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Articles, commentary and advice to help business people get the technology they want

The workplace will never be a democracy

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in Computerworld Columns | 0 comments

One of the most persistent ideas I’ve heard in my decades in IT is that we geeks want democracy at work. Surprisingly, I’ve heard it from managers and executives as often as I have from front-line geeks. But when you scratch the surface, you see that we don’t really want democracy at all. We want a lot of other things related to what we value and how we’d like our workplaces to operate. Somehow this gets shorthanded to “We want democracy,” but what we really want are much more specific things: We want our managers to listen to us. We want to feel that we have a chance to...

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When your boss won’t listen to you

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Computerworld Columns | 0 comments

There’s little that’s more frustrating at work than trying to tell your boss something important and realizing that she’s not listening. You may have a great idea about how to serve your constituents. You may be telling her that her instructions make no sense. Or you may be warning her that her approach will destroy a project. Regardless of the context, when you see her failing to focus on what you say, you’re left feeling dismissed, disrespected and powerless. All too often, I’ve seen people respond to these frustrations in ways that are perfectly natural, but — unfortunately —...

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When others suffer for your mistakes

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Computerworld Columns | 0 comments

Have you ever felt as if you were being punished for someone else’s mistake? Maybe your project sponsors “remembered” some requirements at the last minute and insisted that the schedule couldn’t change. So you had to stay late or work all weekend. You suffered. The consequences to them? Nil. Maybe you discovered a product bug and the vendor told you that everything was OK because it had a workaround. Great. You were stuck with all the manual work to get around the vendor’s bad code. You suffered. The vendor? Not so much. How did you feel in those situations? Hold on to that feeling...

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Two little words that destroy your credibility

Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Computerworld Columns | 0 comments

We techies have a hard time building and maintaining credibility with our stakeholders. High expectations are hard to manage. Bugs happen. And we get blamed unfairly for all sorts of things that are out of our control. But we also have a habit of making things worse, undermining our credibility inadvertently and unnecessarily. Probably the most common of these unforced errors comes in the form of two simple words. “It’s fixed.” Stakeholders have a variety of emotional responses to hearing us utter these words, none of them productive. Some respond with excitement and gratitude. “Thank...

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When your boss overloads you, blame yourself

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Communication, Computerworld Columns, Managing self | 2 comments

At work, do you ever feel like one of those circus performers spinning plates on the top of poles? With a dozen different projects going at once, you spend your time frantically running from one to another, attending to each just enough to keep them all spinning. You’re exhausted from the relentless pace but know that the best you’re going to do is avoid the crashing disaster of letting them drop. And it feels like none of the projects will ever end. You’re caught up in what’s commonly known as thrashing, spending a disproportionate amount of your time switching...

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You can’t wear the manager and the developer hats at the same time

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Computerworld Columns, Managing projects, Managing self, Managing teams | 0 comments

Here’s something that never works out well: A small project comes along, one that doesn’t necessarily need a full-time project manager. So it’s decided that one of the developers on the project can double as the project manager. After all, who better understands what needs to be done than the developer? That’s true, and many developers do make good project managers. There’s no inherent conflict between the type of person who makes a good developer and one who makes a good project manager. They’re both detail-oriented and results-driven. But it’s simply not possible to be a...

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The most important career question you’ve never even considered

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Computerworld Columns, Managing self | 0 comments

As a reflective practitioner of the technical arts, you’ve likely pondered a lot of questions about the career you want to pursue, including these: What technical discipline should I focus on? Which degrees or certifications should I get? Should I stay technical or become a manager? But here’s one question so fundamental that it rarely gets asked: Do I want to be an asset or a liability? You’re probably wondering whether you should take me seriously. No one wants to be a liability, right? But I see this as one of the most important career questions you can consider. Let me...

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