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Motivation

When I interview prospective candidates, I look for four key attributes: enthusiasm, curiosity, insight, and perspective. Here’s why: Enthusiasm Motivation is probably one of the most important attributes of a good employee, and the best kind of motivation comes from enthusiasm. Enthusiastic employees are eager to work. They volunteer for assignments. They work longer hours […] Read More

It’s All About Trust

Trust is an important part of every relationship, but in some cases it’s more important than others. It’s easy to say you trust someone when you can watch their every move to see if they’re doing what they said they would do. It’s harder to trust someone when they’re far away for extended periods of […] Read More

Never Stop Questioning

There’s a certain age that kids go through when they seem to have an endless supply of questions: “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do cows make a moo sound?” “Why don’t planes fall out of the sky?” “Why are traffic lights red, yellow and green and not purple, orange and pink?” And then, as […] Read More

Grief and Disentangling

My wife Sharon passed away July 31st, and I would like to describe some of the thought process I’ve been going through for the last month. My wife’s death wasn’t sudden. She was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, and she’s been through a progressive loss of muscle control over various parts of her body. […] Read More

My friend Derek Cheshire made an interesting observation yesterday: Tell me if I’m being stupid but after reading about the Greek austerity measures I do wonder why we have to try and make hundreds of public sector employees redundant. Why not just trim pay by say 10%? At least there would be more people with […] Read More

Listening is one of the most important traits of a good manager. Good managers spend most of their time listening: listening to their employees describe the problems they’ve encountered, listening to what their bosses tell them to do, listening to what customers have to say about products and services. Beginning managers listen It’s easy to […] Read More

There’s a naive belief among many new managers that employee personal problems should be irrelevant to job performance and therefore something that managers can ignore. We like to believe that when employees walk through the office door, all of their personal problems are left behind. To managers with this belief, employees are like robots: treat […] Read More

One of the biggest surprises to new managers is the intense pressure to keep people working productively. This is especially true in a project environment like IT where employees aren’t doing the same thing day after day. Managing an organization is like being in a taxi with the meter running and only a few dollars […] Read More

A Model of Job Performance

Back in 1979 I put together a model of job performance to help with some process improvements we were doing at Digital Equipment Corporation.  Here’s the model: I ran across the model when was going through some old papers, and I thought you’d like to see it.  Here’s the explanation of the model that accompanied […] Read More

I’ve talked a lot about human nature in my articles. I believe that human nature is the biggest challenge to most successful management, and especially the biggest challenge for IT managers. Information technology is all very logical. Software does exactly what you tell it to do. Computers — for the most part — behave the […] Read More

A Job A job is an exchange of work for money: for every hour you work, you get an hour of pay. Although you might derive some satisfaction from doing the job, and you might enjoy the people you work with, the reason you do the job is for the money.  If you win the […] Read More

A lot of people tend to confuse these two words. We work hard, focus on our goals, and figure that happiness will come once we achieve success. Don’t fall for this deception. Happiness Happiness is a feeling. It can be triggered by external factors — a friend, a lover, a place, an event, a food […] Read More

How to Deal with Complainers — 2 Approaches

People who complain fall into two categories: those who complain because they want help in resolving a problem, and those who complain because they want sympathy. Often the complainers themselves don’t understand why they’re complaining, so it’s up to you to figure it out for yourself. The Complainer as Problem Solver The first category of […] Read More

There are Only Two Reasons for Strategy

A lot of people think that the creation of business strategy is a mysterious process — something that’s secretly practiced behind closed doors in the boardroom. There’s a lot of mysticism around strategy setting, and so we avoid it for fear that we’ll do it wrong. But there’s no magic in strategy — just as […] Read More

I was asked this question at a recent speaking engagement in Utah, and I’ve thought about it a bit more since then. “Digital natives” are people who grew up using digital technology; they used computers as children and so they never lived in a non-computer world. “Digital immigrants” grew up in a world that didn’t […] Read More

10 Ways to Find the Truth

In my previous post I talked about the problem of determining the truth in current events (and in other areas) when we’re faced with conflicting views from thousands of media and Internet sources. In this post I’ll offer some advice for dealing with the problem: 1. Become more conscious of the assumptions that you’ve been […] Read More

What Ever Happened to the “Truth”?

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when there were just three TV channels, two local daily newspapers, a few local radio stations, and no cable or satellite TV. There were no personal computers — let alone the Internet — and so our news sources were pretty limited. We each picked our standard of […] Read More

IT Marriage Counseling

I’ve been comparing the IT/Business relationship to a marriage for a while now. In Chapter 12 of my book, I said: Secret 28: The Information Technology organization is your partner in creating and managing systems and data, with shared responsibilities. That partnership can be like a marriage, with both marriage partners working together to make […] Read More

You’re trying to get a new project approved, and you’re having trouble. Or you’re trying to get an employee to do things your way, and the employee keeps fighting you. Both these situations are disagreements, and the process to deal with them is similar. Why Do We Disagree? Let’s start with individual disagreements. When two […] Read More

The Politics of Information Technology

I’m writing this on November 7, 2006. That’s election day in the United States. During the last few months we’ve been besieged with television and radio advertising for candidates, and even recorded messages sent to our telephones. Now it’s time for all of the campaigning to end as we go to the polls to vote. […] Read More

Heroes Don’t Scale

“Hero” is one of those positive words that gives us mental images of rescuing children from burning buildings or saving troops from certain death. We admire, praise and imitate heroes; they set the standard for bravery and going “beyond the call of duty.” But despite the personal admiration associated with heroism, there’s a dark side […] Read More

You Don’t Have to Measure It to Lead It

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of people telling me, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I blame this aphorism for a lot of the wasted measurement effort spent by today’s organizations. The problem with this statement is the use of the word “manage.” People see the word and assume […] Read More

I don’t usually like to talk about stereotypes, but it occurred to me that the stereotype about men not asking for directions applies equally well to CIOs of both genders. So let me talk about why men don’t ask for directions, and I think we’ll find some lessons that will apply to senior executives as […] Read More

I don’t do job interviews well, at least not as an interviewee. But I do a great job when I’m on the interviewer side of the desk. And it’s partly because I’ve learned from my mistakes as an interviewee. What a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that interviewee performance is not at […] Read More

Preparing for your own Hurricane Katrina

Disaster struck the southern United States last month as Hurricane Katrina did major damage to New Orleans and southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We don’t yet understand the full impact of the storm in terms of lives lost, families disrupted, and the impact on the American and global economies. But we know that […] Read More

IT Lessons from a Waitress

I went out to dinner last night to a place I’ve gone hundreds of times, and I ordered a salad that I’ve ordered many times before. The salad wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past: the lettuce was old, and the dressing was watery. When the waitress asked her usual question, “How is […] Read More

A few weeks ago there was an article in an Atlanta newspaper about George Kelling, the author of the book, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities. Dr. Kelling has been called “the man who helped Rudy Giuliani turn around New York City” by refocusing some of the city’s priorities. As […] Read More

User Training is Like a Joke

Shifts in frame of reference are the root of most humor. We all tell jokes, but we seldom recognize that most jokes are funny because they lead our thinking in one direction and then abruptly cause us to shift our thinking to a different direction. Jokes essentially accomplish mental sleight-of-hand by using the most basic […] Read More

If You’re Stuck, Get a Jiggler

In Stephen Covey’s latest book, The Eighth Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness, he includes the following Q&A: Q: “In your experience, what is the best question to ask people when you hire them?” A: “In my experience, the best question is to say ‘Starting with your earliest memory, what did you really like doing and […] Read More

Logic isn’t always the Logical Choice

When we come into this world as babies, we believe that the earth revolves around us, and from the way that most parents treat their newborns, I guess that’s true to some extent. As we grow out of babyhood, we gradually become aware of other people, and our concept of existence evolves into a view […] Read More

Why Middle Managers are Important

Middle managers don’t get much respect. All of the glory goes to the CEOs and senior executives, who in turn focus their own occasional reward programs on the “worker bees.” Middle managers play a vital role in most organizations, but it’s a shame that many middle managers don’t understand their role, or see their jobs […] Read More

Don’t Get Stuck in a Learning Stage

I’ve heard that we go through a progression of stages as we learn a new topic. Before starting to learn a topic, we’re so oblivious to the subject matter that we’re not even aware of what it’s about. We’re in Stage 1: we don’t know what we don’t know. Gradually, we become aware of our […] Read More

Julia Roberts, Training Wheels, and Bureaucracy

What do the three things in the title of this article have in common? Julia Roberts In the movie Mona Lisa Smile, there’s a scene in which a Wellesley instructor played by Julia Roberts shows the class a painting, and asks them whether or not it’s any good. Up until this point all of the […] Read More

In my previous newsletter I explained why ROI isn’t working in most businesses. Based on comments I received from readers, I want to quickly point out that I don’t believe that the “game players” I mentioned are bad people, in spite of my use of the word “crime” in the article. I believe that everyone […] Read More

Hidden Consultants within your Organization

You’ve all heard the old joke about a consultant being someone who uses your watch to tell you the time, and then steals your watch. There’s some truth to the story: consultant recommendations are often the same things that your employees or customers have been telling you all along. But while you will listen to […] Read More

I’ve got a speaking engagement in a month or so where I’m going to talk about “How to Reduce Risk in IT Projects.” In thinking about what I want to say in that presentation, it occurred to me that “risk” is an interesting word. We define the word as the uncertainty of bad things happening, […] Read More

3 Keys to Service Success

What do capability, motivation, and expectations have in common? All three are essential for a successful service organization, whether that organization is in Information Technology or in any other field. Capability Let’s use a help desk as an example. For such a service organization, capability includes the basic skills necessary to be able to answer […] Read More

Get Off the Train, and Join the Fleet

I remember the first time I was in a management role, more than 25 years ago at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). I was a bit anxious because I had been put in charge of people who had been my peers. Then I surprised my new direct reports by asking them questions no one in management […] Read More

According to a recent study by the Standish Group, only 29% of Information Technology (IT) projects are completed on time and within budget. I believe that a large number of the remaining 71% of projects get in trouble because they don’t adequately consider the human side of the projects. Good CIOs recognize that Information Technology […] Read More

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