THINKING OUSIDE THE BOX, WE HAVE THE BANDWIDTH FOR A CLOUD BASED PARADIGM SHIFT

Now that the end of year holiday season is over, it is time for the start of the New Year business meetings. We are being blessed with a multitude of annual business results reporting and Field kick-off meetings as companies try to fire up their investors and their sales organisations for the year ahead.

Author: EuropeanaEU; CC BY-SA 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: EuropeanaEU; CC BY-SA 2.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


Generally, January is the month when management ask those around them to “gird their loins”, “step up to the bar”, “take no prisoners”, and to “storm the market” with “leading edge technology”.

In other words, it is time to roll out every cliché to make sure that no-one has to actually deliver any statements comprised of any original thought or language construction …. It is definitely the time for “drivelspeak”.

Here are some that I have heard, and hate the most, in the last month.

Thinking outside the box metaphor for creative thinking is believed to have come from management consultants (who can be blamed for most of drivelspeak) in the 1970s and 1980s, who challenged their clients to solve the “nine dots” puzzle.

Author: Steve Gustafson; GFDL license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Steve Gustafson; GFDL license; via Wikimedia Commons


Today it has come to represent the fact that the team being tasked to think outside the box have hit a problem that they cannot solve, but are now being exhorted to believe that since they are suddenly trapped in a room, they will be able to think totally differently than they have ever been able to do in the past. As creativity cannot be suddenly successfully mandated in a meeting, it has as much chance of “pushing the envelope” as most teams would have of pushing a mountain. Innovation and creativity are driven by company culture and behaviour and can only flourish when “part of company DNA”.

Paradigm shift is believed to have been first postulated in 1962 by Thomas Kuhn in his influential book “The structure of Scientific Revolutions” in describing a change in the basic assumptions (paradigms) of science. Now it is used to refer to every change, in any and every aspect of life no matter how trivial, whether it is a change from paper to electronic invoicing or whether a baby should now be carried on a parent’s front rather than the back. In the IT industry it usually describes a new release of an ageing piece of software that has had some bug fixes applied.

Author: Wncody; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Wncody; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


Bandwidth had an obvious meaning when an engineer was describing the net bit rate capacity of a channel in a digital communication system. Now it is used as a trendy I-am-so-hip-and-IT-savvy way to replace the word “capacity” or even “time”. Now “Mothers do not have the bandwidth to raise children and have a successful career” and “Executives struggle with finding the bandwidth to run their business, spend time with their family and get out on the golf course”. Apart from “net bit rate capacity” the only other valid use of the term should be in comparing the band width rate of a band like Meat Loaf as against The Rolling Stones (much greater).

Eating your own dog food also called “dogfooding” generally refers to a company (usually a computer software company) using its own products successfully as a show of confidence to the marketplace. As a software company has a hoard of experts internally that could install, implement and bug-fix any piece of their own software, unlike its customers, it is hardly proof of ease of use. I have worked in one software company that implemented much of its own product set, and told the whole world, despite the fact that most managers were loath to use it, and tended to rely more on their own spread-sheets.“Drinking the kool aid” has much the same meaning in North America, despite the fact that it is based on the death by poisoning in 1978 of the members of the People’s Temple, so the true meaning should be that using your own products will definitely kill you. I could understand using the phrase “Eat your own cooking”, but as the owner of three dogs I would never consider fighting my dogs for a taste of their kibbles or packs of Cesar dog food.

Cloud computing is the use of computer resources, both hardware and software, that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the internet), and is hailed by those who provide it as a major “paradigm shift”. Starting with “SaaS” (software as a service), every aspect of IT Services can now be described as being cloud-based just by adding “aaS” to the first letter. So we have now gained a plethora of new wondrous acronyms such as (but not limited to) “RaaS” (Reporting as a Service), DaaS (Data as a Service), NaaS (Network as a Service) and so on. In support of “Accuracy as a Service” I believe that they should add “BaaS” (Bullshit as a Service).

Author: Davide Lamanna; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Davide Lamanna; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; via Wikimedia Commons


Going viral has absolutely nothing to do with bird-flu, swine flu or norovirus. It now refers to internet content which, mainly through social networking sites, can spread rapidly through a population by indiscriminate “sharing”, and it has now become a major life goal to have some content go viral, today being rated as having more than 10 views, many by relatives. As a result we can now fully understand that it does not take much to amuse small minds. Video clips such as obese Korean teenagers dancing half naked, young women singing to a hairbrush and babies laughing have spread across the globe faster than did the great plague. Linked to this is the obsession with collecting a million “likes” on Facebook. There are people on this planet who will not give their child a puppy, have sex with their boyfriend, buy themselves a lobotomy or have their next chemotherapy treatment without first collecting a million “likes”. I would immediately like to start a movement to collect one million Facebook users to endorse my demand that Facebook immediately include a “Hate” option alongside “Like”.

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EIGHTH RULE OF MANAGEMENT

The first rule of management is that successful management is actually more about how you manage yourself rather than being about how you manage others (see “First rule of management” posted June 25, 2012).

The second rule of management is that the key to your own success is totally dependent on the success of your people (see “Second rule of management” posted September 24, 2012).

The third rule of management is that no man is an island, and you need to build a network in all directions (see “Third rule of management” posted October 1, 2012).

The fourth rule of management is that you do not manage people, but you manage their behaviour (see “Fourth rule of management” posted October 15, 2012).

The fifth rule of management is that if you are serious about moving up, you need to first move sideways (see “Fifth rule of management” posted November 5, 2012).

The sixth rule of management is that you should not over-manage your people (see “Sixth rule of management” posted November 19, 2012).

The seventh rule of management is that if you don’t manage the financials they will manage you (see “Seventh rule of management” posted Nov 26th, 2012).

The eighth rule of management is to keep it simple.

Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

By Oren Jack Turner; via Wikimedia Commons

By Oren Jack Turner; via Wikimedia Commons


Life was meant to be simple, but people have a habit, a real insistence, in making life complex. Weak managers will go out of their way to create complexity as a way of justifying their role. Good managers on the other hand will put effort into removing complexity from every element of their business responsibilities and ensure that it is as easy as possible for their team to fulfil the role that is expected of them, and that the organisation depends upon.

Here are just a few areas that are worth focussing on:

Good managers make sure that they quickly get rid of the inessentials, and understand that what should not be done is as important as knowing what has to be done. If tasks do nothing to add to the financial success of the company (revenue and profit), or if tasks have no impact on supporting a benefit for some part of the company’s broad ecosystem, then they have no right to exist and should be discarded without delay. Business tasks (sometimes even entire departments) can stay alive long after they have outlived their original usefulness, continuing simply out of the tradition that “we have always done it that way”. As well, requests for actions from people outside your own team should be reviewed (and regularly re-reviewed) to see if they meet the criteria of providing some real benefit to the ecosystem, other than to the person requesting that the task be done. If it has no real worthwhile benefit, stop people from doing it.

Organisational structures are meant to be simple and should enable people to understand where they fit in the greater scheme of things, and also allow an organisation to be nimble and quickly reactive to changing market conditions and customer needs. This is not true of most complex matrix organisations which I believe are an aberration, and are in most cases created in organisations where people are not trusted, as it is based on the belief that multiple views from differing perspectives will give someone somewhere higher up the ladder a better understanding of reality. It won’t, but it will create a lot of extra reporting and time wasting. I do accept that some simple matrix organisations can help professional cohesiveness and development across different departments and geographies in for example engineering roles , but the more complex the matrix the more it becomes a barrier to business success ( see “Stupid management Ideas” posted August 29,2011). I have come across matrix organisations that could not have been explained to Einstein let alone to a 6 year old.

Author: Chery; via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Chery; via Wikimedia Commons


Make sure that people understand what is expected of them and make it as easy as possible for them to achieve their goals (with stretch otherwise the achievement will have little meaning), by removing the barriers that could hinder their success, remembering that the only real task of a manager is “to create an environment where people can be unbelievably successful”. Don’t set too many individual goals as people should understand what is critical for success, and ensure that these goals are understandable, understood and that there is commitment to their successful completion. Also ensure that your people have a serious understanding of how to achieve them and that they have the skills necessary to do so, and if they don’t, it is your responsibility to ensure that there are plans in place to remedy this. Make sure that you then use every opportunity to give them feedback on their progress.

Be the role model for simplicity. Don’t flood your people with too many emails. My average before retirement was receiving about 300 emails per day, and I did not have the time to spend sifting out the important from the rubbish, so generally treated all emails with a low level of priority, deciding that if it was really important someone would talk to me directly (see “Emails Bloody Emails” posted April 21, 2011. Don’t tie up precious time with never ending meetings that have little real benefit other than filling time (see “Meetings Bloody Meetings” posted April 18, 2011).. Keep messaging simple and interesting, for example one of my messages to the SAP sales force about our major competitor was that “there is no company out there in the world that is so bad that they deserve to do business with Oracle”, rather than going in to a long diatribe about beating the competition.

Author: RRZE; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; Wikimedia Commons

Author: RRZE; CC BY-SA 3.0 license; Wikimedia Commons


I have long believed that any fool can create complexity, but it takes real genius to do things simply, and this is particularly true in management.
As so ably put by Leonardo da Vinci “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

CELEBRATION TIME IS OVER, AND I AM (MOSTLY) BACK HOME AND BACK ON THE AIR

It’s not easy coming home after nearly 6 weeks away and after being heavily indulged in a series of luxury hotels and a 15 day 5* cruise from Buenos Aires in Argentina round Cape Horn to Valparaiso in Chile.

Buenos Aires is a sparkling city, somewhat on the shabby-chic side of grandeur as they are still in economic turmoil. On arrival from London, after a 14 hour flight, we walked from our Hotel Sofitel in Arroyo to the Plaza de Mayo, at the heart of the city (politically as well as location). During the military oppression of the 1970s and early 1980s over 30,000 people disappeared, and since 1977, mothers wearing white headscarves (Madres de Plaza de Mayo) parade for half an hour every Thursday in silence around the square to ask for the return of their abducted children.

We were there over the weekend, where the outdoor cafes and busking young and beautiful tango dancers gave it an air of joy and festivity rather than reminding one their recent hardships and the crime wave that is engulfing this jewel of a city.

Café Plaza de Mayo

Tango dancers

Hotel Security

Buenos Aires architecture

One of the highlights was the Buenos Aires cemetery which is actually a sizeable suburb of ornate above-ground family crypts and mausoleums, including the Duarte family crypt where Evita Peron is now buried, after 20 years of her body first making burial trips to Italy and then Spain … sounds almost like the script for a new wave zombie movie so popular these days.

Duarte family crypt

Evita plaque

 

Our ship, the Seabourn Sojourn, home for 15 days was like being cocooned in a 5 star floating hotel suite with Michelin rated restaurants, with just 400 passengers and as many crew. The staff were faultless (with a sense of humour), and I still carry with pride the 3 kgs that I gained … it was worth every bite and sip.

Gangplank

Ship

The Argentinians, generally friendly and welcoming (we travelled on NZ passports), are not good natured about the English Falkland (Malvinas) islands and we were delayed 8 hours leaving Buenos Aires as they tried to convince the Seabourn Captain and Company to forego our visit there. Victoria and I stood on our balcony waving to the fleet of Argentinian tugs that accompanied us out of the harbour, and only later found out that they were not actually waving back, but were shaking their fists at us in anger.

Fate/Karma played a hand in our visit to the Falkland capitol, Port Stanley, as a 10 metre swell on arrival meant that the tenders could not be launched, so we had to gaze at this tiny hamlet from quite some distance, though I am still not sure how the Argentinians managed to whip up the waves to such an extent that we couldn’t disembark. The previous cruise 2 weeks earlier had managed to land passengers but then couldn’t get them back to the boat till the next day, so they had spent a night in the Port Stanley church, no doubt praying for better weather.

Rounding Cape Horn island was pretty spectacular with 12 meter waves, which made it a bit rough to move outside, but calm enough to have an elegant dinner to celebrate our best man’s 31st wedding anniversary.

Cape Horn Island

The cruise up the Beagle Passage and Straits of Magellan was calmer and broken by visits to numerous glaciers (in glacier Alley) and the towns of Peuto Arenas, Puerto Chacabuco, Castro and Puerto Montt, all on the Chilean side, as the Argentinians had forbidden our entry to Ushuaia because of our planned, though aborted, visit to the Falklands.

The people in Chile were delightful, if somewhat impoverished outside of Santiago, and went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The highlight was a visit to a family farm, which a small group of us had organised independently of the cruise, where the family welcomed us onto their property and home overrun with dogs, cats, llamas, alpacas, chickens and children, and then fed us and entertained us with a Chilean mating ritual dance representing the courting of a rooster and hen. As we were accompanied by a gay couple of guys from San Francisco, we wondered if there was also a version of the dance for 2 roosters.

Chilean dancers

We finished the cruise in Valparaiso (Santiago’s port) and after a short visit, it was back to Buenos Aires for a few nights and then on to London and then Bristol for a traditional English Xmas with friends.

Xmas pudding

Now we back home to a cold and wet winter and where my reality includes mucking out stables and hen houses …. It was definitely more elegant on the cruise.

Back_down_to_earth

At least I still have my weekly Monday morning blog posts (restarting next week) to help me escape reality.

I hope you have all had a wonderful start to the year and hope that the fates treat you kindly in 2013.