I think the last month or so caught up to me last night. I was simply wiped today - I had absolutely no energy today. It didn't help it was raining outside, nor that today was "Blue Monday" - the most depressing day of the year. But nonetheless, it was a relatively productive day.

So some random thoughts:

Schools need to readjust their curriculums to teach economics and statistics far earlier to students. I'm surprised I never was required to take a class on how to effectively parse data, nor on how to effectively communicate abstract concepts through data (a problem I'm solving by purchasing this book).

There really is no excuse for not being able to write well. If anything, the growth of the Internet reversed the trend of turning into couch potatoes by engaging a whole generation of people to consume and create hordes of information.

Project management. I'm still surprised there isn't a de-facto standard for project management (Excel for spreadsheets, Powerpoint for presentations, Word for word processing...). I can only speak for a company like MT's, but without effective project management (and with it, the ability to manage cross-functional people), your value diminishes. I have a strong affinity for execution, and I think knowing the basics of project management are critical to success.

I have a few "corporate" pet peeves, but the biggest one is when I hear: "Let's find a creative solution." Besides the fact that this is the slyest backhanded insult ever ("You're not thinking this through"), what I hate about these creative solutions is that they always lead to creative maintenance issues. For example, there was a bit of a fuck-up this past weekend with one of our customers (the problem, was admittedly, ours through a partner - isn't that grand?). When I look at the site, it's a mess of creative solutions ("How can we accept revenue from this project while not dealing with the mess? I know! Let's give it to a partner who hasn't been brough up to speed on our platform!")

To me, creative solutions are generally short-term fixes which always end up biting you in the ass. But that's just my experience - maybe there are creative solutions which aren't such a big PITA.

I was pointed to a great blog post, and two quotes from it resonated with me:

“Early on, I was very command-and-control, very top-down. I felt I was smart, and that my decisions would be better. I was young, and I was willing to work 20 hours a day… The last year I did that, I was away from home 302 nights, not including day trips. I had to fly around all over the place making all the decisions. And I would walk in, make an uninformed decision, get on the next plane, go somewhere else and repeat the process. I look back at that year; I don’t think I got anything done.” – I particularly like Conde's insight that he was making uninformed decisions when he was working in this mode.

So true. I've learned the hard way not to make these uninformed decisions, and to rely on people for the right answers (but sometimes you have to be careful not get caught in the mud of consensus-building - there's a tipping point where you reach a consensus but then spend too much time trying to make everybody happy).

The second important lesson I learned this year, captured in this blog post:

“If you start micromanaging people, then the very best ones leave. If the very best people leave, then the people you’ve got left actually require more micromanagement… Pretty soon, you’re running a police state. So micromanagement doesn’t scale because it spirals down. [T]he trick is to get truly world-class people working directly for you so you don’t have to spend a lot of time managing them. I think there’s very little value I can add to my direct reports. So I try to spend time with people two and three levels below because I think I can add value to them.” – Lovely. His job is to develop people, not meddle or second-guess. And he concentrates his efforts a bit lower down in the organization.

I cannot emphasize how crucial hiring a project manager and trusting the development lead in professional services has been. I've been swamped lately at work which has pulled me away from my old day-to-day activities, but it was so awesome tonight when I was able to review precise meeting notes on the seven (!!!!) professional service projects in the MT pipeline and be brought up to speed. We truly have plenty of rockstars working at MT.

Having that information at my fingertips helps me make better informed decisions about (1) the availability of current developers and (2) expected project completion dates. Without those two, it'd be impossible to do accurate resource allocation on the multitude of projects we're expected to complete in 2010.

Posted by roy on January 19, 2010 at 01:02 AM in Ramblings, MindTouch | Add a comment

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