by Jack Santos | March 6, 2014 | Submit a Comment
This month’s Strategy and Business had this article:
Would Your Employees Work for Free? Leaders who manage volunteer work forces have much to teach leaders who manage employees.
I suppose they are suggesting that a measure of employee engagement is whether I as an employee would still do the job for free…
So I am reflecting on experiences where that were born out:
1) The hospital: hospitals (up until recently) paid much less than other sectors for IT help – to the point where they would just train low paid clinicians to do IT. The typical CIO salary was 1/2 to 1/3rd what he/she could earn at a comparable for profit. The up side was “the mission” – helping save lives vs. creating a system that optimizes sales is a compelling legacy and (sometimes) makes up for a lot of comp
2) The college radio station: EVERYONE in a typical college radio station works for free. I ran one as station manager for two years and technical director for one. Through administration budget meetings, student strikes, sit-ins, and precarious race relation negotiations. And always wondered why I (or any of the other 100+ volunteers) would put up with it for nothing. Music and drugs helped It also provided a good work experience to be used later.
3) The start-up: this was more a case of delayed gratification – if I work for free or near free now, maybe I’ll be filthy rich in the future and not have to work at all. It’s a Las Vegas crap shoot, but still something many employees (and ITers) buy into.
So “delayed gratification” could be the underlying motivator in all these “ideal engagement” scenarios…whether its feeling good about what you did with your life, recognizing skills that could come in handy later, or just hoping for the big payout at the end of the time you put in. If it’s no $, then it may be that employees have to see other visible results…or risk the perception that their time is wasted.
The fallacy with equating positive employee engagement with “working for free” is that humans often put up with a lot of hassle for a period of time for a variety of motives – and it may not reflect true “engagement”; also finding someone with charismatic qualities to follow may also be a factor – playing on that need for security and shared purpose. That works for cult leaders, at least for a while.
There’s also a fallacy with equating employee satisfaction with engagement, or the fact that people will work under duress for free… for a while… until they find something else; or the need to achieve an organizational goal for a higher cause – sometimes you have to put up with a lot to accomplish a noble goal — like in a just war (e.g. the Greatest Generation).
Even more importantly – it’s not about top down leadership, but what Tom Friedman recently wrote about in an interview with Laszlo Bock at Google. He called it “emergent leadership” — the ingrained motivation within all of us, components of which are humility, responsibility, ownership. That’s what I’m talking about when I mean “engagement”.
During our changing IT career research we found the CIO who was not competing for employees on pay, but competing on career development. He found out what each one wanted to pursue and helped them do it. He gave them assignments knowing that eventually they would leave out of necessity to find more pay, but while they were there they got the opportunities to improve their career. Now THAT’S engagement!
For those of us in IT, these are not academic topics — and that’s why Mike Rollings and I are focused on them in our professional effectiveness research at Gartner.
Category: career management Managment Social Media Strategic Planning Work Place Tags: career, culture, gearheads, management, Strategy
by Jack Santos | October 11, 2013 | 5 Comments
Just read an interesting analysis by George Friedman over at Stratfor: The Roots of the Government Shutdown. He ascribes the shutdown as an unintended consequence of the change of the US political landscape from a political boss system to a money-lobby driven system. And the confusion of principles with ideology. We have transformed from a principled people, to ideologues.
Everyone disparages Washington DC for this kind of behavior, but my observation from Facebook and other venues is that the behavior of no-holds barred stand your ground on principles and ideology is rampant in our society, fueled by online media (Facebook, blogs), as well as traditional media (Fox News).
Now this is not normal territory for a Gartner Blog topic, but I bring it up because my Research Agenda in Gartner is “Professional Effectiveness”. Sure, we talk about influence, persuasion, the power of the individual because of the internet, career topics, and the failure of the hiring process. Anything that can make the IT Professional more effective. For a quick look of our Professional Effectiveness research, go to “GTPCareer.com” – that provides an overview; any further exploration and you’ll need a Gartner ID.
Professional Effectiveness is not just about your career, or your ability to get the job done. It’s also about understanding what’s happening in society, and business, that affects how you do your job – like my upcoming research on best practices for online/anytime/anywhere work (which – HP and Yahoo aside – is an inevitable growing trend). We need to think about our impact in a world where what you say can be read by millions within minutes of posting, but what that also means to how you do your job, and your business peers do theirs .
As I watch Facebook discussions around US politics (Obamacare, mayoral elections) degenerate into the kind of standoff we see in DC, it occurs to me that our ability to connect is central to how we develop real, impactful business systems – whether it’s how you interrelate with your business partner, or convey requirements to your subcontractor or outsourcer. How you integrate that latest SaaS app, whose roots were in a business area “shadow IT” skunk works. And how you connect with your boss and peers. What’s happening is DC is just a mirror to ourselves and how we interrelate – at home or business.
And for my international friends, don’t think this kind of behavior is a uniquely American phenomenon (which, if you agree, refutes Friedman’s analysis). The level of discourse internationally - whether it be about Arab springs, Roma settlements, unemployment, or Olympic spending inequalities, is worldwide. That’s not to say that human disagreements has always been relatively civil up until now — just that it is starting to take a particularly significant unpleasant turn; my hypothesis is that is a consequence of Internet side effects.
So the roots of the US government shutdown help me realize that what we do with our professional effectiveness research is, in some ways, understanding how we avoid the kind of behavior in our daily lives in business that leads to dysfunctional organizations.
That’s what me and my colleagues – Mike Rollings, Jamie Popkin, and others at Gartner that contribute to our research, do. We are the Corporate Dysfunction trouble shooters, AKA the Enterprise Collaboration Shutdown avoidance team…
Category: career Innovation IT Governance management Managment practitioner Social Media Strategic Planning Work Place Tags: career, consumerization, culture, innovation, IT relevance, management, Social media, Strategy
by Jack Santos | October 7, 2013 | Comments Off
A few weeks back I gave some advice to new managers under the title “Management 101“. This post is for the more advanced crowd, and just like graduate level courses, it can be controversial, and not “settled law”. But worth repeating, especially for managers that are still unsure of themselves.
This note recently came across my desk:
In a previous job I had a boss who called me into his office to tell me he didn’t approve of the job performance of one of the employees that reported to me. He told me to have a talk with him. I called the employee and told him, “Bob wants me to tell you how much he appreciates the job you’re doing.” Several weeks later my boss called me back into his office and told me, ” I can see you’ve spoken to <the employee>, what a difference!” Choose encouragement over criticism, always!
Now for you hardliners out there, there are many things wrong with this approach:
She explicitly went against her supervisor’s direction
She didn’t challenge her boss on a basic assumption, didn’t have an open, honest dialogue
She fundamentally wasn’t honest with her employee
And what about the performance evaluation process? What went wrong there? What happened to frequent, periodic reviews? Or the process to ensure a fair and equitable rating and feedback process?
Now that all said, it was a gamble, and it worked… for now.
Nonetheless, it’s a great example. Management is about human beings, and there is nothing black and white about humans. Every employee is frequently put in this position – whether it is with subordinates, in dealing with an issue with peers, or even working with superiors and navigating political waters.
In fact, there is a lot here that is counterintuitive. This manager made the right call, knowing the perceptions and preconceived notions involved. At least the right call for now. What happens next, when her “little white lie” comes out? It may, it may not.
But I love how in this case the manager took the initiative to do what they thought was right. Soon, her manager may report to her.
Some call it manipulation. My touch stone has been this famous Eisenhower quote:
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
Maybe the corollary is:
“Leadership is getting the results you want by getting others to think they did it”.
“Leadership is getting the right results in a way that encourages everyone to a higher level of performance, whether they realize it or not”.
What is clear to me is that the same skill and judgment that went into this little case study is something that is not peculiar to supervisors and managers – the traditional definition of “leaders.” Everyone is a leader.
What do YOU think? What would YOU do?
Category: career management Managment practitioner Tags: career, management
by Jack Santos | September 30, 2013 | Comments Off
For a profession that loves TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) it’s amazing that this TWP (Two Word Phrase) “Reference Architecture” (RA) has lasted as long as it has.
Funny; when we talk about Georgian, Federal, or Colonial (or god forbid “Vernacular”) in the original “architecture” space, no one calls those reference architectures. In fact, we are more likely to call them “styles”, or more specifically, architectural styles. And then there are blueprints, and engineering drawings, which are related to “architecture”. But still no “reference”. So this is uniquely an IT thing.
A Google search finds that RAs are usually defined as templates, are graphical, and encompass guidelines and best practices. I get it. But RAs seemed to have become the name that any vendor slaps on its sales collateral that has even an inkling of real technical depth. The operative word is “inkling”.
Amazon has a reference architecture. Actually, more than a few…
So does Oracle… Microsoft …and the public sector gets into the act too, so do the standards agencies.
I feel like I can speak with some authority here, since 30 years ago or so ago I was the proud recipient of a letter from the American Institute of Architects, threatening a cease and desist order for the use of the word “Architect” in my business card, letter head, and company tag line (Systems Architect, Enterprise Architect) . Wish I had saved that letter.
So what we do here at Gartner for Technical Professionals is important: real, usable, actionable Reference Architectures (for lack of a better term) that reflect not only what we have seen from a multitude of companies we work with, but some additional insight based on where we see things going. And, it’s not from a vendor trying to sell you their related solutions.
The bottom line is that Reference Architectures are meant to be a quick start for different approaches to computing solutions. They are meant to save you time and money, and provide some ready-made diagrams and pointers that any company can use. Certainly invaluable when bringing a newbie, or a fresh CS graduate, on board. It can even help get seasoned veterans think about new perspectives.
And given the wholesale butchering of the concept market-wide, it’s no wonder we have an effort internally to really look at the whole idea of “reference architectures” and how we describe them. We have a good base to start with, but I expect when we are done, we’ll be taking the concept of “Reference Architectures” to a whole new level.
Category: Innovation IT Governance Strategic Planning Tags: Cloud, management, Reference architecture
by Jack Santos | September 24, 2013 | Comments Off
“My deepest fear is not that our data are inadequate. My deepest fear is that through analytics, we are powerful beyond measure. It is the light of knowledge, not the darkness of ignorance, that most frightens me.”
…. apologies to Marianne Williamson,
whose quote I hacked .
Few people realize it, but I actually started my career as a DBA, doing lots of meta data work in an insurance company; and there was no end of it. Thirty years later, one could read the above thought of mine and call me a troglodyte, a Luddite, a moron. Maybe.
It’s not that I am saying ignorance is preferable to knowledge. Far from it. I think the inverse of that has been well established in our culture. My deepest fear is that the pursuit and analysis of data at all costs – through data analytics , metrics, database analysis… it could be the most damaging trend I am seeing today.
Simple examples of this is a large quest for certainty taking place in many organizations – at the expense of timely action. If George Washington (The US Revolutionary War general and first US president) had waited to gather all the data (spy reports, observations, exploratory troop reports) to achieve certainty on British troop movements – well, we in the US would still be speaking the King’s English. There’s a more modern term for this: analysis paralysis.
My fear encompass our ability to measure everything and anything, collect that data, report on it longitudinally, correlate it, find interrelations, define context, and analyze it statistically. So within enterprises what we are seeing is a strong trend to measure every work product – especially at the individual level – to unprecedented levels. It makes me long for the piece work days of sweat-shops in the early 20th century – because (unchecked) that could be the end game when our mantra becomes “metrics”.
As pointed out by my colleagues, there is also the issue of having so much data waiting for some kind of analytics, that it may thwart really understanding the question you are trying to answer – or even if it is the right question. At the other end of the cycle, not really understanding how to apply the knowledge or how to measure the “appropriateness” of application of the knowledge could be a big problem. Getting a result doesn’t imply we really “get it”.
Finally, the recent Snowden revelations layers on a third component to my fear — the absolute tyranny of having too much data (personal and otherwise) that is like honey to the bees of authoritarian forces – as good intentioned as it may be.
Is my fear justified? Are there mitigating actions we can take to avoid the fear of analytics run amok? Or is the light of knowledge like moths to a flame? You tell me.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Jack Santos | September 13, 2013 | Comments Off
Let me one-up HIPAA and share with you a medical condition I am dealing with: Bell’s palsy. It came on suddenly, and (I expect and hope) will be gone within a month.
Interesting, though, that its onset reminded me of advice by an early mentor, Richard Connell. Richard was my boss at Aetna and Liberty Mutual for many years, and moved on to Selective Insurance as CIO and eventually CAO.
Back to Palsy. A few weeks ago on my last plane trip I had an earache – the sharp, painful kind that affects you with the air pressure change during ascent or descent on a plane; unusual, I thought nothing of it; i.e., this too shall pass. Last Tuesday, the ear ache returned. By Wednesday, it had developed into a headache, and discomfort with my contacts, as well as a slight tingling of my face. Thursday morning I awoke with full on symptoms (paralyzed half face) and went to the Emergency Room (or ED in medical parlance).
Which reminded me of Richard. His advice was always to pay attention to the details, act early, and act decisively. Doing that gives you runway to deal with changing circumstances, more options, and more opportunity for correction. Don’t ignore the early signs. Act on them.
Of course, one must temper that advice with a dose of calm rationality (Richard was always good at that), and not overreact to every little thing, or micromanage a person or situation. But it’s good advice, and should be page one of any management primer. Pay attention to details, act early, act decisively. True in many aspects of life, not just management.
Our research (The Changing IT Career) is leading us down a path where we discover that management skills and leadership skills (the two are different) are applicable to everyone, not just folks that supervise people. In this era of mobile work and increased autonomy, EVERYONE is a leader…and companies are looking for that. We’ll have a lot of research coming out on that topic in the coming year.
So my recent experience reminded me of some basic management skills — directly applicable to people managers – and probably true for task managers that aren’t involved in supervising – Like IT professionals and practitioners. This tidbit was one of them. Welcome to Management 101.
Category: management Managment Work Place Tags: management, mobility
by Jack Santos | September 3, 2013 | Comments Off
If someone said they didn’t see this one coming (Microsoft buys Nokia handset business) then let me introduce you to the man with one eye in the land of the blind.
In fact, I had a briefing with Nokia senior IT management way back in 2010 and proposed that this would be the way it played out….to guffaws and howls. They had invited me (then with Burton Group) to tell them something different than what they were hearing from my (now) esteemed colleague Nick Jones – with which there was no love lost. After all – he’s the mobile expert, not me – I am just an ex-CIO. Apparently they were going to keep trying with analyst firms until they heard what they wanted. Since then, Gartner bought Burton, and Microsoft bought …
It’s a match made in hell. (The MS/Nokia deal, not the Gartner/Burton deal, which is working quite nicely, thank you).
With all due respects to Nokia, they faced an innovator’s dilemma. Back then, I told them that bragging about their 3rd world non-smart phone sales was not the future. Started as a paper mill, Nokia has faced these challenges before, but unfortunately they won’t be facing them again (unless MS decides to break itself up sometime in the future…)
My heart goes out to Helsinki – a beautiful city, and home to Nokia — it’s almost a factory town. This can’t be good long term…but they’ll survive.
…and MS/Nokia? There’s still a chance. I have been playing with the MS Surface all weekend, and boy was that cool. The IT geek in me loved it. The consumer in me is still eyeing iPhones and Androids. And the libertarian in me wants a three horse race, not two….
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Jack Santos | August 26, 2013 | Comments Off
I first met Steve Ballmer around 1988 over breakfast at the then newly built Boston Harbor Hotel. Even then, Steve’s reputation preceded him: master marketer, the business brains of Microsoft (Gates was the techno geek visionary). By then he had already established himself in the annals of computing history.
Ballmer played to the Gates & Allen (Allen was gone by then) mystique, not unlike Jobs played to Wozniak. But the outcomes were oh so different. Jobs, for one, is no longer with us. Ballmer is. He’s a survivor.
I didn’t like him. He struck me as rather oafish, probably a brute and a bully behind closed doors. Not the lovable teddy-bear that Woz was (and still is, based on his Dancing with the Stars gig). Even then, the button down management at my company – and I was only a rising star mid-level manager –didn’t see why they should meet with Steve – much less Bill Gates. No doubt these kids would burn out and be immaterial in the IT equation at our F100 insurance company. So they sent me.
Over eggs and bacon, I remembered thinking this guy was a heart attack waiting to happen. Big, and not exactly social. Microsoft was in the midst of their big Windows push, and following the not so secret kill OS/2 strategy (which I think they would admit was stumbled upon, rather than carefully planned). Ballmer and Gates had, to their benefit, the rising tide of techno geeks behind them prepared to scale the walls of Big Blue. Today we call that the consumerization of IT.
Ballmer wasn’t yet President or CEO. Gates often bowed to investor pressure for adult supervision – like with Tandy corporation lifer Jon Shirley. I really liked Jon. He knew he was in a different game, and quickly fell back into a role of parent advisor, went off into the sunset to polish his stable of classic automobiles, significantly richer from both the Tandy and Microsoft experiences. Microsoft needed an adult, Jon brought corporate respectability for a while (83-90). He came in after Gates had a particularly difficult time with another adult supervisor (James Towne) whom I never met – and was by all accounts the wrong guy for the job. Shirley lasted longer; he was wiser in the latitude he gave to the kids, and the role he played.
When Shirley went into the sunset (I particularly liked discussing cars with him, so was sad to see him go), Mike Hallman, with an IBM pedigree, took the reins. Hallman was Boeing’s CIO – and I felt we connected because we both understood what it meant to run a large IT shop (although, admittedly, I was still reporting 2 levels down from the CIO at Aetna). Alas, he was too corporate, and it wasn’t much longer than one year that he, too, was history.
Hallman’s departure resulted in an innovation: office of the president, which had three people. The discussion at the time was whether any large company could have one person really handle the job when three would do – and whether this was the future for corporate management. Or what it really was – a beauty contest. And in the office of the president was the requisite bean counter (Frank Gaudette, the CFO), Mike Maples ( another outsider from IBM), and Ballmer. One could make the argument that this was a test between Maples and Ballmer; Maples (the outsider) was well liked by engineers and had good, strong, Blue processes in his blood. Ballmer was still a loose cannon, could be a bull in a china shop, and was a FOB (friend of Bill), which only meant that maybe – since he didn’t have the technical chops – he didn’t have the management chops as well.
Bob Herbold, a P&G veteran, was there during that period in various roles: COO, CIO, ran their consulting (if memory serves me). He was pretty instrumental IMHO, to keeping things together through the many management changes from 1994-2001 – maybe as much as Gates.
Ballmer took the president reins in 1998, CEO in 2000, and made public statements about wanting to keep doing that until 2018. Obviously he isn’t going to make it. It was a stupid thing to say, anyways. Typical Ballmer…
Call me Woody Allen’s Zelig, fortunate enough to have looked at most of these guys in the eye, shook their hands, maybe even broken bread. And then went off and made corporate decisions based on what I saw. Ballmer has turned out to be very impressive. Tenacious, and (like I said) a survivor. Since I graduated college in 1977 (the same year as Steve) I have kept a book called “the Computer Entrepreneurs” – which had one page portraits of early PC and computer pioneers. Ballmer is one of the last to still be around actively engaged in the industry. During his tenure Microsoft’s annual revenue surged from $25 billion to $70 billion, while its net income has increased 215 percent to $23 billion, according to Wikipedia.
I suspect, every pundit (and analyst) will be forecasting Microsoft as the next Blackberry, IBM, or DEC. I can’t predict the future. But I can report on the man.
Kudos to Steve Ballmer on a great run. I’ve warmed to you, but still don’t like you. First impressions last a long time…
Category: career Managment Windows 7 Windows 8 Tags: career, consumerization, IT relevance, management, microsoft, vendor
by Jack Santos | July 2, 2013 | 4 Comments
While the drama about Edward Snowden continues, it’s interesting to see the effects. Clearly, this is an inflection point in the perception of security, especially insider risks. Every CEO’s worst nightmare came true, and national security led the way.
Whether you consider Snowden a hero or traitor isn’t the point – the point is how easy ANY information can leave an organization.
Among the knee jerk reactions we are seeing via the media and directly with clients:
1) Reevaluate and reduce the scope of admin access
2) Filter Dropbox et al and tighten up email attachments filtering
3) Superglue USB ports.
4) Uninstall R/W CD/DVD drives
5) Implement the nuclear launch option for admin access: 2 people, 2 keys
6) Reduce contractor hiring
7) Encrypt everything, limit access based on role
We’re not passing judgment – just noting the options we have seen tossed around. Judgments will be passed at our Catalyst conference – so make sure you attend that.
What’s your organization considering?
Category: governance IAM IT Governance management Managment security Uncategorized Work Place Tags: Cloud, consumerization, management, security, Social media
by Jack Santos | June 17, 2013 | Comments Off
A group of us have enjoyed reading this recent missive from deep inside the bowels of Microsoft:
Reaction to Mr. Balkan’s post usually ends up in one of two camps:
“Disgruntled Employee Land” – Can you believe this guy? He ain’t working at Microsoft much longer
“What’s News Here?” – Welcome to my world. Sadly, nothing here is any different than my experience in any large company…
I will not assess the accuracy or validity of his comments – much less whether it is even true at Microsoft. But I will say that I have heard much of these complaints (or are they observations?) before.
Let me rephrase this in more common every-day F500 speak, focused mainly on IT:
Expect no documentation in corporations. Unfortunately, speed doesn’t kill, it sells. And documentation is the first to go. Sometimes this is euphemistically called “write code that documents itself”.
It is not what you do, it is what you sell. Any first year hire will often complain that the first person promoted is not on merit (best coder, smartest, able to leap large Turing tests in a single bound), but the guy who shows well and has great convincing skills, no matter how wrong the thing he is selling. Our research found this in context of the negativity by ITers towards the term “marketing”. .
Sure, some of that is lack of perspective. Some of it is sour grapes; some of it is true, too.
Not everybody is passionate for engineering. In a typical F500 IT shop that has 500 software engineers, I’d say the odds are pretty good that a certain percentage have 1) become jaded 2) have other outside interests in addition to their 9-5, 3) there are other pasisons that engineers can find: management, architecture, etc etc. and 4) understand the oft-repeated business euphemism “don’t let the excellent be the enemy of the good”. All of that can be interpreted as a “lack of passion” – especially by the supposed passionate person on a fast track to disappointment.
2-3 hours of coding a day is great. plus 2-3 hours of meetings, and then 2-3 hours of analysis/think time. Add in email, HR duties, self appraisals, peer appraisals, company videos, benefits sign-ups, etc etc etc …Yeah, that’s about right, and a fairly universal complaint. Just look at our research – projects don’t fail because of lack of technical skills – so 2-3 hours may, in fact, be just right…
Not giving back to the public domain is a norm. Duh. Time to market, IP, competitive pressure. There is a reason copyright has been extended to 120 years from 75 years during our lifetime…
The world outside is not known here a lot. Most corporations are so internally focused they limit “strategic thinking” to a select few. It’s time that changed (see our research on becoming a contextual strategist).
It is all about getting s%*t done in corporations. I have heard this every day my whole career. And its true.
Copy-pasting code can be okay. We in IT development call it “reusability”. We even automate this in our code management systems. The day of handmade, single use anything is long gone.
Code reviews can be skipped, for the sake of agility. Sad but true. See #1 . The dark side of the misinterpretation of agility. Even agile development, with scrums and sprints, has a very real potential to degenerate (Jack’s first law of management oversight: Orderly processes inexorably degenerate toward a greater state of disorder if you let them).
Latest software, meh. Dear reader, please check your version of Outlook or browser of choice. In fact, we in Gartner have classified this into type A, B, C companies. (it’s a bell curve). By the way, B’s are not on the latest software, at least not first.
Your specialties usually do not matter. Stock advice for end user IT organizations: The era of the generalist…or what we affectionately call versatilists….
At the end, you are working for your manager’s and their managers’ paychecks. I was not aware of this fact in college. Welcome to capitalism. Otherwise incentive programs would not be structured the way they are. In the last 500 years, the only progress we have made here was the dissolution of the monarchy (sometimes by revolution, and still not everywhere). The supposed alternative (communism) either died or is in hiding….
Our Professional Effectiveness research takes these observations (and reactions) into context. Like the presentation:
“ Why your next IT job may not be in “IT” ” – coming to our Catalyst conference in San Diego at the end of July…
Welcome the real world kid. Now get back to work.
Category: career management Managment practitioner Uncategorized Tags: career, management, microsoft, Social media