Category Archives: Management

Where’s the Value in E-Books?

Old Book Spines

There’s an interesting scuffle going on today between Hachette Book Group and Amazon.   In a nutshell, Hachette is trying to negotiate greater profits on sales of e-books.  Amazon is trying to keep more margin for themselves, and as part of their negotiating strategy, has supposedly limited distribution of some Hachette books through their warehouses.

There has been an outcry from the general public about Amazon’s tactics.  We don’t think it’s fair that they interfere with customer orders to provide a negotiating point.  (To be fair, I just took a look at Amazon and did not see evidence that they were holding up order flow on the bestsellers I checked.)  In the media, Hachette is spinning a tale of themselves as “David” (approximately $2.8B in revenue) to Amazon’s “Goliath” (approximately $78.1B in revenue).

The fight between Hachette and Amazon is not what this post is about…

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Creating Great Telecommuting

Telecommuting Desk Setup 2 06-15-14

Have you ever fantasized about telecommuting?  Imagine it…  Email from your laptop on the beach…  Conference calls in your pajamas…  Writing code all night in the south of France, to be able to sightsee during the day…  Of course you have.

Now, let’s ask another question:  Have you ever fantasized about managing a group of telecommuters?  Barking dogs in the background… Sleep-choked voices on early morning calls…  Suspicious absences when deadlines are looming…  No replies to your email… No, of course you haven’t.

While nearly everyone has dreamt of telecommuting, almost no one relishes the idea of managing remote workers.  Not long after Melissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo!, she banned the practice.  Ford, by trying to reduce remote management issues, became party to a lawsuit  when a worker claimed that a medical condition requires her to telecommute.

“Telecommuting” is a modern management problem. Continue reading

Conflicting Process Goals: Is it You or THEM?

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What’s the biggest problem affecting your business process?  I can tell you from vast experience that most people answer this question with a “they” statement.  Every time I help an organization with a business process, conflicting goals arise.

Consider the following:

  • We could have finished the code if THEY (the customer) had stopped changing the acceptance criteria.
  • The reason we’re behind on billing customers is that THEY (the sales team) don’t bother to send us the invoice details.
  • I could sell more product if THEY (the management team) could approve exceptions more quickly.
  • We could improve quality if THEY (customers, sales, managers) would stop asking us to “rush” something through the production line.

There is seldom just one goal for every process.   Let’s say we are creating a consumer product.  Our goals might include:  product features, secure shipping, timely payment, delivery speed, and/or quality.   Each of the stakeholders who work on the process – to design, source, produce, deliver and warranty a product – have different views of which goal is most important.  To manufacturing, product quality is the primary concern.  To sales, delivering the product in a timely fashion is key.

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The Key to Life? Know How to Catch Up

marathon yellow

Life is busy.  Twitter, email, online media, television, online social networking and face-to-face social networking.  I don’t know about you, but I have four email addresses and two Twitter accounts.  I have two phone numbers with voice mail and text.  I have accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.  I have dozens of actual friends and sometimes I spend actual time with them.

I do what I can to consolidate the streams, but it’s still a lot of information, flowing in each day.  Over time, I’ve learned a critical lesson:  “keeping up” is overrated.  We all step out if the information stream from time to time.  We go on vacation, we get on airplanes, we have the flu.  Sometimes we even just stop paying attention because we’re tired.  What successful people do better than the rest of us is to catch up more efficiently.

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Broken Windows and Corporate Decency

Broken Windows

Over the weekend, I became aware of trouble at GitHub, a collaborative center for software developers. Prominent developer Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore) detailed a campaign of discrimination and harassment at TechCrunch.

She described being harassed by the boys’ club of fellow developers, which she initially just ignored. Then, it appears that – as she gained prominence in the community – she was targeted by one of the founders and strangely, his wife, who was not an employee but frequently on the premises. And her code was wrecked by another developer whose social advances she had rejected. Bravely, she spoke up over the weekend, to describe her experience and explain why she was leaving the organization. Continue reading

Stop Communicating…

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Communication is the biggest problem in human life.  Not because it’s a bad idea, but because we do it all wrong.  So let’s drop our typical vision of business “communication” to start something much more effective: “dialogue.”

I’ve been reading an interesting discussion of project managers on LinkedIn.  The discussion started with a question about the most important element of successful projects.  A large percentage of the comments center around project communication with a recurring theme that said roughly this: “you can be the world’s best communicator, but some people just won’t get with the program.”

Bunk.

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A Look at Women and Influence

Graphic - Women and Influence

Today is International Women’s Day, so it’s fitting that I capture a few thoughts on women and influence.  Last year, Warren Buffett said, “America has forged (their) success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country’s talent.  For most of our history, women — whatever their abilities — have been relegated to the sidelines.  Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.”

Women are often relegated to the sidelines.  Despite Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that we “lean in”, there are forces at work that have nothing to do with an ability to get the job done.  Many of those forces are benign, a simple artifact of decades (centuries) of male-dominated societies.  Women do things differently, and those differences are somewhat hard-to-understand for the pantheon of men-at-the-top.

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Project Management Made Simple

clouds and goal

What does it really take to run a project successfully?  I hear that question on a regular basis.  It sometimes surprises me, because the answer is really very simple.

Don’t get me wrong… Most project managers work very hard.   This job is the closest thing most of us will ever come to juggling angry kittens.   Even small projects have lots of “what ifs” and “yes, buts”.  While some large projects can take years, small projects might be finished in a matter of days.  No matter the size, here’s the action framework to keep in mind.

First, make progress toward goal(s).  

Nothing else matters if you’re not proceeding toward one or more of your goals.  Job one for all project managers should be to understand ALL the goals of the project, from all stakeholders.  Job two is to understand – and clearly communicate – the priority for those goals.  There will be conflicts, which you are there to resolve.  Understand your goals and priorities BEFORE you start the project and you will have an all-purpose roadmap for resolving issues along the way.

The Slow, But Steady Demise of Cable

Frayed Cable

Almost four years ago in a fit of pique over bad reception and high prices, we ditched cable television. It was very satisfying to take our cable boxes and remotes down to the cable company and say, “Here, we’re done with these.” The woman in the service center wasn’t really our antagonist, so we just politely told her why we were ditching our service, and as we were leaving she good-naturedly said, “Good luck, but feel free to come back if you miss us.”

We haven’t gone back yet.

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Social Media at Work: How Much is Too Much?

Social Media at Work Dec 2013It amazes me how often this question arises among millennials:  How much time is too much for social media at work?

Social media is like having real friends.  If you spent your entire work day socializing in the break room or chatting on your phone… well, you would get fired.

So seriously, how much time is enough?  How much is too much? Continue reading