The Way Things Get Done

The Way Things Get Done

Learning the “formal” networks in a new job is daunting enough. But, to truly “arrive”, and be effective, you have to master the “informal” networks that exist in your company. Because that’s The Way Things Get Done.

300 Words, 2 Minutes

In every organized group or enterprise, there is a chain of command, or at least, some loosely defined structure that is supposed to determine how decisions are to be made, and how authority is to be granted for doing the work of the organization.

Sometimes this structure is described in complex organizational charts, with layers and layers of reporting, tracing out the lines of power. Perhaps in your group it works differently. Small companies tend to be much more horizontal and flat, with authority being more autonomously localized.

And understanding the dynamics within Family owned operations are enough for a series of articles, all their own.

Regardless of the type of organization you run, or find yourself working within, there is the publicized or “official” way things are supposed to happen.

And – there is the way that things really happen. The way things get done.

Look around your company. Without thinking…

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Technical Debt

Technical Debt

300 Words, 2 Minutes

If you’ve been a developer for any significant amount of time, you’ve run across the concept of “Technical Debt.”

Technical Debt is nothing more than the eventual consequence of every design decision you’ve put into a codebase.

At the end of the day, we all have to ship our projects; we all have to deliver a product.

Technical debt represents the amount of work, at any given point in the project plan, to finish your project, and make it deliverable.

If we’ve made poor refactoring practices part of our design process, if we have paid too little attention to infrastructure design, if we have made a bet – a poor bet – on a software tool, or a software language, or a software platform – all that goes into building up your technical debt.

Now, when you look at large scale projects that have failed (when they don’t fail…

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Residential Liberal Arts Colleges: Something’s Gotta Give

Residential Liberal Arts Colleges: Something’s Gotta Give

If real change is to occur in the small residential college educational model, significant structural change will have to occur. If your institution has a billion dollar endowment, odds are you’re perfectly happy with the status quo. For the vast majority of everyone else, “change or die” is not merely a hypothetical question.

300 Words, 2 Minutes

Plenty of people will gladly tell you that higher education is broken. That a college degree is unnecessary. And, that college is not preparing students for the job market, nor for life.

Perhaps some, or even all, of these statements are true.

What is undeniably true, is that college is expensive.

Yesterday, I described the elements of the collapse of Sweet Briar College: a school with a declining market of students, the inability to borrow money and pay down debt, and an endowment hog-tied with restricted funds.

Sweet Briar is not an outlier. More schools than not are in a similar condition, coming off a decade-long arms race of new dorms and facilities, new amenities, and substantial new bond debt.

What can small, residential colleges, particularly liberal arts colleges, do then, to fiscally survive, and remain true to the precepts of academic excellence, academic freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge, for knowledge’s…

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The Residential Liberal Arts Elephant in the Room

The Residential Liberal Arts Elephant in the Room

The closing of Sweet Briar College – is it a harbinger of things to come, for other residential colleges?

300 Words, 2 Minutes

This Spring, Administrative Officers across the country got to speak to their nervous boards and alumni, to allay fears that their schools wouldn’t be the next Sweet Briar College (which indicated it would be closing at the end of the Summer 2015 term, after precipitously deciding – over a single weekend – to shutter the 114 year old women’s college).

What little is known of the decision to close Sweet Briar is troubling to many liberal arts schools. The barely unspoken fear: Is this us in a few years?

Sweet Briar is an extremely small school: only 513 students. The school has an endowment of $84 million dollars – which isn’t substantially different from many other small residential colleges – but with most of these funds being restricted. Their bond rating was downgraded from “stable” to BBB “negative” by S&P, and reportedly the school hasn’t enough usable cash to pay down debt. And, while their…

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Pitching? Start Here.

Pitching? Start Here.

It’s the little things that set the Pros apart from the wannabes. Preparation and Professionalism are the hallmarks of those that understand effective relationship management, and public relations.

300 Words, 2 Minutes

I work with PR people and reporters all the time. They are an essential part of messaging, for my own personal “brand”, and for communicating what I do on the job.

In the past, I have worked with extremely talented PR folks. And, I have also worked with firms that barely qualify as professionals.

Last year, I endured one of the worst PR interactions in my career. I was contacted by a PR firm – new to me – but now representing a trusted and key vendor that we were very happy with – a vendor with whom I had worked previously on other PR successful initiatives.

The new PR firm reached out to me by email, with a suggested time to call, a name of a person to whom I was to speak, and a list of topics we would discuss. All good to that point.

At the agreed upon time, no…

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Another Webinar? No Thanks.

Another Webinar? No Thanks.

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of Webinars (or infographics – different post, different day). Here are my nuggets of wisdom, for you fool hardy souls who insist this is something you must do.

300 Words, 2 Minutes

I’ve never been a huge fan of webinars. Probably, because most of them are colossal wastes of time.

But – if you insist on producing your own webinar, the following tips could help the next person feel like they at least got something of value from your efforts:

  1. Prepare. This is my number one complaint about terrible webinars – it’s usually quite obvious that many presenters don’t adequately practice their presentation, or don’t have mastery over their subject matter. Give yourself ample time to prepare your content, and work on your delivery.
  2. Get to the point. Fast. Your time is valuable. And so is your audience’s. Respect their time as if it were golden. Because it is.
  3. Don’t read your slide deck, word for word. It just insults everyone’s intelligence, and makes the room dumber.
  4. Buy – and use – a good microphone. If I’m thinking about your poor sound quality, then…

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Why Trust Matters

Why Trust Matters

Image credit:
Image credit:

Trust is foundational to every human interaction.

So why is it, that a great many leaders don’t understand the importance of building and keeping trust?

A few years back, I was working with a team on a new software release, involving a web backend component, a new database schema, and set of new native mobile applications across multiple platforms. It was a highly visible release, and the heat was definitely on to deliver on time.

The boss unexpectedly moved the release date up a couple of weeks. Naturally, this threw everything into turmoil, and near panic. But, to the team’s credit, they dug in and did their level best to meet this new – and unwelcome – deadline.

One of my team members was getting married the day after release date – so needless to say, stress levels were high, above and beyond the need to deliver.

Release day came.

The boss came in, announced that the deadline was artificial, and that it had moved it up a couple of weeks because “he knew developers, and developers always say it will take longer than it really does.”

It wrecked the morale of team. And they never believed a word the boss – or I – ever said again.

Maintaining trust is more than just “doing what you say you’re going to be doing” or “keeping your word.” It is also about valuing the person on the other end of the relationship, and showing that we value them, through our actions.

And once lost, trust can never truly be regained. It’s a one shot deal.