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Failed First-Time Managers: 2 Case Studies

I’ve promoted 20 or 30 people into their first manager jobs during my career. Two of those promotions were failures — they did so badly that I had to take them back out of the positions. Here’s what I learned from that experience. Background In both cases there was ample evidence that the people were […] Read More

How to Sell to a CIO

In 2006 I wrote an article explaining a recommended sales approach for selling to a CIO. The article has been available as a downloadable PDF file since that time, but I thought it might be a good idea to have the text of that article available directly on my blog as well. And after my […] Read More

As a child, I read the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is one of the earliest known accounts of a trick that technology salespeople use all of the time. Let me first recap the story, and then I’ll explain the trick and how to deal with it. The Plot […] Read More

Emergencies Aren’t Strategy

In a previous article I talked about how there are two reasons for strategy: focus and communication. It seems like companies have a lot of trouble with focus. Particularly in large companies, there’s a tendency to “focus” on everything at once: accomplishing all of your objectives, expanding in all of your markets, increasing revenues in […] Read More

Is Your Strategy a Rifle or a Shotgun?

A strategy can be viewed as a way of achieving an objective. A coach’s strategy for the football game might be to attack relentlessly on the ground. A general’s strategy for the battle might be to feint an attack to the center while flanking from the right. A CEO’s strategy for the business might be […] Read More

Taking Shadow IT Out of the Shadows, Part 2

In my previous post I described Shadow IT and the problems it causes. In this post I’ll describe some approaches that the formal IT organization can take to deal with Shadow IT, and I’ll give you some recommendations. 5 Approaches to Dealing with Shadow IT Most formal IT organizations take one of five different approaches […] Read More

Taking Shadow IT Out of the Shadows, Part 1

Shadow IT is one of the names for the Information Technology work and expense that’s done outside of the control of the formal IT organization and outside the formal IT budget. It’s more prevalent in some companies than in others, and it often changes over time within a company. I’ve found that the amount of […] Read More

Why Both Government and IT Need Transparency

A lot of people in the United States are against what they call “big government.” Yet most of those people are in favor of government services that they consider essential. In many cases, the concern about big government is not actually a concern about the size of government — it’s more a concern about a […] Read More

4 Advantages of a Portable Expert

In my previous post I defined the term “Portable Expert” and I described the two secrets that make portable expertise possible. In this post I’ll give you some examples of portable expertise from my own experience, I’ll list four advantages of hiring a portable expert, and I’ll give you some tips on how to create […] Read More

2 Secrets of a Portable Expert

The traditional view of expertise is that you become an expert by spending many years working in a broad area.  In gardening, for example, you gain expertise by working with different plants, experimenting with different nutrients and soils, and by making mistakes and then learning from your mistakes.  Under this traditional view you are then […] Read More

12 Problems in IT Caused by the E-Myth

In 1986 a book called “The E-Myth” attracted a lot of attention. The “E” in “E-Myth” refers to entrepreneur, and according to the myth in Michael Gerber‘s book, if you’re good at a particular skill then you’ll do well starting a business which requires that skill. So, for example, if you’re a good cook then you’ll […] 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

If you’ve traveled much, then you’ve probably noticed that the more expensive, “better” hotels charge for WiFi while the same service is often included in the room rate at less expensive hotels.  This phenomenon probably seems odd to you — isn’t this the opposite of what you should expect? In this article I’ll provide an […] 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

Why I Never Hire the Best Person for the Job

I never hire the best person for the job, but I always try to hire the best person for my company’s future. Here’s my reasoning: A job is a task-oriented view of the business. Jobs are constantly changing because business needs are constantly changing. The best person for a job is the person who can […] Read More

A Crisis is the End of an Illusion

Every morning I post a new quotation on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  The quotation on February 9th, 2012 was from Jerry Weinberg, one of my mentors in the IT industry.  The quotation was: “It may look like a crisis, but it’s only the end of an illusion.” Many years ago, I copied this quotation to […] Read More

Does a Higher GPA Make You A Better Employee?

Someone tweeted me a question yesterday, “Is GPA [Grade Point Average] an accurate summary of how someone will be as an employee?” I checked the source of the tweet and — no surprise — it seems to be coming from a student. I don’t know the person but my guess is that he is either […] Read More

8 Techniques for Dealing with Grief

In a previous article I talked about the loss of my wife and some of the things I’m going through. Since that time I’ve gotten a little better at dealing with my loss. In this article I’ll share some of the techniques I’ve been using. I think they’re applicable in dealing with any loss, whether […] 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

No Surprises, No Rushing

People who have worked with me know that two of my biggest project principles are “No Surprises” and “No Rushing.” No Surprises Surprises are a sure sign of inadequate planning. When you do a project you have to anticipate what might go wrong as well as what might go right. Some of the things that […] Read More

Future IT = Cloud + Mobile + Enterprise App Store

There’s been a lot of talk about cloud computing, and mobility has been in the news for years.  But apps and an enterprise app store are going to bring it all together to remake the face of IT. Cloud Computing Cloud computing is a method for delivering computing resource.  Its principal attributes are outsourced management, […] Read More

I’ve talked about the changing nature of IT in a previous article, but it’s amazing to me how fast some of the changes are taking place. Ten or twenty years ago the key skills for someone in IT were systems analysis and programming — mostly technical skills. But more recently the need for those skills […] Read More

Business literature is full of distinctions that some very smart people make between a manager and a leader: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker “…Leaders are concerned with what things mean to people. Managers are concerned about how things get done.” – Abraham Zaleznik “Leaders are the […] 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

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

IT Governance is Like Pushing a Rope

IT governance has been getting a lot of attention lately in the press. Frankly, it bothers me, since I think that a focus on IT governance is misguided. Four years ago I wrote an article about the difference between management and leadership. In the article I said that: “… management is like pushing a rope; […] 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

The question about the pros and cons of using a business/IT liaison person came up at a meeting I attended last week. I’ve got to admit some bias on this issue. Long ago I tried using a business/IT liaison person for one of my software development groups, and I wasn’t happy with the result. 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

What Penguins Know about ERP Success

Have you ever watched a nature documentary showing penguins entering the Antarctic ocean? They gather at the edge of the water, hesitating until more penguins arrive. They look at each other as if saying, “Do you want to go first?” or “Are we ready yet?” Then finally the hesitation will end and a large number […] Read More

6 Things I’d Like to Tell Your Boss about IT

I wrote a book on this subject but it focused on the management and leadership aspects of IT — not the technical stuff. Now I’m looking at doing a two-day class on IT for business executives. I’ll include the stuff from my book, but I’m trying to identify the technical topics that I should also […] Read More

Last week I met with a client to discuss a presentation I’m going to do for his company. The client company has a good process in place for business strategy, and they have the beginnings of an IT strategy. But they’re having difficulty connecting the business strategy and the IT strategy, and they want me […] Read More

Have You “Pulled Your Goalie” in IT?

I lived in Boston during the height of the Bobby Orr days, and I got caught up in the enthusiasm that Boston felt for their Bruins. I had never seen ice hockey before I moved to Boston, and I learned the game by watching the Bruins win the Stanley Cup. One of the intriguing tactics […] 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

Irreconcilable Differences and Runaway Projects

A runaway project is like a married couple on the brink of divorce.  There are two opposing points of view, both sides are usually angry, each side blames the other, legal action is imminent, and a lot of time and money is being wasted. So why do projects go into a runaway mode? It’s usually […] 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

I Believe … The best businesses are honest with their customers and their employees. The best companies have a win-win relationship with their customers and with their employees. Management is about focusing the work of the employees by assigning tasks which best align the company’s interests with the employees’ interests. Executive management is about focusing […] Read More

New Tagline — IT’s all about the Business

I’ve changed the tagline in my blog header. It used to be “Insight for Current and Future IT Leaders.” Now it’s “Insight for Current and Future Business Leaders.” I took out the word “IT” and replaced it with the word “business.” Here’s why: For over six years I’ve been writing about lessons I’ve learned from […] Read More

I went to my grandson’s piano recital last weekend.  He’s just seven (almost eight) and he’s really good for his age.  His part of the recital was only a few minutes, but the entire recital lasted two hours so we listened to a lot of other kids before and after my grandson. What struck me […] Read More

The Quest for a Quest

I’m fond of fiction; I read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies. I think that a large part of the appeal of fiction comes from the single-minded focus of the principal characters in the plot. When the hero of the book or movie is trying to track down a secret or […] Read More

IT Alignment is Simple, Part 1

Results of the latest SIM CIO Survey were announced at SIMposium 2008. Once again, “IT and Business Alignment” was number 1 on the list of top IT management concerns (it’s been number 1 for a lot of years). [Note: as of 2016 it’s still number 1, and it’s been number 1 for ten out of […] Read More

Turn Left at the Last Traffic Light

It happened a while ago – before GPS devices, and before Google Maps or Mapquest. I was trying to drive to an address in a small town and I did what reasonable people did back then: I asked someone at a gas station for directions. One detail from the directions stands out in my memory: […] Read More

How Does Outsourcing Affect Span of Control?

Two months ago I did an article on span of control, pointing out some of the variables that make an IT manager’s span of control so unlikely to conform to any consultant-recommended norm. I received a number of positive emails about the article, but one email in particular asked about a different kind of span […] Read More

3 Things Your CEO Wants to Know

A lot of people who move up through an IT organization are surprised to find that the higher in the IT organization they get, the less the job is about technology. At the very top of the IT organization in the CIO role, the focus isn’t on IT at all – it’s on doing the […] Read More

Information Technology is like the Stock Market

Success in IT is a lot like success in the stock market. People who don’t understand the stock market sometimes think that there’s a “right” price for a stock based on some elaborate and mystical formula. Similarly, people who don’t understand IT sometimes think there’s an objective way to measure an IT organization that will […] Read More

How to Stop a Runaway Project

What do you think when you hear the phrase “runaway project”? When I hear the phrase, it reminds me of movies I’ve watched where there’s a runaway car hurtling down a steep mountain road with no brakes, barely hanging on around each curve. Or maybe you think of a runaway train, flying down the track […] Read More

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