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You are here: Home > Books blog > BookBlog20230609 Testing the ground on a different approach and a public service announce on Turin

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Published on 2023-06-09 23:57:00 | words: 5083

Yes, it has been a while since I posted the previous "episode" of my signposts through publishing.

The latest one was on 2021-07-12, BookBlog20210712 Publishing outline and channels for the next 12 months: a tentative plan.

Read by over 5,000 people, was posted just days before starting my first mission after the latest round of COVID restrictions.

This implied accepting some unusual conditions, but more about it another time- eventually stayed on for a further six months (until the completion of the project I had been hired for, despite some organizational changes before the first six months expired), after the initial six months.

Anyway, since that 2021 article, here and there shared some information on what I was preparing (and not just on social media, that I keep using as my public "open diary" on the private/political and business/social side), as the plan evolved.

E.g. Book writing notes on sustainability and its context, published on 2022-01-05, and again read by over 5,000 (I do not know if the same 5,000).

In this article, will not really talk about my updated publishing plans, but share bits of concepts and my current writing activities within a larger framework.

Beware: since the 1980s, I am used to work on events, products, software, organizational change, etc. with a "project-that-then-could-turn-into-product-or-service" approach, and even moving my own books get the same "treatment".

No pun intended, also if my books generally start with a 3-4 pages "treatment", as if they were a script, so that then I can develop the "narrative", and use that as a guide to "prune" material into the final draft.

For each 50-100 pages mini-book that I published, there was often enough material to publish twice that number of pages (or even more), but I try to streamline, so that each mini-book can be read in a single reading session lasting between one hour and half a day, depending on your familiarity with the subject, or your interest in following threads within the book on other sources.

As an example, have a look at #QuPlan - A Quantum of Planning (you can read the full mini-book online for free- follow the links within the page).

The associated 200+ pages case study (describing a fictional compliance program) is currently offline, while I prepare the new version and revise the existing one.

In my view, any plan gets through at least three three phases: plan is released, plan meets reality, plan gets adjusted- with plenty of additional elements.

So, these are the sections of this article:
_ the cultural context: sharing a common ground
_ a publishing plan as a focusing and prioritization exercise
_ a public service announce (and program/product management commentary)
_ connecting threads and testing patterns, one step at a time.

Nothing complex, and (hopefully), nothing too long.

Already got some feed-back from the locals about posts I shared on the material within this article, but it is becoming a tradition: it is how things go in and around Turin, a former company town that lost the company, but retained the apparatus and mindset.

Nonetheless, this article contains few pointers for further idea development activities- not necessarily just by myself.

The cultural context: sharing a common ground

This post will therefore be focused just on some of the publications I am working on.

Except for a section where I will describe a new itinerary in Turin that will be "pilot tested" on 2023-06-10 and 2023-06-11 (and hopefully will become part of the local portfolio of options for visiting tourists), will therefore talk neither about Turin, nor about Italy, nor about the European Union.

Albeit, frankly, the last few weeks since the previous article gave plenty to write about all three- and, in many cases, actually brought back to mind even articles that wrote in 2008 or 2009 while in Brussels, or since 2012, when I started again to live and work in Italy.

Why? Because there are recurring "crises" linked to themes that the COVID pandemic only accelerated and made even less manageable- both at the local, national, and European Union level.

A politician of what we call First Italian Republic (i.e. post-WWII to early 1990s), who had been seven times head of the Italian Government, published a book called "Governare con la crisi", where he described his experiences (yes, plural- as it is not a depiction of experience as a politician, but of a series of cameos across half a century of Italian political life).

Not just as what often is called "Prime Minister" (different system- not the official title), but also as Minister or part of all the Goverments were he wasn't President of the Council of Ministers (this is the official title), starting in the 1940s.

It was a time when governments sometimes lasted few months but, as with Japan, I remember reading in a book by Kissinger that both Italy and Japan were considered steady, as, in the end, the revolving door of government brought about the same people.

The Second Republic started after a political crisis in the early 1990s but, actually, we had been on thin ice for a while before then- and continue to be so- with an added twist.

Why this preamble? To contextualize what you will read in the next few sections, and also "why" my choices of publications.

In the end, preparing and delivering training, or writing and publishing, are both ways to do "brain calisthenics" to keep active and available for when needed skills built on experience.

A publishing plan as a focusing and prioritization exercise

As you probably know, I think (but I am not original) that the most important feature of a plan is its purpose, what allows you to think about what should be in, what should be out, where are you now, which resources and associated degrees of freedom (and obviously constraints) you are starting with.

Then, evolve. So: it is really the act of planning that matters, not its visible result, the plan (in whatever format).

To the point that, over one year ago (when I resigned from my mission started in July 2021), in order to prioritize some activities and add flexibility should a mission start, prepared a plan assuming what needed to be done for my publishing (not just books or articles), on a full-time basis.

This allowed to match the "requirements" of some learning and research activities with potential resources.

Then, from July 2022 did some tests, to "tune" how fast, depending on material, and its novelty, could carry it out, so that I could keep tuning and evolving the plan, and reschedule to my spare time if within a mission, by splitting the plan into what could be visually represented as a box of matrioska dolls, each one containing further elements, but each matrioska as a self-contained component.

Then, when reached some objectives, did a new plan, this time up to the end of 2023, with the same concept (full-time, in modules, etc)- but using tools whose knowledge had just updated in those courses and readings.

Then, tossed away the plan but kept the list, prioritized, and started working on those with higher priority, putting everything else on hold, just monitoring the evolution of the associated context.

As further planning exercise actually did try a 6-months full-time, all components, overall plan, to clarify dependencies, and revise priorities.

Reason? While in the moment a specific idea might seem interesting, and its development into a publication as well, shifting the timeframe of development into the future might make that obsolete or simply already developed by others.

For example, decades ago proposed to set up a service on digital scanning physical files, as part of digital transformation.

Few years later, a potential partner that I had contacted asked if I would be still interested.

My reply? When I proposed it, yes. Now, there are already many delivering that service, or about to start, so the competition parameters shifted on volumes, not novelty- a different context that required a different level of resources.

No matter how much time is spent on developing something- if it is not relevant anymore, I sideline it, as anyway it was the development per se that generated something (e.g. rethinking an existing concept under a different light), and that could be useful later on.

For example, I learned a bit about the production process of optical storage for training in the late 1980s, on a project I was working on, at a time when Laserdiscs were done only in Japan.

Those concepts were useful years later to help a customer obtain approval for digital version of paper registries, as I knew at least some of the pitfalls that should be avoided, and therefore which promises did not make sense to do.

The funny part of having prior contextual knowledge is that you can make sound easy to reach those conclusions, which sound as logical as to be a no brainer, while instead there was behind the usual 99% perspiration 1% inspiration.

Ditto for projects, notably for those that "seed" change: if you spend time on something, and then identify that the change would not deliver the benefits you expected but something else, it is worth considering if and when to pull the plug, but still "thesaurize" the lessons.

Back to the publication side: since July 2022 released articles and other material online, but only few mini-books.

Meanwhile, I kept evolving:
_ articles
_ mini-books
_ datasets
_ jupyter notebooks (i.e. data narratives) on my datasets
_ web apps on this website to share/discuss background data

Does it seem chaotic?

Yes, but only because I never shared my personal roadmap- and I do not plan to do it now or anytime soon.

As there are also other connecting elements, that partially shared face-to-face or via Whatsapp with other contacts, in Turin as well as in Italy, Europe, and other continents (to have a multicultural feed-back).

The only "new" item category since 2021 is that, at last, to complete some courses I followed, had to share online videos and audio files with either my voice or face or both.

Personally, I am used to work on demos, presentations, trainings, speeches- and deliver them either in person or remotely.

Generally, for an audience that, as least as an aggregate, "vetted", to define the purpose of the interaction and understand the key points.

Also if I were to release courses or presentations where I discuss points, I do not see any reason to be in video: maybe in voice, but there would be no value added in stealing space from the material presented by inserting my face.

You can watch (and subscribe) here- but for now postponed (again) the creation of a podcast (audio or video or both).

Recently, as part of my undisclosed roadmap, reposted the digital edition of most of the mini-books on change that published since 2012 (leaving the paperback version on Amazon), to ease access (just one channel- leanpub.com/u/robertolofaro), and allow also to get the digital edition for free, and then buy only after (getting an "official" copy)- but, frankly, never published to sell, only to have material to use as "common ground" before consulting activities or for other publications.

An old habit from the "position papers" I used to prepare, formally and informally, for customers and partners in the 1990s and up to mid-2000s, before I halted my return to Italy from UK, and shifted instead to Brussels.

Hence, I am currently revising each one of the books to verify all the linked material (along with potentially ambiguous material to be clarified, and of course typos or errors in posting the wrong file- it happens), and will, in some cases, add further material; leanpub allows also to add further material associated with a book or a course, and therefore might eventually use those features.

If curious, this is the visual map of the books that released on leanpub.com (and that you can read for free):

For the time being:
_ datasets are here (with links to web apps and Kaggle or GitHub files is available)
_ books are here (linking to both Amazon for the paperback, and Leanpub for the digital edition).

I use my own website also to experiment concepts and elements of future products: by choice, have no advertisement, as I see my online publishing as part of being an author- writing a Jupyter Notebook, or creating a dataset or a web app to support an article are just different forms of writing- with data.

A public service announce (and program/product management commentary)

Few years ago, while in Turin from 2015, beside attending local workshops and seminars (in-person, before COVID; luckily now almost all have also a virtual attendance option, so I can better spread my time across), decided to follow some recurring ones.

Specifically, to understand the current status of Turin, the Rapporto Rota annual presentation on the status, trends, and overall data-based analysis of the local economy and social context.

And, to have something more open-ended, some industry annual conferences, and one specifically on potential "designs for a future city", called "Torino Stratosferica".

I still think that, courtesy of the mix of its recent industrial past, and architectural interesting elements from its more distant past, Turin has potential- but to be sustainable, it has to be inclusive, i.e. not turn just into a playground with antique buildings for external visitors and local rentiers, with everybody else in a kind of indentured servitude, as many instead do not say, but de facto paved the way for.

My friends remember how I praised Padua decades ago when I first visited it, as there was one square that embraced 2,000 years.

Well, what I will write here about is something similar, called the Royal Green Walk.

It will be accessible on 2023-06-10 and 2023-06-11 on a temporary basis, an itinerary starting from the Roman side of Turin and, with a walking time of approximately 1.5 hours, moving across the internal court yard of historical buildings to Palazzo Reale, then Cavallerizza, then Mole Antonelliana, and potentially in the future up to the hills.

A continuous walk across gardens and buildings whose gates are usually closed, and here is the map:

This time, I will be unfortunately unable to attend- so, I hope that the Walk will have a "structural" future.

On 2023-06-07 attended a presentation of the itinerary, and it was described as something that required an orchestrated effort of multiple parties for five months, and will involve around 40-50 volunteers.

Five months or multi-party meetings and organization for a two days walk sounds a bit an overkill, but the presenter from Torino Stratosferica added that they received praise from the Sovrintendenza for having at last brought all the parties involved around the same table.

Then, added that they are converting the association into a "social company", i.e. it is foreseeable that this week-end would turn into a "pilot" not just for this specific itinerary, but plenty more in Turin, and fundraising / sponsoring by the parties involved will start.

As there is a number of gardens in Turin, and walks, would be nice to see more banners "sponsored by", added by a commercial partner who pays for the routine maintenance (e.g. cleaning, pruning) and free hospitality (e.g. during the summer, guided tours).

Just an example: the reference to extending potentially the itinerary to Villa della Regina would imply considering also the hills that surround Turin, where there are equally interesting buildings, scenic views (I shared some on my Facebook open and Instagram private profiles in the past), and, of course, walks.

E.g. have a look on Google at "Basilica di Superga" or "Monte dei Cappuccini"- the latter is a stone throw from piazza Vittorio Veneto, while the former is few kilometers away- still feasible, if the path bringing up was less dangerous and kept clean.

Nonetheless, on week-ends often you can meet tourists daring to walk 4 kms on a road with almost no space for pedestrians and plenty of dangerous turns, to observe the view while walking up to the peak, and looking at Turin from the Basilica.

There is an additional interesting part.

If you were to read this week local newspapers from Turin, you would read about a further visit from the Bloomberg Foundation, related to the initiative to rebrand Turin.

Curiously, on newspapers is presented as an initiative of the incumbent Mayor, with the support of the Piedmont's Governor, but last year, when there was a Torino Stratosferica event at the Nuvola Lavazza, the cultural centre and HQ of the coffee company, I remember sharing with others how the presentation praising the Bloomberg Foundation for its work to revitalize New York sounded a lot as courting to do the same here.

So, whatever the mix, praise in my view goes to Lavazza and Torino Stratosferica, albeit of course without ensuing political coverage from the Mayor (still few years to go in this first mandate) and Governor (probably again a candidate in 2024 for the same role), little would be possible- notably considering that the initiative to rebrand Turin was considered (as any cultural change initiative) as something that would take three years.

Note: I have no relationship whatsoever with the Bloomberg Foundation- only, during the initial phases of the COVID crisis, when Italy was in lockdown from March 2020, beside following long postponed training to update on AI etc, followed a certification offered by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health via Coursera, for contract tracers (and, funny, received an invitation to apply for a role in NY- but probably was automatic); then, later, followed a second one, this time to basically, measure and optimize the service; lastly, followed a third one, this time on policy in the same domain (you can find all the certificates on my Linkedin profile).

Why? Because I had used decades ago (1990s) concepts and books from epidemiology to "seed" some concepts on risk that inserted in my training activities that delivered to customers, before shifting to the banking risk concepts.

In 2020, during the lockdowns in Italy, news, as well public debates also from reputable sources, were frankly more about the image of those involved, than actual actionable information.

As for New York... just visited it once with a USA former classmates at LSE Summer School 1994, for few days, experimenting also the travel by train to Boston (to meet another classmate from LSE).

Meanwhile, a curious element, that I already shared on Linkedin while attending the presentation.

Some of those attending did not really react positively when the presenter said that there was a "structural" change linked to the organization taking care of the two days this week-end, and even less when he also hinted at what could evolve from that.

Maybe different tribes, in a country where tribal allegiance trumps common good?

So, I am quite confident that I am not the only one who saw that potential future for Torino Stratosferica as "manager" of multiple itineraries.

It is something within the local culture: you do not fill an opportunity, you are co-opted to fill an opportunity, but not taking charge without first splitting the territory.

Otherwise... get ready for "clipping the wings" exercises wrapped into gossip. A collaborative environment.

The locals do not like how I call that behavior, having lived around Italy North and South as well as abroad, but it is akin at the denials I heard across the country for decades whenever organized crime infiltrations were discovered: it is a cultural element, not a matter of location or names.

Frankly, if those commenting negatively had been as good as they believe to be in program management, it would not have been a novelty for external observers that Torino Stratosferica put all the parties involved around the table- what any junior program or event manager or planner knows.

But, of course, it is not just a matter of ignorance: it is a matter of choice.

As shared online in articles already years ago since 2012, when I observed way too many "announces partitioned by tribes", instead of creating coordination entities, and coordination entities coordinating the coordinators, local élites would do better by starting earlier to involve all those needed- whatever the tribe.

Or: replacing coordination entities with coordinated activities.

Turin has potential, but many have to droptheir "control freak" attitude that already generated in the past multiple parallel initiatives and is mirrored within the status of public finances, decline of services while increasing costs, and inability to retain its industrial base, e.g. automotive expanded in Emilia-Romagna.

But it has to let one thousand flowers develop, as this will anyway generate positive side-effect for all those involved.

Then, if those with that "control freak" attitude are really as good as they assume to be, and not just leveraging on past generations' status as rentiers, while depleting their own stock, of course will be well positioned to "scale up" whatever initiative, having access to resources and connections that no new entrant will have access to.

Otherwise, will keep doing that other curious activity I saw repeatedly since 2012: something is born here, develops elsewhere as here would have had too much structural ballast (and tribal Gordian knots to comply with), and, when produces results where was allowed to develop...

...suddenly the local rentiers start celebrating it as a clear example of their own superiority.

The world is large, and a data-centric world needs that most of those joining the journey are active participants, not just following the flow or even just sitting on the fence and waiting to extract value.

Turin praises itself for being the most inclusive town, and sometimes sounds as if it were the most inclusive town of the universe (e.g. when tries to be the centre or natural location for any coordination structure or repeatable event in Italy, EU, and the World at large).

Well, time will show- also if probably I will see it from outside, as in my personal view it has been for over a decade mainly a town that tries to extract value from investments it did not do.

Those who worked with me since the 1980s know that, whenever asked to be an analyst or help audit or assess, I prefer to talk straight- there are neither friends or foes, just information to evaluate.

As a negotiator or project, account, initiative manager the approach is different- but not while doing the audit part: fudging an assessment is only useful to procrastinate choices, not to solve issues.

Losing large part of the former FIAT group (be it by delocalization or transfer of controlling ownership to a third party), is a blessing in disguise for Turin

Why? Because the local managerial class will have the chance, instead of backbiting as I saw way too often since 2012, to show their value and their ability to develop, instead of just playing musical chair with quangos and other coordination structures.

Local should escape from a typical local approach (really common in Italy, but stronger in Turin): the choice to pile up coordination structures to cope with any issue or crisis.

Do you have an issue? Pronto a new "cabina di regia", often involving only parts of the "tribes", something that of course results in other partial coordination structures, and, eventually, the need to coordinate... the coordination structures.

Real long-term initiatives would require a wider and sustainable consensus across, if not all, at least most of the tribes (and associated commitments), to avoid being affected of any rebalancing of interests or power balances, not something that is reversed after each election or after each crisis (and ensuing rebalancing of power between tribes).

As I wrote repeatedly, I think that it is not a matter of ideology, idealism, but actually of pragmatism.

To echo somebody else of centuries ago, in a data-centric society where innovation, new services, benefits depend on a continuous cycle of improvements where each one contributes, if you barter sustainability for control, you end up having neither.

Removing opportunities only because you cannot control them is frankly a self-defeating attitude that is way too common in Italy.

And you can see the results so far: why you think that so many young graduates emigrate, and why you think that I met since the 1990s so many Italians abroad who described how they were able to develop what would have been sorely needed in Italy, but would not find in Italy.

Even some of those who took at face value the opportunities to return, and left abroad "tenure track" positions or managerial roles in hospitals and research structures, eventually had to return abroad.

How long is sustainable a system that "trains for export", is to be seen.

Connecting threads and testing patterns, one step at a time

Yes, the title of this section applies also to my publishing activities, but frankly I think that both at the local (Turin), national (Italy), and EU level it would be beneficial to do something more than just publications, announces and events.

More about that in a future article, I will stay here just on my publications.

As those who follow my scribblings probably know, my datasets online started from international statistics, UN SDGs, and international publications.

All to support my publications, and test my newly acquired basic skills first in R (2018-2019), then in Python, ML, and using Jupyter Notebooks as a publishing tool.

Eventually, added more about Italy and EU, and my attendane of online webinars during and after the COVID pandemic, as well as since 2012 in Turin and Milan inspired other checks and searches.

Partially, I had a chance, since 2021, to expand on those searches by listening, reading, and talking with others.

So, while working on integrating, as did in the early 1990s for ISO9000, ESGs/SDGs within the "framing" of projects, added a further elements that I already worked on for a prototype- extracting in late 2022 annual reports of all the companies listed back then on the Italian stock market, along with other public corporate material, to see the evolution pre- and post-COVID.

In parallel, but really as part of the same concept, already released at the beginning of 2023 a free mini-book, a visual companion to the book derived from all the above about sustainability that started preparing in 2015, when the UN SDGs were announced (the drafting steps are described here).

Anyway, this website is actually part of those publishing activities: sometimes, data or news items inspire going back to something I did in the past, or searching data corroborating those elements, so this results in something to blend and present the data- and articles (or even functionalities) of this site are an experiment to "test the ground", evaluate reactions, and tune.

I just see how much are used functionalities after a change, or how many read an article and, courtesy of the "last 20 read", can see if the focus is just on one article, or that one is part of a "string" of readings.

As usual, except when I am not confident that something will work (in that case, will be my own Guinea pig on an offline server replicating this site), whatever I introduce to help support my own scribblings or research and alters the site, appears also online.

The frequency and size of publications (or site change releases) is a function not just of time, but also of context, i.e. if I think that a theme might be interesting, or see that suddenly there are more readers focusing on a string of articles, or news that could potentially build a trend.

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, I kept the promise of not sharing the roadmap, but to share instead elements of what I already partially released and am working on, and concepts and ideas.

And for now, stay tuned.