Showing posts from March, 2017

On Regaining and Retaining Your Perspective

Why is it so hard to keep perspective?
No, Ansel Adams, I'm not talking about the physical perspective you have on a landscape, but rather the dispassionate distance from a situation needed to keep you from punching the clerk at the Kwik-E-Mart when he screws up giving you change.
I certainly know what losing perspective looks like: You're afraid, alot.Your lower-brain puts you in fight-or-flight mode at any point.You increasingly focus on yourself to the exclusion of the greater good, morality, or simple humanity.You say things you don't mean.You do things you don't really mean, either. One thing I've noticed is folks in tech lose perspective faster than most.  I have some ideas on why that is.
First, our brains are bathed in dopamine for hours per day.  We're doing something we genuinely love, and like junkies, when we detox, we get the shakes.   We lose our rationality.   Anything that takes us away from creating siphons-away that sweet, sweet buzz and we sta…

No, I Don't Want to Play Games at Work

I'll never forget taking Tyler on a tour of our new offices in Building 001 at Lexmark HQ.

Back in the day, 001 had been a manufacturing line that made the iconic IBM Selectric Typewriter and the Model M buckling-spring mechanical keyboard.  People still like those things today.   Suffice it to say, it was a quarter-mile long building with a floor flat as a pancake, and roughly 35 yards wide.

For a good decade after I hired-on, most of that building sat empty, home to a disused loading dock and stacks of IBM standard issue desks and chairs.  In 2012, our control-freak CFO decided we needed to do some "space consolidation" so he spent millions of dollars outfitting that area as a massive cubicle farm and moved us from our private offices and labs into that farm.

We got one concession out of that, though: A Game Room.   My second line (she'd go on to be my direct boss, and she was a hell of a good one) pushed relentlessly for the sort of gaming room that would attract…

A Year Elapsed...Now What?

So, April 1st will mark a year since Lexmark paid me to find a new job.

To recap, I agreed for that year, I'd not besmirch the name of LXK, recruit anyone of my old colleagues, or attempt to work there again.  The last is really not an issue, but the former two are tougher.  I'd dearly love to reach out to folks and get them to work with me again.

That middle item is the reason I'm writing tonight.  As I write this, I've just done 170+ miles in our Sienna minivan, shuttling goods from our garage to a Life Storage facility up in Georgetown, Texas.  Our daughters have been accepted to a private academy up there, and the place seems much more like us than Austin proper.  We're house-hunting and trying to cache stuff up there for the inevitable move sometime in April, May, or June.

Anyway, that much time on the road gives one a chance to think, especially what the right thing to do is once my contractual gag-order expires.

On one hand, oh the stories I could tell!   St…

Trying Blogs Again

Let's get this out of the way: Social media killed the blog.  Before 2007, there was a cacophony of individual 'Blogs where people shouted their unvarnished opinions into the aether.  Some had quite a following, especially in tech.

The concept was strikingly simple:  Use a blog engine (like this one, Blogger) or bootstrap your own site on Wordpress and make your content accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  This was the internet at its purest:  Content and hyperlinks all "webbed" together, with idea building upon another free-flowing idea.

So where'd it go?

It went on Facebook.

Facebook and Twitter launched in 2005-2007, and one can map a direct decline the the number, length, and quality of blog articles since then.   People put their "quick shots" up on twitter, and a good number of blog entries were just that--motes of observation.

The interactivity on those sites was much better as well--one got immediate comment feedback, "@replie…

The "Puck" factor, or "nobody cares what you think"

I heard a sermon yesterday about "Authenticity."   The general theme was: "Isn't it exhausting wearing a mask all the time.  Stop caring about what people think and expect and just be yourself."

Wow, I wish it were just that simple.

First, we must deal with "The Puck Factor".  This guy:

Bascially "Puck" was a universally-reviled character from the MTV Reality show "Real World" in the 1990's.  To sum-up He was unapologetic in his self-centered asshattery.  Looking at Puck and saying, "Just be yourself," was like an exercise in an Ethics class.  Puck liked hurting other people.  That was genuinely him being him.
....which brings us to yesterday.
Yesterday was going just fine.  We went to church, got home, and I was outside setting things right from our rained-out camping trip, and my wife comes around and we start to talk.   All was still going well until we got to a topic of general disagreement between us.
I kept my m…

On Agile: Generalists vs Specialists

Let's imagine you're a Program/Product Manager, SDM, or Lead Engineer/Architect.  You're starting a program to develop tech thingie 'X'.  You've read all the books.  You've looked into Agile, from the brevity of the Agile Manifesto, to the what-are-you-selling nonsense that is the Scaled Agile Framework.

In all that, you come to the same decision that people have had since Amenhotep designed the first pyramid:  How do you organize yourself?  That is, how do you set-up your group of people to accomplish the task? Digression: On the Spotify Model At this point, many of you will yell: "Self organizing teams!!!!" like it's some sort of talisman, obviating any need of further thought.  "Smart people will organize themselves optimally."

Let's take this head-on: No, they won't.   To be precise: At scale, this does not work. For our purposes, "scale" is about 10-20 people or more.   They'll do their best, but results w…

Work for a Place Where You'd Happily Be the Janitor (Ownership)

Just now, I had a lovely conversation with a gentleman who'd come to Amazon in 2005.  He was working for another (very large) tech firm at the time and he saw that Amazon had the same revenue as CorpX but had 1/3rd the number of employees.

He made it through the interview process and they said, "Very glad to have you; now we just need to figure out what you're going to do."

"I'll happily be the Janitor.  I'm glad to be here."

* * *

That little anecdote brings to mind a principle: "Work somewhere that has a culture you believe in."  I believe in the culture here, as expressed in the published Leadership Principles.  Ownership is the next-to-top one (right behind "Customer Obsession"), and it ends with, "Never says, 'That's not my job'."

In other words, do what needs doing.  Nothing is beneath you.  You own part of this company; act like it.

And you know what?  It's really true.

Last year, they asked for v…