The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Leadership – what matters… a comparison?

leadership2.pngI’ve written a few posts about technical leadership and haven’t commented on the topic in a couple of years. As I came across the McKinsey post titled Decoding leadership: What really matters it made me wonder, how close the two perspectives were.

 

The McKinsey article stated that there were 4 prime factors for successful leadership:

  1. Solving problems effectively
  2. Operating with a strong results orientation
  3. Seeking different perspectives
  4. Supporting others

Back in 2013, in a post called Revisiting Technical Leadership the four main factors for technical leadership were (using less than four word summaries):

  1. Don’t discourage them (similar to #4 above)
  2. Solution not recognition (a combination of #1 and #2)
  3. It’s about people (similar to #3)
  4. Be an example

There is definitely significant overlap. The one thing that is missing from both these lists is that a leader needs to have a vision (and followers). Without a vision to structure the leadership around you are just an effective manager.

 

One other thing that technologists need to do is communicate to get things done. When we fail to communicate, it just frustrates everyone involved.

Labels: Leadership| Vision

Don’t let IT be the teen in the room

Dance.jpgAlmost everyone over the holidays probably had some time where they were sitting around with family and friends. You probably noticed that some of the people were sitting around looking at their smartphone… rather than interacting with people. Teens are the most likely but many a 2 year old or 60 year old entertains themselves rather that support their side of a conversation and recognize what is going on around them.

 

If there is one thing individuals in IT need to focus on in 2015, it is not playing with technology but look at what the business is doing and talk with them about where things are (or could be headed). Don’t be a wall flower, take advantage of your diverse perspective and shape the conversation. Your perspective will be appreciated but you’ll need to talk with the business in their terms. Reach out and find someone and see what’s on their mind.

FIRST Robotics Competition game for 2015 announced

Saturday was the kickoff for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for 2015. I’ve participated for the last 7 years, locating judges for the North Texas competition. This year, the Dallas FRC event will take place on February 25th – 28th at the Irving convention center. If you’re in town – be there. It’s a free and an exciting show.

 

FRC allows students to start from a standard kit of parts and some state of the art tools, received at the kickoff, and build a robot that attempts to meet specified objectives. At the end of the build period, the robots are packed up and the students do not see them again until the competition.

 

This video is an overview of this year’s challenge – Recycle Rush

 

 

I’ve found FRC to be an exciting and enlightening experience for the students and the volunteers. Every year I am surprised at the ingenuity and commitment demonstrated by those participating.

 

The main competition is judged by numerous factors beyond how the robots perform on the field, like:

  • Coopertition (helping others that you are competing against)
  • Project planning
  • Quality/safety
  • Technical achievement
  • Business plan and marketing

 

The on field performance is not judged, since it has its own rules… Referees determine the winners of that portion of the competition.

 

The goal of FIRST is to encourage the understanding and passion around STEM. It has a proven track record of results that is hard to argue with.

 

You can see some video from previous year’s Dallas FIRST competition, if you are interested.

Bringing service innovation/customization home…

TV.pngI mentioned at the end of last year that I thought 2015 was going to be the year of service innovation. One thing that brought that home (literally) to me was when I got a new TV for Christmas. It had a development environment and store where I could create my own apps that run in the TV and interact with the user.

 

I didn’t get a chance to play with it much, once I figured out how to create apps, but it did make me wonder about the potential for services that were never possible before. The age of passive TV viewing of just what is sent to us seems to be drawing to a close.

Automation and business restraints…

any ideas illustration.pngThe concept of ‘golden handcuffs’ has been around for a long time. This is a job that has such good benefits or salary that it can be very difficult to leave, no matter how much it frustrates you.

 

As we move into a work environment that has ever greater use of automation in knowledge management roles, there is the likelihood of a ‘steel handcuff’ scenario, where a business benefits greatly from automation but eventually loses the ability to effectively maintain their rules and models. They maximize the financial benefits and reduce the workforce to the point where they no longer have the critical mass of industry knowledge to adjust to future business demands. They essentially get locked into the current model.

 

This issue can be overcome by understanding the skills and value of the industry expertise they have as well as the dynamics and value of the automation components. If they feel they can’t afford to have that expertise available full time, they need to devise a consulting supported approach to keep the expertise available, since it will be needed sometime. Tweaks and experiments should be part of the automation strategic model, since it should never be considered done.

 

Some organizations have experienced this scenario with their existing COBOL environments, for example. Their systems work today, but most of the people who understood it have either retired or been let go. To make a change may require a total redesign/rewrite, to develop a new crop of people who understand the business needs.

 

My view is that the foundations and rules should be viewed as a starting point for continuous adjustment and understanding and not a final product that can be declared complete.  On-going interaction with the business will be needed.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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