In Praise of (Useful) Managers

You do need some managers. Elon Musk is trying to prove that Twitter can be run with only himself and the people who write code, and it’s not going well. It turns out that it takes a little more to run an organization than just coding and tweeting.

For example, Elon had announced that only enterprise customers who would pay $$$ would have access to the API. But he had fired everyone who was able to process an application for an enterprise license. So when the last overworked API engineer committed the change that implemented the limit, there were no paying customers because there was nobody to take the money of the few tool vendors willing to pay up.

Your overhead grows inexorably. Unless you pay very close attention, the fraction of total headcount actually writing code goes lower and lower. To avoid ending up having to take a chainsaw to your organization as Elon has done, calculate your coder percentage today and keep track of it.

Do You Still Need an IT Department?

Is it time to get rid of the IT department? Some people advocate that IT should be fully distributed in individual business units. Dr. Joe Peppard argued this case, and I just read his reply in the Wall Street Journal to the various objections he received.

I find the binary “IT department yes/no” discussion to be a useless polemic. Every organization has some mix of central and decentralized IT. The question is whether each IT capability is correctly placed.

Systems of record make up the foundation of your business and do not provide a competitive advantage. That’s things like email, accounting, and HR. Those fit well in a centralized IT function. You want to focus on reliability, and you don’t want each department or country running its own accounting or email server.

Systems of engagement that provide you with competitive advantage need to be closer to the business and the customers and move faster. That requires a different mindset with more risk-taking. That’s why these systems are often a poor fit in centralized IT. But letting each department roam free means you end up with a dozen incompatible cloud services without synergy.

Conundrums like this cannot be solved at the organizational level where they occur. Because the choice pits the agenda of the CIO/CTO against the CFO, CMO, and CSO, the final arbiter has to be the CEO. He or she is impervious to technical arguments. If you are a CIO or CTO, you owe it to your organization to be able to speak the language of the CEO.

Set your Mind’s GPS

Did you ever set your GPS wrong? I know I have. It takes a little while, but I eventually figure out that something is wrong with the directions I am given. But if you set your mind’s GPS wrong, it can take much longer to notice.

If you are unhappy about the path of your life, you need to re-program your mind’s GPS. A simple way to do that is by saying affirmations. An affirmation is a compelling sentence that describes how you feel after reaching your goal. One of mine has been “I am happy and proud that I won the Best Speaker award.”

Design an affirmation and say it to yourself every day. You will find that it directs your mind to seek a way to reach the goal your affirmation describes. And yes, I did win the award I was looking for 😉

Focus on the Action

You control the effort, not the results. If you want to change your life, you can take action today. There is no guarantee where your actions take you – your environment, other people and chance all play a part, too.

That is why the focus of your daily review before bed should be on the action you took today, not the results you experienced.

Stop Speaking While You Think

Do you, like, use too many, like, filler words? Sitting in a coffee shop in New York a few weeks back, I noticed that every fifth word in New York English is “like.”

Research shows that people who use more filler words are considered less intelligent, and their arguments are considered weaker. So it’s a good idea to get rid of your filler words. Here is an exercise: Record yourself on your phone speaking on any topic for one minute. Listen to the recording and count how many filler words you use per minute. Like, uh, ah, um, er, well. If you use more than one, you should improve.

Now record yourself again for one minute, this time making an effort to simply say nothing when you need to think. Pause and think instead of just babbling a filler word. People who pause while speaking are considered more intelligent. Listen to your recording and count your filler words. Hopefully, you have fewer. Also, notice that a pause of one second – the time normally filled with a useless word – is not a problem at all for the listener.

Play the Minimalism Game with Me

You have too much stuff. The average American household contains 300,000 items plus whatever is in their storage unit. You might think that having too much stuff is harmless, but it isn’t. Every item you own is taking up a little working memory in your brain. Each item has to be stored, repaired, charged, cleaned.

If you want to make a change in your life, getting rid of some stuff is a good place to start. If you are up to the challenge, join me for a 30-day challenge invented by The Minimalists. The rules are simple: The first day you get rid of one item. You can throw it away, recycle it, sell it, or give it away. On the second day, you get rid of two items. On the third day, three items. You don’t have to do the math in your head – if you stick with the challenge for all 30 days, you’ll end up 465 items lighter. Who’s with me?

People and Material

“In war, three-quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter.” Napoleon said that in 1808, and it applies equally in Ukraine today.

It also applies in other human endeavors. You can see organizations performing well with antiquated IT systems, and organizations making a mess of their customer service even though they have the latest and greatest cloud services. Simply rolling out new technology without considering people, organization, and processes will not improve your organization.

Compliment Someone

Did you compliment anyone today? I’m not talking about your colleagues’ looks – don’t enter that minefield. But remember to appreciate your co-workers and team members when they do good work.

Complimenting other people is an under-utilized superpower. It costs nothing and makes both you and the receiver feel better. Today is #WorldComplimentDay. Be part of the movement 😉

How Much Time do you Have?

You never know when it’s your time. Last year, a woman in Canada awoke to a loud noise in the middle of the night. Jumping out of bed, she turned on the light and saw a hole in her ceiling right above the bed. And on the bed was a 3-pound meteorite that had punched right through her roof, missing her head by inches.

It is exceedingly rare for people to get killed by space rocks. But disease and mundane accidents also strike without warning. Make sure you use every day well. How will you have improved your life or the world at the end of today?