Saturday, November 29, 2008

Interesting bit of Self Assessment

If you write a blog and you want to see what it tell you about your personality, check this out: Site

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers
The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. 

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it. 

The site is interesting, but I don't know what they mean about not taking risks.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on my hiking boots, grab an umbrella and take the garbage out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What should you look for in a project?

Many projects fail and many projects are going to be dropped.  Many of us will be handed projects we have to manage, good bad or otherwise, others will scramble to find work, so this question maybe pointless.  But it's not a pointless question, I think it's the most important question to ask.

Three elements determine a projects success more than anything else:
  1. What is the project going to do?
  2. Why is the project doing it?
  3. How will the project be done?
PMI and Agile and other approaches dwell on the "how" element of project management.  This area is important, the devil is in the details.  However, I believe the other two elements: 'what is being done' and 'why is it being done', will tell you more about a projects chances of success than 'how it's being done'.

What are we trying to do?  
Is the project going to increase sales?  Is it going to improve productivity?  Is there enough real value in the outcome to justify the costs and keep people focused when the environment changes.

If you're wondering about this, think of it this way: If our company's stock price (or sales) fall by over 50%, is what we're doing compelling enough to continue the project?  If the answer is anything other than an unambigious "yes", think long and hard about whether you really want to devote large parts of your life and energy to a fantasy.  

My old boss drilled into my head that the difference between hallucination and vision is whether its worth the effort. [Editor: Funny, your dates give that reason for dumping you.]

Why is the project being done?  
If it's some managers pet project, even if that manager is the CEO, the chances of it's successful completion drop dramatically.  If the devil is in the details, god is in the "why".  If the "why" is compelling enough, almost any project will find a way to succeed.

There are two really compelling whys:
  1. The project will increase sales.
  2. The project will decrease costs.
If one or both of those goals are intuitive, obvious and achievable, the projects chances of success are excellent.

I'm all infavor of understanding the "how", but if you can pick which projects you work on, think about the "what" and they "why" too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Understand the Long Term Effects of Decisions

Many times people get so focused on what is happening day to day that they miss the larger, slower moving things.  If you are going to intelligently make long-term decisions, make sure you understand the long-term direction of the business you work in and the industry that it works in. [Editor: You don't really want to ask that question, do you?]

Today Michael Lewis has a wonderful article explaining how decisions made by John Gutfreund, the Sr Partner and CEO of Salomon Brothers, changed finance.  

When investment banks were private partnerships, the partners who ran the firm were risking their own money.  Their interest were aligned and they balanced the opportunity to make a profit with controlling the risks their traders were taking.  When Salomon and then the other investment banks IPO'd, it absolved partners/CEOs/directors from having to understand the risks by transfer that risk to stockholders.  People running the firms kept the profits, while the investors and ultimately the goverment held the risks.   

Now, there are no investment banks and Wall St is essentially dead.  The article is a wonderful and humorous description.  Michael Lewis became famous with Liars Poker and he continues the tale with this article.

It's a wonderful article relating how a CDS is similar to Fantasy Football, how Steve Eisman worked out the perverse logic that subprime loans were going to be the ultimate undoing of the financial system while sitting in a conference for subprime brokers, and includes the delicious line: "You can’t really tell someone that you asked him to lunch to let him know that you don’t think of him as evil."

It's a wonderful example of looking at how people didn't look at the direction of the industry they worked in, the companies they worked for or what was happening in the world.  As the world changes over the next few years, these will be important questions you want to ask.  If firms like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, AIG and others can be brought to their knees, how are you and your firm and your firm's marketspace doing?

Photoillustration by: Ji Lee

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beware the Medusa Effect

Many people are aware of part of the Medusa story, that she was so hideous that looking at her would turn men into stone and the Greek hero Perseus used his shield and only looked at her reflection to kill her.  However, many people are not aware of the first part of the story.  

Medusa was not born ugly, in fact she was mythically beautiful with many suitors chasing her.  So great was their desire to be a part of her life, that they would sacrifice everything.  Possibly, what turned men to stone was what that life entailed, not her looks.  

What if Medusa wasn't ugly but rather so desireable that she would lead people to give up everything else?  What if the myth of her being hideous was more the reflection of what happened to the suitors who were so enraptured?  

How many people become so enraptured with ambition and work that they neglect everything else?  Friends are work friends, discussions are work discussions, thoughts are work thoughts with all that that entails.  Couldn't the internal work struggles make people inpenetrible like stone to others?  The Greek myth doesn't mention how long it takes to turn to stone.  

I have moved to twenty different cities, states and countries in pursuit of Medusa, I mean ambition.  How much of a stonifing effect has it had on me?

Have you felt the Medusa effect?