If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know
Availability is your best ability
People tend to overestimate the rate of technological progress in two years and underestimate it in ten years.
A good investment, sufficiently leveraged, can lead to ruin
“If you want to do interesting software, you have to have a bunch of people to do it, because the amount of software that one person can do isn’t that interesting” – Nathan Myhrvold (software development is a team sport)
“Plans are worthless; Planning is priceless” – Dwight D. Eisenhower (My answer to ‘You can’t predict the future’)
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” – Albert Einstein (watch out for too much ‘data-driven management’)
“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” – Plato (beware of “paralysis by analysis”)
“Statistics are like women of the night: once you get them down, you can do anything you want with them.” – Mark Twain (lots of ‘supercrunchers’ and ‘numerati’ know how to count, but never seemed to learn how and what to measure. Computers can count fairly well. That’s not why you hired your employees. Humans are needed to interpret the numbers and make sense of them, and to know what to measure and why. Don’t place an over-reliance on data-based management or analytics.)
When pricked with praise, bleed humility.
Always praise your team members in public and criticize/correct them in private.
As a manager, try to listen twice as much as you talk to your team members.
Let every member of your team have their say. Make every team member speak down to brass tacks with you as a manager. Sugar-coated information will not help you manage well.
You can catch more bees with honey than you can with vinegar. Be polite and nice to your team members – if you are a good manager, it won’t be mistaken for weakness, only supreme self-confidence.
A good manager always praises his team members and gives them all the credit when things go well. When things go wrong, a good manager accepts all the responsibility. Protect your team, and volunteer for the tough and demanding tasks, and your team will gain great respect for your leadership abilities. Think of Sir Ernest Shackleton. If you don’t know who he was, find out.
When you initiate new activities, find things you are currently doing that you can discontinue — whether reports, activities, etc. It works, but you must force yourself to do it. Always keep in mind your “teeth-to-tail ratio.” (Amongst the United States Marine Corps, this phrase measures combat power to support. The teeth are everything that bears direct military strength and the tail includes all the support necessary to maintain this strength, such as support staffs, the Pentagon-based command structure, right down to the janitorial staff at the Department of Defense headquarter building. When extended to business, this ratio measures the cost of overhead or transaction costs for each dollar’s worth of goods or services delivered. That is, while the item you purchase may be itself worth only so much, the final cost to you factors in advertising, transportation, management, profit and so on. This is why a one dollar sneaker costs you over a hundred.)
Watch the growth of middle-level management. Don’t automatically fill vacant jobs. Leave some positions unfilled for six to eight months to see what happens. You will find you won’t need to fill some of them. Microsoft had a saying in their heyday: “The perfect number of team members is N-1, where N is the number of team members needed to get the job done.”
Manage by “Walking around”, as in the “HP Way” (Hewlett-Packard’s heyday – read the book) — check in with your team members outside of defined meetings and let them have your unfettered ear at their desk. See for yourself what they are working on, and find out about problems and limiting factors firsthand. You’ll know about issues quicker, and then you can take action to rectify these situations faster. Do so.
Reduce the layers of management. They put distance between the top of an organization and the customers.
Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, wrote and spoke of “Fingerspitzenfulgen” – keeping the battle on the tips of one’s fingers. In other words, lead from the front. Push decision making down to the front lines, and pay attention to reports from your front line “commanders”, or managers. Business is more serious than sport, and only slightly less than war.
For every ten managers that talk about “The Mythical Man Month”, only one has actually read the book and knows more than the title, let alone has absorbed the ideas that Fred Brooks lays out in the book. Make sure you are that one-in-ten manager who knows the entire contents of the book and has internalized its vital lessons.
Find ways to decentralize. Move decision-making authority down and out. Encourage a more entrepreneurial approach.
Know your customers! Experience every customer-facing process as a customer and fix every problem you encounter there while posing as a customer. Be brutally intellectually honest with yourself about what sucks, and ‘make the pain stop’.
Develop a few key themes and stick to them. It works. Repetition is necessary. “Quality.” “Customers.” “Innovation.” “Service.” Whatever!
That which you require be reported on to you will improve, if you are selective. How you fashion your reporting system announces your priorities and sets the institution’s priorities. Avoid wasting everyone’s time with useless and needless reporting, however. Make sure your team isn’t spending more time reporting what they are doing with their time than actually working on something productive to bring in profits for the organization.
Beware of the argument that “this is a period for investment; improvements will come in the out years.” The tension between the short term and long term can be constructive, but there is no long term without a short term.
Too often management recommends plans that look like a hockey stick. The numbers go down the first year or so and then up in the later years. If you accept hockey-stick plans, you will find they will be proposed year after year.
The way to do well is to do well.
Don’t let the complexity of a large company mask the need for performance. Bureaucracy is a conspiracy to bring down the big. And it can. You may need to be large to compete in the world stage, but you need to find ways to avoid allowing that size to mask poor performance.
“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Old military axiom
Remember: A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s.
“The advantage of a free market is that it allows millions of decision-makers to respond individually to freely determined prices, allocating resources — labor, capital and human ingenuity — in a manner that can’t be mimicked by a central plan, however brilliant the central planner.” — Friedrich A. Hayek
“If you want to increase your success, double your failure rate.” — Thomas Watson, Founder of IBM
“An entrepreneur shows his true colors in a period of crisis, not in a period when everybody is having success.” – Giorgio Armani
“The most important things in life you cannot see — civility, justice, courage, peace.” — Unknown
“Persuasion is a two-edged sword — reason and emotion — plunge it deep.” — Prof. Lewis Sarett Sr.
“The art of listening is indispensable for the right use of the mind. It is also the most gracious, the most open and the most generous of human habits.” — Attributed to R. Barr, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Md.
“In writing if it takes over 30 minutes to write the first two paragraphs select another subject.” — Raymond Aron
“In unanimity there may well be either cowardice or uncritical thinking.” — Unknown
PMO Director. These are my personal thoughts about software development, technology and related topics that interest me. In general, you will find a bias towards project management related issues and lots of talk about interacting with stakeholders or programmers. I try to present a technical view from a user's perspective. The views presented here on my professional and personal blog represent my own views and experiences and not those of my employer.