All posts by barmartland

Turning multiple values into one string in Power BI

Or concatenating if you will, but I don’t always remember that word which is probably why the solution didn’t come to me at once when I ran into the problem.

Concatenation is taking two or more values and chaining them, often with a delimiter. Like the first and last name of a person, or a zip code and the name of the area.

This demo data set is made up by looking at a persons grades in different classes they have taken. So if we want to show that information for all persons we would typically show it in a table like this.

Now what if we didn’t care to much about the grades for now, and wanted to show which classes a person had taken. We could of course just remove the Grade column and keep the table, but what if we only want to have one row per person? My gut feeling was playing with the matrix in Power BI, but that only shows the first value since this is a text column so it’s not what I am after at all.

The answer? Concatenation in a measure. Very often concatenation is done between two columns, but here I need it done on rows so the CONCATENATEX function is what we want. First I made this measure

Classes non distinct = CONCATENATEX(Example,Example[Class],”, “)

which gave this result

Looks ok, but the total row has duplicates in it and if we had grades for several years we would have it on each person as well if they had taken the same class several times and I only want the distinct values. Luckily we can then use the VALUES function to only get distinct values in a column so the measure now looks like this.

Classes = CONCATENATEX(VALUES(Example[Class]),Example[Class],”, “)

Which gives this result

Perfect! This can now be filtered and used like any other measure.

The Importance of Time

Looking back at projects I have been a part of in my work life there are some that have been successful right away, some that have needed more time to be successful, and some projects, well they haven’t really been all that successful looking back at them. Thinking about why some are successes right away and some never get there I believe that one of the main reasons that separates these projects is time. Not necessarily time to do actual development, but an actual time commitment from the business side of an organization, time to plan and time to actually think, reflect and make changes as the projects where moving along.

Tech Is Easy, People Are Not

I am of the believe that tech is easy, while people are hard. It is a lot faster to change an application or some code, than to change the behavior of an actual human being. And this is why I believe time is one of the most important things to early on in a project make into a priority. If we want to be successful the project needs time from actual business users. They need to be a part of making the specifications, and they need to help test, iterate, use and dream about what a solution can be and grow into. And they need time to adapt to whatever is being made as change can be scary and without enough time people might resist it. This may sound easy, but if someone from the business does not get a percentage of their time allocated specifically to use on a project they very quickly become “busy” and down prioritize helping out on a solution that is actually being created to help them in their job moving forward.

Reflection Is Under Appreciated

My favorite part of doing scrum is the retrospective. It is made so the scrum team can have time to sit down and reflect on what went well, what can be improved and look for things that they perhaps isn’t doing at all. I believe we all need to spend more time reflecting, but we need time to do it. In a stressful work day we too rarely sit down and think about how the last meeting we organized went. Did everyone understand why they where there? Was I clear enough in my communication? Did we all really agree on what to do when the meeting was over? If we reflect more on things I believe we also see behavior/patterns throughout our day that can be discussed the next time you reflect, either alone or together with others. We see the world in a wider view than just our own, hectic life one meeting, or task, at a time. Reflecting is all about having time to see where we can further improve.

Failing Is Necessary

We need time to fail. Failures can be though, both for an individual, a team and an organization, and it might feel like a disappointment and a waste of time if things doesn’t work out. But if you never fail, have you really pushed yourself to your limits? Have you really learned absolutely everything you could from an experience? If you fail, what can you learn from it? Do a mini retrospective and see what you and others think about it. Failing is hard, but we need time to do it in order to not be afraid of experimenting and see how far we can go.

Everyone Needs to Be Able to Talk to Everyone Involved

Communication takes a lot of time. Making sure all stakeholders are updated about the progress. Making sure everyone on the team knows about changes to the end product. Making sure a problem can be solved quickly by running a question through the correct person who knows the answer. The more people involved in a communication chain the longer it will take to get a message across, or an answer to a question. It can also turn into a game of whispers where the original question/answer gets lost in the chain. By allowing everyone to talk to everyone you basically get more time since you can cut directly to the source of an answer. Not every decision needs to be taken in a scheduled meeting. Five minutes by the coffee machine with the correct person might be all another person needs to keep working, but if we always have to scheduled a meeting two weeks in advance things will take time. And there is probably better stuff to use that time for.

Time is important. Both at work and in our private lives. And time management is really hard! My experience is that if you want to succeed make sure both you, and others involved, have enough dedicated time to use on what you are working on. If dedicated time is not given it is to easy to say that you are “too busy” to help out when others ask. So make time to plan, reflect and fail. Plan to have time to reflect and fail, and reflect and fail in order to further improve!

Questions On Feedback

I’ve become quite obsessed with feedback over the last year and a half maybe. Mainly because I believe it is really hard to get useful feedback, and especially create a culture around giving feedback. For those who like podcasts I can highly recommend episode 1 of the podcast “Worklife” by Adam Grant which is called “How to love criticism”. The episode talks about a company called Bridgewater Associates who has taken this to the extreme. Now, I am not sure if every workplace can have, or should have, a culture like that, but I believe we still can learn a lot from it. And after listening to that episode myself I got myself a new obsession, feedback.

So far feedback is turning out to be as hard to specify as I expected, and even though I’ve read a lot I still have a million question about it. So I did an experiment and just wrote down a bunch of questions I could think of around feedback. Some I have clear thoughts about, others I have no idea. If you have any thoughts on them I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, maybe this list of questions will get you thinking as well. But let me ask you this; Can you remember the last time you got some really useful, maybe even unexpected, feedback?

  • Why is feedback so hard to get right?
  • What does good/bad feedback look like?
  • How do we measure quality of feedback over time?
  • What is the best way of asking for feedback?
  • Are people so good at self reflecting they don’t need it?
  • Are we too afraid to give feedback as it might affect how others think about us for it to work?
  • Are we too afraid of receiving bad news for feedback to work?
  • When is the best timing to give, or ask for, feedback?
  • Are some areas of expertise, or communities, better at working continuously with feedback?
  • How do we ensure that feedback is not a one-way dialog, and that feedback ends up being a power play from the givers perspective?
  • How do we build a culture for lowering the threshold for giving feedback?
  • Is it possible to receive actionable feedback from strangers?
  • Where would you even go if you wanted feedback on a personal project, or started out doing something new?
  • How do we teach how to receive feedback?
  • How can we learn our body not to go into a flight or flee position when receiving negative/constructive feedback?
  • Does more trust in a relation equal more feedback, or at least lowering the threshold for giving?
  • How can we make someone hungry for feedback?
  • Is a request for feedback really just a request for getting a recognition of something we do correct and want to hear it from others?
  • Maybe feedback isn’t that important after all?

Sometime I just Want to Write

Do you every feel like you just want to write something? Doesn’t matter if someone reads it or not, just to get some thoughts down on a paper or a computer? I usually write for three reasons. Things ends up here when I feel like I have done something smart and want to have it more easily available the next time I end up with the same issue. Things end up in OneNote or a PowerPoint whenever it is something I want to share at work. But the third setting I usually write is different, that’s when I don’t manage to sleep because I am either irritated or to excited about something. Writing usually calms me down, and sleep comes more easily afterwards.

For some reason I wish I wrote more. It feels calming when I do, like now, and it doesn’t have to be to calm myself down because of irritation or excitement. Most of the time however, stuff ends up in my personal OneNote, in the “Draft” section. But why? I’ve never been much of a perfectionist, but when it comes to writing and putting stuff here, for some reason it stops in a draft pahse unless I really take the time to do the write-up. I think that’s a shame, not because what I write is super interesting, but because I clearly have done some work when I look back at the drafts. Too often it feels like what I am writing is not “new” enough. It has nothing to do with the fact it is not good enough, but I notice I find myself thinking “someone has already written about this”. I do hope to put more out, I think all of us has our own perspectives on stuff we write even if it is not ground breaking. It doesn’t have to be, and that is fine. By putting it out there for everyone to read, and not kept in the dark, it might inspire or teach someone else something.

As with everything we get better when we write, so by writing this maybe the next piece I write becomes just a little better, or at least the bar for finishing it and publishing it gets lower. Writing is fun and at some point I hope to be able to tick of all these things:

  • Write a children’s fairy tale. I’ve already drafted one called “The Snail Princess” as my daughter loves snails, worms and spiders.
  • Write more “k√•sseri”, I have no idea what this is in English, and google translate didn’t help me, but it’s basically a more humouristic type of short essay. Again, I have a draft for this called “Analogization”.
  • Create a bad guy for a thriller. Doesn’t have to end up as a book or anything. I just really want to see if I am able to create a character like Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes. Let’s be honest, a good bad guys is very often more interesting than the good guy!
  • Write more here. I think I to often think this space has to be work related. I think it’s because it started out as that, but that doens’t mean that’s all it can be.

Time to get even more average, and put out more average content, mostly for me and if someone else finds it interesting that is purely a bonus.