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Management Blog

Discussion on a variety of general IT management topics.


Multi-tasking Must Die: 5 Ways to Single Task

Thank you to Mike Cottmeyer for this link to The Slacker Manager.



A while back, we delivered a presentation to a customer.  Throughout, comments of "cool" were being uttered.  We left quite pleased.

A friend of mine sent me some definitions of "cool".

In short, it can mean...

  1. I like what you say
  2. I don't know what you are talking about
  3. I'm just filling the pauses until I can get out of here
  4. I don't care about your opinion

Can you see good performance?

Most architects that I know pay very little attention to their reputation and visibility within their organizations.  They typically consider such activities with contempt.  It is playing politics, it is putting style over substance, it is dishonest. 

Dishonest?  Yes, dishonest! Why?  Because every delivery is a team effort.  Any one person taking credit is disrespecting the other team members.

So what do you do in a culture that recognizes and rewards those who glister rather than those who just get on with their work and do an exceptional job.  Your choice is stark - play the game, move on, or accept it.

As a manager in such an environment though you have responsibilities...

A manager of mine when he understood what was happening said "perhaps I am looking in the wrong place".  You cannot rely on the grapevine to provide an accurate picture of performance.  The news spread by others is biased, it is politicized, it carries the advertisements of the carriers.  You have to get out there and continually and consistently look for yourself.  You must take a deep interest in the capabilities, aspirations, working environment and efforts of your staff.  Only then will you will you start to get an accurate picture of the performance of your staff.  And only then will you be able to help them.  Only then will you be doing your job as a manager.  Only then will you find excellence.  You will find the gold.

You have another responsibility.  Once you really understand performance rather than the reputation created by rumor, gossip and innuendo,  you must pass on good news.  Your staff deserve to have their strengths and triumphs trumpeted.  They deserve a strong positive reputation.

But what is they are not doing well.  This is also your responsibility.  Do you really understand them, if so then you would deploy them to use their strengths and they would do well.  If they are not doing well then you are failing.  Trumpet their strengths, deploy them correctly, give them the means to achieve success.


Effective communication

Anglo-American business communication has evolved a terse and concise style that is accepted as conventional wisdom.  However, I'm not convinced that saving the time of a few senior managers is really an effective approach to communicating organizational goals .


I have learned both through instruction and experience that to communicate with those of differing backgrounds and cultures that saying the same thing in multiple ways, providing additional context and painting rich word pictures are essential. If I do it and equally if those that I am communicating with do it then there is a greater prospect of mutual understanding.

Surely, business effectiveness is better served by waffling to mutual comprehension than by adopting the cultural norm of clipped, brief but turgid messages that are misunderstood.


Google Chrome - another browser that doesn't quite work?

To do my work each day, I have Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Freemind, maybe another well established Windows or Java application, plus a browser open.  The browser will typically have 5 to 10 tabs opens.  I am switching between these various applications continually which is why I want them all open.  Given that Windows is now an ancient operating system, I don't think this is an unreasonable way of working.

The unpaid open source developers of Freemind are excused from the complaints that are to follow.  The product does the job I ask of it effectively every time I use it, the upgrades are useful, the beta versions are stable, performance is good even with last year's PC specification.  It is indispensable in the process of getting to grips with a new project, a new technology, in planning and managing my activities.  It demonstrates that it is possible to create and maintain over the years a stable, focused and effective product.  I only have praise for the product and its developers.

The first "office" suite of applications that I can remember using on a NorthStar Advantage micro-computer consisted of WordStar, Multiplan, dbase 2 and I don't think we had any presentation software.  This computer ran CPM, had 64k memory, 180k 5.25 single sided variable density floppy disks.  Connection to a mini computer that we had was achieved by me building a cable and then writing some code on both boxes to make them talk.  It was crude, far less capable and I absolutely don't want to go back.

The interesting thing though is that I probably pushed Wordstar to its limit then and used maybe 80% of its functionality regularly.  Today, I probably don't know what 80% of the functionality of Word is.  I guess I use 5% of it regularly to do the same job that I did with Wordstar.  Is it more effective to use? I am not convinced.

However, the comparison of Word with Wordstar is not important.  It is the contrast with Freemind that is.  They are both modern packages that do critical jobs for me.  The commercial models are different, the attitude to delivering customer satisfaction is evidently different, the development approach must be different.

What has this got to do with Google Chrome?

To work effectively, I need a fast stable multi-tab browser that correctly renders the sites that I use, correctly executes the links and buttons I click on, that doesn't cripple my PC with poor memory management, and doesn't require me to spend time researching how to configure it to get marginal performance improvements.  I think my requirement is for a basic utility that works.  Unfortunately, IE, Mozilla, Safari and Opera all fail to do this.

The reviews and forums are already full of requests that could turn Google Chrome into bloatware.  I hope that the Google Chrome developers don't lose sight of the basics in the way that I feel other browser developers seem to have.  I hope they adopt the attitudes that the developers of Freemind have and deliver what I believe that the market has been waiting for.  If they do succumb to the mountain of feature requests and compromise core browsing performance then I am afraid that Google Chrome will be just another browser that doesn't quite work.