A few years ago before leaving the States for Asia, which was after the dot-bomb mushroom cloud was settling down, my good friend was repeatedly telling me that Asia was nothing like what the papers was telling me. Specifically, no matter what I was reading about the advancement of India or the so-called “Tiger economies”, the people were different and different from the ones I knew in the US. So this leads to the saying attributed to a friend of a friend was my indoctrination to the world of the Asian workplace – “I expect excuses and failures”.
And he was right, in a way you simply cannot imagine until you are here. Even now, I am still taken aback at times with the full impact of this simple truth.
This, creates major issues for me due to my personality style and my management style. One of my favorite bloggers, RandinRepose, wrote about this example (of me). He told a little story about a boss/mentor that he termed “The Leaper”. I’ve no doubt that some of my team members get this treatment unintentionally. Sometimes though, I use this style purposefully because it’s a bit like my law school socratic method (check out this great story of it in practice) – an excellent teaching methodology IMO.
But anyways, readng Rand’s illustration of his Leaper boss was like looking at myself in the mirror in ways I was uncomfortable (because I don’t like being “aggressive” in this manner) with but there I am/was – “Hello there!” Hmmm. Yup, definitely a thinking moment…because it’s a point where some action or plan is just soo needed. Hmmm.
While it makes me uncomfortable with this, I’m a bit at a loss in terms of how else to move people who are content – fat, dumb, and happy. The easy answer is to replace them, but the pool of talent is from the same pond. So, fishing will only get more of the same. Thus, it seems that the answer is to breed new species.
So how do you deliver this change? Wendy Mason’s “change management blog” has some good reads and this one – DELIVER THE CHANGE – A CHECK LIST FOR BEING A GOOD CHANGE AGENT – was pretty inspired. And the man in the mirror looks back and says, “who”?
If it is to be, it is up to me.
If it is up to me, it shall be.
On this note, theres many fantastic bloggers and writers out there that help those practicing management and leadership day-in-day-out can be better equipped. Some of them in my blogroll and RSS Feed. Here are two I’d like to share:
Seems the tide is getting bigger and bigger, nearly tsunami effect, threatening to wash away so much that’s been laid down. We’ll just have to prepare, hunker down, and dig just that much deeper inside. Still, the question remains in many people’s mind, when will these changes stop? As Bob Sutton says, change will never be over, but that begs the question I think which is, “Are the changes always necessary or need to be so interminably long? You can only remodel your home so much before you figure out that it’s time to just move out completely to a new home and stop with the tinkering! Change it and change it once and let the change take hold and bedded down. If you have to change so frequently, then I would say, that you probably screwed up.
An amazing opinion piece from ComputerWorld was recommended through one of my project management newslists – Newgrange: It’s titled “The unspoken truth about managing geeks“. It’s an even better piece than the one I blogged about here.
For sure, the amount of comments on and off the site is very strong. And I totally understand the bashing because it’s self-aggrandizing to the “Amen” responses. IT folks really are quite diverse but I like to think that there are much more similarities than not based on my limited experiences in different countries, industries, and technical/management teams.
My personal view is that the author Jeff Ello has got it totally right – not just the analysis but also where it starts: It’s all about respect. Just break down this analysis:
Few people notice this, but for IT groups respect is the currency of the realm. IT pros do not squander this currency. Those whom they do not believe are worthy of their respect might instead be treated to professional courtesy, a friendly demeanor or the acceptance of authority. Gaining respect is not a matter of being the boss and has nothing to do with being likeable or sociable; whether you talk, eat or smell right; or any measure that isn’t directly related to the work. The amount of respect an IT pro pays someone is a measure of how tolerable that person is when it comes to getting things done, including the elegance and practicality of his solutions and suggestions. IT pros always and without fail, quietly self-organize around those who make the work easier, while shunning those who make the work harder, independent of the organizational chart.
1. For sure, when I was as tech grunt, that’s how I felt about the respect to others, especially managers. I also saw it, heard it from others. IT teams are pretty ruthless when it comes to people who can’t “fit in” with the rest of the team. “Fitting in” can mean many things but the social dynamics of IT teams can be pretty brutal.
2. As a manager of technical guys, I learned first hand about “earning your stripes” because there are always more technical guys than you. The process repeats itself at each stop along the IT management journey.
3. As part of the IT team, you always are building relationships with those who can get it done. Because the environment is so much about firefighting, it’s a totally Darwinian world. No one likes to burn during IT service outages, user problems etc and so the ones who can prevent fires and/or fight fires quickest are “the best”. These folks in my experience become the tight-knit high performing teams that makes IT a well-oiled machine we strive for.
4. The last statement that IT-pros “quietly self-organize around those who make the work easier, while shunning those who make the work harder, independent of the organizational chart.” is the heart of what gives life to “Shadow IT”. Check out Mike Schaffner’s excellent commentary about the Shadow IT topic.
It’s a definite read for anyone curious about IT and get a wide spectrum of the views.
However, one part of the article Jeff wrote which bears repeating:
Users need to be reminded a few things, including:
* IT wants to help me.
* I should keep an open mind.
* IT is not my personal tech adviser, nor is my work computer my personal computer.
* IT people have lives and other interests.
Do you ever wonder why corporate lunancy exists and what can be done about it? It starts with the people IMHO. This latest post from the Six Discipline Blog I believe focuses on the right things – back to basics for the individual(s), the grunts, the ““business centurions”” Wally Bock praises, that make organizations excel and be a great place work.
BOTTOMLINE: Organizational accountability eliminates the tendency to make excuses and shift blame. When employees make clear and specific commitments for their own work, entire organizations become aligned and achieve specific measurable results.
1. Accountability is a Statement of Personal Promise.
2. Accountability for Results Means Activities Aren’t Enough
3. Accountability for Results Requires Room for Judgment and Decision Making.
4. Accountability is Neither Shared nor Conditional.
5. Accountability for the Organization as a Whole Belongs to Everyone.
6. Accountability is Meaningless Without Consequences.
So how can we take care and develop our people the right way? Lots have been written to be sure on the leadership development front. I like the list from Dan McCarthy who recently posted 30 Challenges That Can Develop Leaders. In particular, I’d like to emphasize his summary from “The Lessons of Experience” book. It’s a new book for me and will definitely be checking it out. In my limited exposure to date, the ones who were worth modeling after and follow had a lot of those kinds of experiences. These folks are the colleagues, teammates, and good bosses to work with and work for.
Are you on-board?
It’s been a really busy year for me with conferences and summits and we’re just starting Q4 and there’s another couple more months of conferences and summits coming up in Hong Kong.
Earlier this year, I got nabbed by some marketeers from Brocade Communications to attend their APAC (Asia Pacific) roadshow for their Extraordinary Networks campaign to educate the enterprise sector of their acquisition of Foundry Networks. There’s a lot of good stuff in there which you can find about here, here and here. I don’t normally and actually loathe to write up specifically about technology partners. The reason for this is because I prefer to keep neutral and agnostic about my dealings with the supply side of IT. I’m a pretty principled best-of-breed technologist when it comes to building my IT “real-estate”.
On this point, I recently was honored to have been invited to the Marcus Evans 2nd Annual CIO Summit held Oct 6-8 in Macau. Key topics of the conference touched upon:
CIO Innovation – Conceptualising IT infrastructure to be the epicentre of achieving organisational efficiency and productivity Globalization of IT – Analysing the impact of globalisation on business trends that rely on data management to provide greater competitive advantage IT Architecture Evolution – Transitioning away from legacy systems and integrating emerging technologies to facilitate modernization IT Fortification – Maximizing network security to enable business continuity and minimize critical data loss Next Generation Investments – Adopting innovative technology to enhance the core infrastructure of a business IT Governance – Ensuring value delivery, monitoring accountability and complying with regulation
Strategic Redeployment – Evaluating the impact of migrating critical data infrastructure
Redesigning Service Level Agreements – Institutionalising a framework that supports durational and financial flexibility Storage Resource Management – Implementing efficient data storage practices to reduce costs and increase productivity Information Value Chain – Developing dynamic communication collaboration to facilitate efficient knowledge distribution and management Reputational Excellence – Ensuring high levels of data management and information delivery to avoid image erosion
As the opening keynote speaker of the summit, I tried to set the tone and breathe of the IT topics and issues many senior IT leaders face at some level in their professional life. The topic, I spoke on was in the IT architecture area: Pursuing Versatile IT Architecture to Effectively Respond to Economic Expansion and Contraction. The thrust of my presentation featured “The Matrix” into the principles of IT architecture. I also included my own version of the 7 IT Management layers as translated from the OSI Network layers framework. This was my “IT management for dummies” response to people in my team and outside my team as well as a personal effort to come to grips with the whole daunting IT Governance body of knowledge out there.
In summary, I covered the following key points:
Business Challenges CIO – Business Architect Choice: Technology, Process, People Balanced IT Design Case Brief
At first, I discussed the importance of having a good solid understanding of the business context – challenges, environmental factors – that your IT function is operating in (see Porter’s 5 Forces Modeling). Not surprising many of the CIOs in the conference are laboring under severe budgetary constraints. I mean seriously, how much “do more with less” can one stomach? I battled my turf with as blunt of a tool I could think of – “Cut my budget any more and I’m going to be cutting off your email and internet. Is that ok with you?” It was a wake up call because in the death march of corporate cost cutting, sometimes, you’re on auto-pilot that you and your finance colleagues need to be shaken out of the funk. Being a corporate lemming is not my idea of fun, thank you very much.
Second, I delved in the role of the “business architect” and I may be really bold and brash by saying so. The context of this starts here with the conversation between Neo and The Architect in “The Matrix Reloaded”.
From this it leads to the difficult problem we all face: CHOICE. Choice of people, choice of technologies, choice of processes. Wrong choices and we’re forced to contemplate “levels of survivability” and “rebooting” our own Business/IT Matrix. But this is not all we face because in each of these choices are other levels of choices and we find ourselves going dow different “rabbit holes” and where we end up, who knows? Overarching simple design principles – (a) alignment with Business Strategy and (b) future proof + present relevancy and performance of the IT real-estate – can help us with our choices, but they’re not so easily applied. This is because each of the 3 main CHOICES we have, they have 3 other major constraints to be applied in the analysis:
So in one’s IT Design evaluation of the ultimate “Matrix” there are futher questions:
1. What’s the Matrix you’re aiming to build?
2. Can you procure the people, technology to enable the Matrix?
3. Implementation hurdles which mainly in my view revolve around “control”
Finally, I wrapped up my 40 minute by discussing an on-going case in a high level illustrating some of these ideas at work. If you want to know more, you can view my presentation on Slideshare.
I don’t usually and haven’t in a while written directly about things happening around my work environment but it’s been very tough going. I’ve posted a couple of places about managing tough times last year and it’s still tough going.
Following those words, and looking at 36 months into managing like this does take its toll – personally and on the team. The good news is it’s character building and preparation for the future. If you can manage and work through this, there’s not a lot out there the world, life, can throw at you without you fearing it. The old adage, “What doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger” comes to mind.
But the downside is that managing “not to lose” is not sustainable. A friend of mine recently told me how he see’s a lot of the IT world – it’s playing for a 0-0 draw. Hearing that was like a punch in the gut but there’s a lot of truth to that. IT is expected to be perfect 100% and that’s business as usual. One failure or letting in a “goal” then you lose and everyone knows.
For that I like Seth Godin’s blog post called Hierarchy of Success. The 6 items are spot on reminders.
It’s a great reminder when the tough times seems interminable. Focus on yourself, your mind, your path as an anchor and a compass. Then the rest flows.
As one of my favorite quotes says:
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”
- Japanese proverb
In any event, the news isn’t getting better and if history is to be judge, it’s downright fugly. While we’re focusing on profits, we can’t forget that Profits = (Top line growth) Minus (Bottom line costs). What the Bottom Line Hides by Paul Lim in a recent New York Times Your Money column notes some frightening historical statistics on this front:
“[Y]ou can only cut so much,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S.& P. “At some point, you need to start seeing the business actually grow. You need to see increased sales” — sometimes called “top line” growth…
While overall S.& P. 500 earnings are still falling on a year-over-year basis, for example, the rate of decline has begun to slow, according to figures compiled by Thomson Reuters…
By contrast, declines in S.& P. 500 sales are picking up speed, according to S. & P. After slumping 14 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 and nearly 17 percent in the first quarter this year, corporate revenue tumbled nearly 20 percent in the second quarter.
The revenue declines are even more staggering on a dollar basis. From June 2008 to June 2009, revenue of the 500 companies tumbled by a total of $1.15 trillion. “That’s more than the entire fiscal stimulus,” Mr. Silverblatt said…
But Mr. Ablin does not expect a turnaround in corporate sales until at least the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2010.
And it could easily take more time than that. Historically, revenue is one of the last indicators to recover after an economic downturn…
A recent analysis by Ned Davis Research, the investment-consulting firm in Venice, Fla., found that sales typically hit a trough three months after earnings do — or nine months after a recession ends.
Assuming that the recession has just ended, this means S.& P. 500 sales might not start to recover until next July…
Keep in mind that revenue doesn’t always heal exactly nine months after the economy does. A full year after the 2001 recession ended, sales among companies in the S.& P. 500 — minus the financial sector — were still shrinking by around 6 percent.
Moreover, in the last big downturn, at the start of this decade, revenue declined for seven consecutive quarters. If the market were in store for a similar sales drought, revenue might not start expanding again until the start of the third quarter of next year…
Thanks for that!
The blogosphere kicked up some good posts recently on this topic. It follows on my previous post on Management and Drucker. Drucker had written about results and performance in “Managing for Results” and it’s companion “The Effective Executive“. As I rant about the corporate lunancy rampant through the ranks, it goes back to these questions and topics.
Let’s start with, do you know where you’re heading and what the end-game vision is to be? That’s like the horizon and the north star to help guide the captain of the boat (yes, that would be you so wake up and focus!). I like how Stacey Douglas blogged about it in her take on Results Matter:
You simply cannot manage what you don’t understand, nor can you delegate it or request updates on it. Understand and manage to results, not to line items on a task list.
For the management folks, take heed to these wise words – thanks to Jonathan Becher for sharing it:
“It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises—but only performance is reality.”
Harold S. Geneen, 1910-1997, communications executive
“The man who starts out going nowhere, generally gets there.”
Dale Carnegie, 1888-1955, author and pioneer in self-improvement and interpersonal skills
So, drop the powerpoint, step away from the excel sheet, stop the MS Word document/memo, and walk away from the email. We’re mindless manipulators of meaningless meditations. Focus – 5Ws (Who, What, Where, Why, When) + 2Hs (How, How many). It’s appalling how so many folks can’t start their analysis with this and seemingly go off the deep end down the rabbit hole because they simply don’t know where the organization needs to go and what should be done to get there. One cannot simply delegate that thinking to others. Want sheep then go to New Zealand.
Know why you are here. Why the company or organization you belong to is here. Mission – Vision > leads to rolling up the sleeves and doing stuff that gets the results directly impacting and affecting the company’s performance be it in dollars, customer satisfaction, sales, new innovations and patents, but it’s got to be SMART.
I close today’s musings with reference the latest CEO and leadership profile from Adam Bryant’s Corner Office column. Read the interview of Linda Hudson, president of the land and armaments group for BAE Systems, a military contractor.
Now is the anniversary of the economic meltdown that happened in 2008 around this time. There’s been a lot of articles about why, what, when and lessons learned. As spectacular failures are, it is best that we study and learn how to avoid getting into these kinds of situations in the future. At least in the US, there doesn’t appear to be lots of traction to fundamentally change the systemic root causes responsible for the economic carnage that still shakes us today.
I do note that this happens to be the centennial of Peter Drucker if he were still alive today. I’m a big Drucker disciple and this article by Rick Wartzman, the executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, in Businessweek is a wonderful common sense piece. What he writes sadly is nothing new, and tragically, nothing much is happening to improve it. The history adages dooming us to failure is illustrated:
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
George Bernard Shaw:
We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
Wartzman lists the following key points:
How true is this? Even decisions made far down the organization chart are often short-term despite the fact that we know this is not healthy nor productive. Our management failures are deeply rooted and ingrained in doing the expedient at the expense of efficacy. That’s because the latter takes courage which is in short supply that it could be said to be a rare human item. We’re now in the business of following short term gains and becoming no better than our Asian friends here where time frames and attitudes are very much today and the present and lacking the long-term vision and planning that has always been the hallmark and strength of American business and capitalism.
Build something that outlasts you – that’s the right legacy.
Yes, be the fool that bets against human nature. Systems, processes, all must be built to acknowledge the right assumptions about people. That was Alan Greenspan’s colossal failure and hence his legacy will be stained by this incredible oversight. I don’t blame him, lots of folks who should know better have done just as spectacularly bad as him. He’s got good company.
And apparently nobody cares this is happening. Yes, it’s an indictment on the current economic system, but real capitalists understand this is not sustainable. The whole world is one big bubble.
“Securities analysts believe that companies make money,” said Drucker. “Companies make shoes.”
Amen to that.
This seems so simple and I may be naive and outdated to believe so. But financial instruments do not contribute to long lasting value or development for society. It’s not-tangible as the trillions of “book value” was totally obliterated in mere weeks. If it were real, it wouldn’t have happened.
In fact, we’re perpetuating the whole Enron fiasco all over again. Please, someone tell me what’s materially different between Enron’s use of “special purpose entitites” and what Barclay just recently announced with its $12bn credit vehicle and which so many other financial institutions have done to date? The only thing I see different is that this time, the governments are okaying it…and somehow that’s just fine.
And this is where the management and leadership bit kicks in – if we don’t make a stand somewhere, then inevitably, we will feel the hurt. As businesses are also social institutions, we must face the fact that senior managers and executives must make hard choices and stand up to them as failure to do so can/will have catastrophic consequences. See Erin Brockevich and others like it which are many, most recently the toxic waters series by New York Times…
What an indictment of our current educational system to date…
Go join one of the up-coming Drucker Celebrations happening world-wide.
CSR programs that large corporations actively promote are one of the few bright areas in which one can do actual good – for society, for deserving and less fortunate people, and for the individuals who break from mundane and mind-numbing office work. In the past I’ve participated in my green efforts, tree-planting, and other environmental reclamation programs. This time was a bit different and dare say more meaningful.
My company over the past several years have worked together with the HK Society of the Blind and their great people. A few weeks ago we sponsored graduates of their programs HP mini computers to use and which were equipped with visually impaired computer tools. So on Aug 22nd, a few of my young(er) IT helpdesk guys with other company employees trooped over there for the afternoon to learn more about the visually impaired and helped them with their new computers. These computers are one of the main tools for them to connect with the rest of the world and enjoy its benefits.
I was paired with a nice gentleman named Henry, who had become blind much later in life. According to him, he now only has about 5% sight – meaning he can sense light and thus have some depth perception. This is highly important in the world of the visually impaired – some light sense and perception is very meaningful. He spent quite a number of years overseas in Canada, growing up there and going to school around the Toronto Area. Interestingly, I found out from Henry that there is a universal “language” that we can communicate with them when we interact/walk with them. I also learned that there are generally 5 “types” of blindness. Having dim sum together with the whole group of about 15+ was too short.
Over the next couple of hours we worked with our students and each other to “show” them how to work their new computers. It’s hard to really write how great the experience was with them. Everyone there was just so grateful and energized that we were there with them. And the feeling was mutual and personally was heart-warmed to see my young guys really getting into helping them. The HKSB is a worthy NGO that has very ambitious plans and programs to help the visually-impaired people they serve and have a complete and full life that we with full vision have.
I hope that we can continue to keep up with the program and perhaps expand our types of donations – retiring or decommissoned IT equipment that still have use left.
Below are the people that helped make it happen:
Give liberally – they are a wonderful service organization that make meaningful improvements in people’s lives. Kitty is a Director of the Rehabilitation Division. Emily is one of the managers there who works with their clients on a day-to-day basis to make their lives complete.
A very sad passing of one of the best leadership and management blogs. Do check it out in my blog roll or HERE.
Take in the wisdom and practical useful advice in the pages. Then apply liberally and watch good stuff happen!
Trying to catch up with some blogging but back on the road again traveling and trying to manage “day-by-day” because sometimes, that’s all you’ve got. So what then?
“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” – Stephen Covey
This came up in one of my Brainy Quotes RSS feed and I really liked it – and very timely as well. I was catching up with a colleague who was in between roles and looking to move from the Program/Project role into traditional IT. I remember being a bit startled by that because I was trying to go the other direction but also because I find that IT in Asia is a miserable slog. Not what I’m used to and not what I’m willing to accept despite the feeling that it is what it is … for a long while.
As we work through or struggle with unpredictable and difficult changes, unclear choices, wide open opportunities, what do we do? Sometimes we run afoul of paralysis by analysis and end up just standing stuck and not able to move forward to the next steps. Sometimes it’s just because one can’t come to grips with the unpleasantness ahead. And this quote from Covey I think is a great breakthrough.
Change is going to happen so let’s not spend too much time with it. So what choices do we have then to manage it – emotionally, professionally, psychologically, personally, whatever? I think we can skip then to the last one admonition – one’s principles. Let that be the foundation, the guiding light, to help with the choices and the changes. Working backwards, I think we ought to know what we stand for, what our passions are, what our strengths and weaknesses are and let that gently guide us or at least help us avoid making the wrong decisions.
This leads to personal success:
“Be who you are and be that well.” – Saint Francis de Sales
And this leads to a missive on managing IT in Asia. Leadership requires we tackle the toughest issues that have a direct impact on our ability to achieve success. Besides the organizational cultures we deal with, there are cultural ones that embed itself into organizational cultures and people behaviors/actions. While I don’t want to suggest that cultures cannot change, it’s extremely difficult and requires amazing toughness, perseverance, and courage to challenge it.
As managers we need to ensure that the processes, behaviors which incorporate so much cultural baggage are tailored to respect it. Yet, this isn’t sufficient, because, business change (especially now!) hence, people and their behaviors must also change which means that processes must change along with it. And this is the chicken/egg conundrum…
Defining insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein attrib)
How to get people whose cultural values put stability, command-and-control/authority to do things differently? As James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner put it in their classic book, The Leadership Challenge: “The art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations” is what leadership is about. Moving the “immovable” object takes serious sweat, tears and stick-the-neck-out-first actions.
And therein is the hard lesson – how do you make the horse drink the @*!&^*(@% water???
The water I want people to taste are:
1. Have some self-direction – don’t ask someone for where you should be going.
2. Personal initiative – don’t sit on your ass waiting for the cattle prod. Go, get up and fix a problem and be useful to someone.
3. Independent minded critical thinking – you were born with a brain, please freaking use it or give it to someone else.
4. I have the answers and am part of the solution – yes, you can actually make a difference no matter what level you’re at, what title you have (or not)…
5. The boss doesn’t always have the answers. And if s/he does, it’s not his/her job to get it done – it’s yours. Earn your pay check or else someone else will.
6. One day it won’t be so hard to fire people here….There goes your “iron rice bowl”.
7. I want to hear “can-do” this, “shall-do” that and simply get it done. I don’t want to keep hearing excuses and expect failures.
8. It’s NOT OK to be ignorant. You have GOOGLE now and I didn’t…so what’s your excuse hm?
9. Working hard is great but working smarter is better and easier. It’s the best guarantee of career longevity in the long run.
10. It’s really ok not to know the answer and be wrong and make mistakes. Because if you already were great, perfect and knew it all, I’d be happily working for you instead.
For IT especially, it is so dynamic and challenging, people must by nature be mentally agile, emotionally stable, mentally strong to handle all that’s thrown IT’s way. Speed of change vs immovable cultural object.
So then…. Why?