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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know what the biggest difference is between an adequate project manager and a great project manager? The great project manager always learns from every project and applies that learning to the next project. Here’s a simple technique to help you learn from every project too.  After each project completion, before you send the project team […] 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

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

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

I’ve promoted scores of people into first-time manager positions. Some did well and some didn’t. Here are a few of their stories, with names changed and a few relevant facts altered to protect the individuals involved. Fred This was early in my career, and I didn’t have any experience in promoting people into management. But […] Read More

I was having dinner with a CIO who had retired after a long and distinguished career. The conversation had been mostly small talk, but suddenly a thought occurred to him, and he sat up straight in his chair. “Why is it,” he asked vehemently, “that CIOs have to work so much harder than every other […] 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

To Succeed in Corporate IT, Play Hard to Get

According to popular fiction, “playing hard to get” is a strategy sometimes used by women to snare a man. It makes the assumption that men want something more when they can’t have it, so if a woman acts like she’s not interested in a man, it makes the man more interested in her. I have […] 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

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

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

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

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