Personal Computers, Laptops, Smart Phones, Tablets. What’s Next?

January 28, 2011

In my last post I noted that Leaders Shouldn’t Attempt to Predict the Future. However, those of us in the technology arena need to keep up on the latest and greatest advancements to avoid becoming dinosaurs. We need to answer the question: What are tomorrow's opportunities?

Could one opportunity be this innovative piece of technology that uses a wearable, "gestural" interface? It’s SixthSense technology developed by Pranav Mistry. Check out this fascinating TED talk:

Leaders Shouldn’t Attempt to Predict the Future

January 25, 2011

…At least not with a high degree of precision. Specific predictions – even if they are right in a general sense – are very likely to be wrong in small ways. If that happens, you will risk losing people’s confidence because you were wrong on those specifics, regardless of how correct you were from a directional standpoint.

Part of the problem with prediction – particularly reaching too far into the future – is that you can be trapped by your own times.

Book Review: The Hyper-Social Organization

January 21, 2011

The Hyper-Social Organization: Eclipse Your Competition by Leveraging Social MediaSome years back, our company engaged in an online community effort. Our intentions were good, but we made some mistakes that this book points out!

Mistake #1: We knew of, but didn’t assess the impact of, the fact that there was another place that our user community wanted to engage and congregate in. They had already defined their needs and terms. We had a “build it and they will come” mindset.

Mistake #2: We organized our community around our products and services.

People Don't Buy What You Do...

January 18, 2011

They buy why you do it. - Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek has a great TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. In it, Simon asks some interesting questions:

Why is Apple so innovative? Simon observes, “Year after year, after year, after year, they're more innovative than all their competition. And yet, they're just a computer company. They're just like everyone else. They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media. Then why is it that they seem to have something different?”

Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? Simon’s observation: “He wasn't the only man who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. And he certainly wasn't the only great orator of the day. Why him?”

Leaders Need to be Clear and Fuzzy

January 14, 2011

You might be thinking that fuzziness cannot exist if clarity is your objective, but in the realm of software leadership, both are required. It’s a question of where one or the other is needed.

What needs to be clear: Direction and purpose.

On a strategic scale, the entire organization needs clear direction and a strong sense of purpose. A strategic goal should engage people’s hearts as well as their minds. The classic example is the goal of landing a man on the moon. There was a strong purpose, the goal was specific in its objective, and it articulated a definitive time frame; the clear objective of landing a man on the moon (and getting him back) and allowed for automatic prioritization: anything not related to achieving the objective of landing a man on the moon was deemed a lower priority.

Cooperative or Collaborative Agile Teams?

January 11, 2011

In choosing to go agile, as a manager you no doubt want at least a few benefits:
  1. To improve productivity.
  2. To improve productivity that is sustainable in the long term.
  3. To improve productivity in a way that is repeatable across your entire organization.
Of course, even these few explicit benefits have other implicit assumptions built in, like valuing people and wanting to retain them…

Why the Informality of Scrum Works

January 7, 2011

Software development is all about people solving complex problems, and we’ve been making use of Agile/Scrum development as our preferred approach to software development for close to five years now. I personally like Scrum because it contends with the challenges of delivering a successful software development project while creating a motivating work environment for those individuals who are performing the work.

While simple in concept, Scrum actually covers a lot of ground:
  • It defines how work is organized and brought into the team.
  • It defines how the team manages its work and the accountability for that work.
  • It supports change throughout the course of a project.
  • It is a transparent process, with clear indicators of progress.
  • It supports continuous improvement.
And Scrum accomplishes all of these things using low-tech instruments like white boards and sticky notes that keep the work casual in appearance. It might seem counter-intuitive, but informality works.

Book Review: Product Strategy for High-Tech Companies

January 4, 2011

Product Strategy for High Technology CompaniesThese days I’m split between being both a software development manager and a product manager for a few of our products. I’ve read books on product management in the past, but these tend to focus on the role of a product manager and less on something that I consider to be more important in terms of generating value and profits: product strategy.

I recently read a book, Product Strategy for High-Tech Companies by Michael McGrath that I found to be well-written and very informative about the challenges and approaches of creating a product strategy. The book addresses some very key questions:
  • What role does strategic vision play in the creation of a product strategy?
  • Is being first to market a true advantage, or is it better to be a fast follower?
  • How do the dynamics of competition and product strategy change as markets and products mature?
  • When should a company replace an existing product?
  • How do I create a successful product line?
Michael McGrath provides insightful answers to these questions and more, but I’ll cover the five questions above, just to give you a flavor for the book.