birthday, so any desire I had to vent my frustrations at the absurd location of that step in a verbal tirade had to be put on hold. When I finally walked out, as you might of guessed, she said, “What did you do, fall in?”

I don’t mind telling you my next comment required championship-level vent suppression that I am not prone to on a regular basis. It was HER birthday trip. I said, “Sorry. Are you ready to go?” and off we went.

It didn’t take too long for my shoulder to bruise up and start to hurt. Eventually she noticed I was using my half zipped jacket as a sling and I got to confess the event. I whimpered less than usual, which I think she appreciated. I felt better being able to state for the record how I felt about that step. In a couple of days all was well. Turned to be a great trip. Brenda loved it.

Brenda Tuscany 2

Speaking of great trips, Brenda, her sister and parents went to Paris this fall. Her mom had never been and there’s no better time than the present, so off they went. She says the highlight was first night when they took a boat cruise down the Seine river past Notre Dame and back to the Eiffel tower. It was right at dusk and the tower started sparkling with the evening lights. Rumor has it tears were shed.

Brenda Paris

While Brenda enjoyed the good life, I got stuck in jury duty. After three weeks listening to people spin half truths to their benefit, I shed a few tears myself. I would rather have been sentenced to watch Jerry Springer reruns all day.

One of the so-called medical “experts” testified for almost an hour using one specific MRI picture of a spine. When the other attorney cross-examined him, he was asked what the 9/23 was on the top of the picture was. He said the date. Then he was asked “Wasn’t MRI on 9/23 taken in 2011 not 2009 as you just testified?” He said, “Oops, I was looking at the wrong picture.”

A medical expert with great credentials, $5000/Day. Detailed testimony on spinal injury, $750/hour. Forgetting to check the date and completely blowing your credibility. Priceless. There’s three weeks of my life I won’t get back.

In other news, Brenda made progress in golf game this year, starting to get into the low 90’s. Won’t be too long until she’s a bogey golf. Conversely, I am still struggling to fix my pathetic swing. Much like my tumble in Rome, my lower body and my upper body don’t always to communicate very well. However, I did pull it together to win the home and away senior event at Olympic club. I thought it wasn’t my day when I hit a ball right at the flagstick only to have it hit dead square and carom off quite a ways.  But on the very next hole, I holed out an 8 iron from under a tree in the rough. But that didn’t last as my game is back in the bidet.

Brenda doug golf

Lots of good food and wine this year. One of the bigger events is a party in San Francisco called Le Diner de Blanc. It’s a pop up dinner where you have to bring everything except tables and chairs and everyone dresses in all white. It’s kinda like a picnic with 4000 of your closest friends.

They always pick a great location. This year was in front of City Hall. There were 12 of us and I made quite a few dishes that everyone enjoyed. Really quite a fun event. I try to write up our foodie fun in a blog called Searching for Wow! I’m really behind in the blog, but my cooking skills are moving ahead.

le diner sf

Work is fine. Lots going on and on top of it I took on a few more classes at Notre Dame this year. I really like the people there, both students and faculty. I keep really busy as I still don’t know how to say no to someone that needs my help. Brenda is selling her medical equipment hand over fist and busy as well. So we, like so many of you, just juggle like crazy and try not to drop anything important.

That’s enough from us.

Call, write, or visit. You’re always welcome at our house.

Big hug from Brenda and Doug





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