Articles and posts about how culture plays an important role in the success and failure of technology groups and projects

Assess your surroundings from 2,000 feet above

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 in Computerworld Columns, Culture | 0 comments

I’ve spent the past two weeks flying my experimental two-seater across the country, landing at small airports, pitching my tent wherever I can, bouncing in the thermals, and mostly observing the world from a couple thousand feet up. From that vantage point, youcan learn what a community values. The same is true, in a figurative sense, with organizations. What can you glean from a literal bird’s-eye view? Consider the impression I got of Canadian, Texas, a small town near the Oklahoma border. When I looked down on the town from the air, it seemed like a family-oriented place,...

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Building a cabin in the field of dreams

Posted by on Oct 10, 2011 in Culture | 0 comments

Here’s a story from our friend Kyle Shannon, former Creative Director and Founder of It aptly illustrates his experience of the gap between geeks and non-geeks. It’s a fable, and even has a moral.   Once upon a time there was an open field of wildflowers with a stream running through it and birds and insects and deer bounding around. And it was decreed that in this field Geeks and Non-geeks would live together. Soon, the Non-geeks are running around catching butterflies and splashing in the water. And the Geeks are rolling their eyes. They realize that...

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You might be a part of the avoidance collusion

Posted by on Aug 2, 2011 in Culture | 0 comments

(This article originally appeared in ComputerWorld USA and ComputerWorld Netherlands.) Sometimes it feels as if our basic assumption about project leadership teams is that they can’t work well together — as if collaboration is out of the question and we’re ready to settle for a cold peace based on limited communication and mutual suspicion. But I refuse to accept that. I think we should be able to examine the dynamics of project teams to unravel the causes of these tense relationships and build productive and even enjoyable connections. The prototypical project leadership...

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Is it ‘us vs. them’ or ‘all together now’?

Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Culture | 0 comments

(This article originally appeared in Computerworld and at Over the years, I’ve noticed the power that a few simple words have to determine how project teams relate to their sponsors: “client,” “customer,” “we,” “us,” “them” and “partner.” It’s odd how little attention is paid to these words, given the critical role that the relationships they describe play in the success or failure of projects. As a consultant helping to launch new projects or turn around troubled ones, I listen carefully for these...

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What our boundaries say about us

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Culture | 0 comments

In my consulting work, I’ve often found that my fascination with borders comes in handy. I suppose that I’m not alone in my amusement that one can stand literally straddling a boundary, with one foot in one country and the other in another. I was reminded of this recently on a cross-country drive here in the U.S. In large swaths of the country, crossing a state border seems like a nonevent. We live up to our name as the United States. Other than a sign announcing your arrival in the new state, nothing much changes visibly. The interstate is still the interstate. The topography...

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Change, one finger at a time

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Culture | 0 comments

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about transforming organizations came from the struggle to shed an unpleasant habit. During high school and most of college, I was a fingernail biter. It’s one of those nasty nervous habits that no one feels good about. My jagged, raggedy, nibbled, nubbin nails were a constant source of embarrassment. Oh, I tried to quit many times. I tried going cold turkey. I tried fining myself for every transgression. I tried putting foul substances on my fingers. But every attempt ended with the same result: a return to the habit and lower...

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Think Like an Archaeologist

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Culture, News & commentary | 0 comments

If you’d like your IT projects and department to run more efficiently and effectively, you probably need to develop a keen appreciation of the work of archaeologists. That’s right, real archeologists. I’m not talking about the Indiana Jones variety of adventurous grave-robbers, but of those men and women who spend their summers patiently digging in the dirt with trowels, dental picks and paint brushes looking for sticks, stones and bones.   For us, what’s important about their work isn’t the excavation part, but what they do with the artifacts after...

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