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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Cloud Computing is Good for Your Financials

Here's the way most people justify automation of a manual process: they replace a high variable labor cost with a relatively fixed system cost.  I'll illustrate using graphs, then show how cloud computing fits into the picture. Before: A Manual Labor-Intensive Process Before any automation, the financials for a manual process look like this: With […] Read More

Want to deceive people?  Here's how the professionals do it: 1. Do a survey and use a biased sample population People focus on the survey result and seldom pay attention to information about your sample population.  So feel free to bias your result by surveying people you know will answer the way you want. Want […] Read More

What is Cloud Computing? And Why Should You Care?

Note: This article is intended for a business audience.  For a technical explanation of cloud computing, see the sidebar below the business article. To the non-technical among us, “cloud computing” may sound like something vague and amorphous. After all, it’s a cloud, right? So that means it’s something that’s insubstantial, floating in the sky. If […] 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 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

No Programmer Left Behind?

1. Tests I’ve always been pretty good at taking tests; I guess you could say I have a gift for “quizmanship.” But on a 1 - 10 scale, I would probably rate myself a 6 or 7 on the geek-o-meter. I’m not up there with some of the kids I once went to school with, […] Read More

The Right Span of Control Isn’t a Number

In my June, 2007 newsletter article I talked about how to organize IT, but I didn’t address one of the questions that keeps coming up during a bad economic climate: how do we deal with executives who want to cut the number of IT managers by increasing the span of control for each manager? Span of […] Read More

15 Career Mistakes

I’ve written other newsletter articles about careers (see the links throughout this article as well as at the end of the article), but until now I’ve never specifically written an article about career mistakes. I think the subject has been too personal – I’ve made a lot of these career mistakes myself, and it’s hard […] Read More

You’ve Got to Specialize

If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that being “well-rounded” is a sure path to mediocrity. You’re much more likely to achieve career success if you get really good in one area than if you achieve moderate mastery in a number of different areas. That’s true even for managers and executives. You may not think […] Read More

The Best IT Organization in the Country?

Recently a newsletter reader told me that his CEO asked the question, “Is our IT organization the best in the country?” The reader wanted to know how it’s possible to “benchmark yourself against other IT organizations so to be in a position to answer such a question.” First Answer I think there are two answers […] Read More

IT Lessons from a Manufacturing Shop Floor

When there’s too much work to do, most people try to multitask and get it all done simultaneously. But the reality is that multitasking often hurts your productivity, and it drastically increases your stress level. Let me tell you about a parallel situation in manufacturing that illustrates my point. I once worked with a manufacturing […] Read More

Achievement is Not the Absence of Failure

There are some jobs where achievement is the absence – or maybe the avoidance – of failure. Driving a bus is one of those jobs; if you make it through the day without an accident, without hurting or annoying anyone, and without falling behind your schedule, then you’re successful. There are other jobs where carrying […] Read More

10 Rules for IT Job Success

I got a call last month from a newsletter reader in India who wanted help in making a career decision. He was a bit vague about the details, but it seems that he impetuously quit his previous job over a difference of opinion with his manager. Now he wasn’t sure whether to try to patch […] 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

The Blind Men and Information Technology

A recent article in ComputerWorld by Curt Monash reminded me of the poem about the Blind Men and the Elephant. The Computerworld article talked about different points of view from leading technology vendors. According to the article, Oracle and IBM view IT as data-centric, Microsoft views IT as people-centric, and SAP views IT as business-process-centric. […] 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

More than half of the subscribers who receive this newsletter won’t even open the email. I can understand why: you’ve only got a limited amount of time, and you have to be selective about how you use it. But let’s be honest; are you really being selective? Or are you just randomly reading some things […] Read More

Hiring like a Jigsaw Puzzle

There are two basic approaches to hiring: Hiring like a jigsaw puzzle, and Hiring like an assembly line. Hiring like an assembly line is more common. When you work on an assembly line you have very little variation in what you do. One particular task might be to put a bolt into a hole and […] 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

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

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

Why ROI Isn’t Working

ROI (Return on Investment) is the most common and popular method for project ranking, both in IT and elsewhere. But ROI isn’t working in most companies, and as a result, businesses are making bad project decisions. In this article I'll explain why ROI isn't working. Then in next month's newsletter I'll tell you how you […] 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

IT is Moving toward Property Management

Last month I had the unique opportunity to help a large university plan its future curricula for its undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer information systems. The university recognizes that Information Technology is changing, and wants to make sure that its students are being prepared for the real world. To this end the university has […] Read More

We live in a non-linear world but it’s funny how we keep forgetting that fact. Eating twice as much for dinner won’t make up for missing lunch. A runner who can do a 4 minute mile can’t do 10 miles in 40 minutes. If it takes two painters one day to paint a room, then […] 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

On Time at the Wrong Restaurant

A friend of mine struggled with bad weather and worse traffic to make his way across town, arriving just in time for a scheduled lunch meeting. Unfortunately, he had misunderstood his calendar, and he was at the wrong restaurant. When he told me about it the next day, it struck me how his predicament is […] 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

Do you want? A more satisfied boss ... Less stress ... More successful projects ... Infrastructure savings ... Enhanced leadership ... Low risk solutions ... This two-page article gives you some proven approaches for reaching these goals, along with some comments about how you can achieve them. It's a check list for the kinds of […] 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

Like many of you, I travel a lot. Some of the travel requires me to wear business suits, and I’ve had to learn how to pack a suit coat so that it’s wearable when I unpack it. Years ago I learned the secret, but it recently occurred to me that the secret of packing a […] Read More

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