Posts tagged ‘think different’

I think I found it (the joy that is) at a bar in Montclair, NJ called Just Jakes.  My wife and I had gone to see a friend and his band, Hyperactive, play the other night and had an incredible time.  Not only was the diversity of music (that ranged from funk to rock to swing to ska) fantastic, but I saw something that night that I hadn’t seen in a really long time.  The guys on stage were doing something that they loved. They were performing not because they HAD to, but for the pure joy that they got out of it.  Everyone in the band has a day job; but they have found an outlet for the passion of music.  Watching these guys got me thinking about the fact that our lives are so focused around work and the daily grind. We tend to lose sight of the fact that it IS possible to have fun.  Unfortunately, too many of us spend time working and doing things because we HAVE to and not because we really WANT to.  For most of us, our jobs are avenues to make money in order to pay bills as opposed to passions to live and abide by.

Joe with two of his passions, music & wine.

Joe with two of his passions, music & wine.

As I gazed in amazement at the band, my attention turned to my friend Joe,  the lead vocalist.  When he is not playing gigs, he spends his days as the wine director of a shop in Bernardsville, NJ called 56 Degree Wine.  My immediate thought was, what a lucky bastard.  He gets to travel the world to drink wine, which he then writes about on his blog, Le Monstre Du Vin (this means The Wine Monster – I had to look it up) during the week and then plays music at clubs/bars on the weekends.  The more I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t luck at all. He designed his lifestyle to accomodate these two worlds.  Joe found a way to take one of his passions and make a living from it, while still having fun with his passion for music.  My sentiments then went from jealousy to admiration.  Here is a guy that is so passionate about wine and music that instead of pushing these passions aside to maintain his life, he embraced them and decided to make a living from them.

The lesson I think we can all learn from Joe and others like him is that we don’t all HAVE to do things that make us unhappy.  The key strategy is to identify your passions, and then have the courage to chase them down.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that everyone immediately quit their jobs so that they can have fun all day.  It’s not always that easy.  I think in many cases, it is MORE work to pursue your passions than to just make a living.  What I recommend is that everyone try to find something that they enjoy doing… and then spend more time doing it.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us spent time feeling satisfaction and joy from our day vs just going through the motions to “get by?”

I recently came across a term called Commander’s Intent (CI). I briefly mentioned it in a previous post.

The core idea behind CI is:

  1. The commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation
  2. The end state with respect to the relationship among the force, the enemy and the terrain
  3. The enabling of subordinates to quickly grasp the successful end state and their part in achieving it

To put it more plainly, it’s the military’s version of the KISS principal.  There are too many variables that will dictate the actions taken by the forces on the ground.  There is no way every action can be planned out.  This is where the CI comes into play.  Each person has a clear understanding of the overall objective. Each person will do what needs to be done in order to achieve that objective.

I think that the business world can learn from the concept of Commander’s Intent. The CI defines the where and the why; a finite objective, a way of behaving, or a desired result.  This is significantly different than a  vision statement that is difficult to pin-point.  It’s a leader’s job to provide clear directions/goals for the business and to ensure that his/her team understands those goals and why they are important.  It’s then up to the team to execute and achieve those goals.

Using the concept of CI instead of a vision statement also aligns the goals of the different teams, departments, and organizations involved.  Because the objectives are more concrete.  Any time you align the goals and motivation of a group of people, you achieve significantly better results.

When a business leader tells you what the desired goals are and then lets you go and do it, they are letting you know that they have trust in your abilities to get the job done.  Trust between people is the foundation on which effective organizations are created.

The continual communication about the CI is critical to every business.  You can/should modify the means of the message, but not the message itself.  Aligning everyone’s goals sets the stage for success.

Laying the foundation

Improve the efficiency of your team simply by changing the way you organize and think about your work. Organizations are typically composed of separate functional groups/departments that perform specific functions. Most organizations are setup this way regardless of their size or industry. Within these departments, there are the people that make the decisions (managers) and then there are the people that do the work (team). The managers are held accountable for the output of their team. Smaller departments roll up into a larger department. Those larger department then rolls up into another department and so on. Until you get to the very top, which is headed up by the elite executive team. The executive team is then responsible for the output of the entire organization. In this typical corporate structure, each department has it’s own management structure and team with their own goals & priorities. I’m sure that this isn’t ground breaking news for anyone, we’ve all seen this before.

So, what’s the problem?

The work within an organization is divided based on the function of the department and more specifically the role individuals play within that department. Managers define the work, the team executes on it. This is not to say that the managers don’t execute themselves, it just highlights that the team usually isn’t involved in the decision making process. Looking in from the outside, this all looks fairly normal and a good way to operate. You have people with specialized skills functioning within those parameters. This works really well in an ideal situation when there is enough work within each department to keep everyone 100% utilized.

Experience shows however that that there isn’t an ideal environment, there is always flux, especially in the services industry. All organizations experience this flux, which creates availability in one department while leaving a deficit in another. In most cases the groups that have an abundance of work will try to increase their team size, while the groups that don’t have enough work will either try to reduce theirs or will have availability which doesn’t add value to the organization. Availability should be viewed as inventory, you want just enough to service the current needs. Too much or too little inventory costs an organization money. There is enormous waste in individual departments continually trying to manage their own resourcing needs/constraints.

Well what else can be done, this is just the way it works. Every company faces this problem. The problem might exist for every company, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to solve it the same way as everyone else.

A different approach

The problem here isn’t how the teams/departments are structured, but how the work is divided and assigned. It turns out that this problem has already been solved, just in a slightly different context. Principals within lean manufacturing can be applied at the corporate/department levels. Instead of creating work based on functional groups/departments an alternative is to create and organize the work based task & priority. Many in the software development community have already embraced this new approach and have been applying it successfully towards their projects. Focusing the team on the tasks and priorities for the organization, puts the responsibility on the entire team not just the department heads. Teams will then organize around the task as opposed to their function, promoting cross functional collaboration. This approach allows the organization to leverage all of the skill sets of the team vs the specific function of their department. Not only can the organization take advantage of the untapped potential in their teams, but can prioritize the work based on what is going to add the most value to the company now. This now optimized the teams ability to add value and improved the overall organization efficiency.

The goal of this post is to create awareness of the problem. Subsequent posts will discuss specific things organizations can do to solve this problem.

I’ve recently been updating my resume, this is something I haven’t done in over 8 years. I’d recommend that you don’t wait as long as I did to get yours current. Let me tell you, it more difficult than I thought it would have been. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first issue is that I don’t think I’m a good writer, anyone see the irony here. The second issue was, it’s really hard for me to remember what I did last week let alone over the past 8 years. The third and most significant problem that I ran into was how the information was being presented. I’ve hired plenty of people over the years and have seen a ton of resumes. So my natural reaction was to copy the style and format of what I had seen in the past. The problem with that approach was that I didn’t like what I was putting together and I couldn’t figure out why. I was having a really hard time trying to articulate what I was really good at and what I wanted to do.  I then got a bit of inspiration from Garr Reynolds. After watching a few videos of Garr presenting and reading his book, I realized that my resume was a tool that I should use to present myself to others.  It’s really about showing who I am and what I am capable of.  Everyone has their own story and you should show off your uniqueness by telling that story.  I’ve tried to craft my resume in a way that tells my story.  Most resumes are just a bunch of bloated bullet points in which people are trying to cram in as much information as possible.  Hence the title of this post.  I am not a bullet point person, although my resume does contain them.  I am much more comfortable explaining complex ideas visually, drawing out relationships.  Why couldn’t I do that for my resume?  Why do I have to follow the same format as everyone else?  The key thing was to make sure I presented all of the relevant information.  The text of my resume now revolves around two diagrams that I created that for the most part capture everything I was trying to articulate in words.


My work history over the past 13 years

My work history over the past 13 years

In a fairly quick glance someone will get a really good idea of where I worked and what roles I played at each organization and for how long.  

My growth as a professional from a technologist to an executive

My growth as a professional from a technologist to an executive

The second diagram, which I think the more useful, shows the growth in my skill sets and the level of influence as my career evolved.

I am by no means saying that my approach is better than what has been done in the past.  I am merely showing there are alternatives than the status quo.  I’m always trying to learn so if you have any suggestions on how I can improve my resume please feel free to comment.

As I was putting this post together, a bunch of other questions came to mind.  I’ll talk about those in future posts.