Opinions

Over the last few years I’ve recognized that there are a few core principles that motivate what I do, and how I do it. I’m going to capture these in a series of brief pages.

Freeing knowledge

This is taken from a blog post that I wrote in September 2005:

My focus (colleagues might call it a long-standing obsession) is on connecting the engineering community: bringing together creative engineers who might otherwise be isolated in “stove-pipe” organizations, fostering the kind of conversations that create new opportunities. For me, the person who put it best was Lou Gerstner of IBM. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with BusinessWeek about his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

Q: In the book, you use the phrase “counter-intuitive corporation.” What do you mean?

A: There is this view that has been prevalent for as long as I’ve been in the business world that large companies are slow, ineffective, and that small companies are faster, better, more entrepreneurial. I don’t buy into that. It’s harder to make large companies faster, entrepreneurial, more responsive. But it doesn’t mean they can’t be that way.

This is probably the subject of another management book, but this is all about creating organizations where knowledge moves in a different way than control. Large companies have to have elaborate systems of control because there’s lots of things to count, oversee, report, and add up. You create this kind of skeleton of an organization, which keeps it upright and moving. But you don’t want knowledge, which is what people really leverage in a large institution, moving along the same pathways as control.

You’ve got to free knowledge so that it moves horizontally in an organization, not hierarchically, and allows organizations to leverage the fact that they have a big presence in various markets so they know things. That knowledge can move across the enterprise. Smaller companies have no way to leverage information.

So that’s what I’m up to, in a variety of ways: fostering the horizontal flow of information. To me, that’s what makes the difference between a bunch of engineering teams and an engineering community. And we’re not just talking about product development: this has to include research, development, manufacturing, pre-sales, consulting, and support.

Distributed computing

The “Eight Fallacies” seem to have started out as “Seven Fallacies”, authored by Peter Deutsch. The final (“homogeneous”) fallacy was added later.

Essentially everyone, when they first build a distributed application, makes the following eight assumptions. All prove to be false in the long run and all cause big trouble and painful learning experiences.

  1. The network is reliable
  2. Latency is zero
  3. Bandwidth is infinite
  4. The network is secure
  5. Topology doesn’t change
  6. There is one administrator
  7. Transport cost is zero
  8. The network is homogeneous

Reproduced from Gosling’s web. One would think that after all these years… but no, each generation has to rediscover them.

Management

There are lots of good books on mangement, organizational culture, change, and so forth: I’ve linked to many of them in my blog. One of the most important issues, however, is how one approaches the new ideas in these books. An uncritical acceptance of a popular management fad, without thinking about its relevance to your particular situation, is almost always disastrous. One way of coping with the siren song of a new management obsession (whether it be Six Sigma or “Who Moved My Cheese?”) is to read (and re-read) Sarah Sheard’s Life Cycle of a Silver Bullet.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.