Leaders Stand Alone

Technology is a thankless service.

Let’s try maintenance and support – the part most of us would rather be done by someone else. If we do our job correctly, we make it look far too easy and people rarely know it is happening. The business result of these efforts? Uptime and lots of it.  Stability and reliability – how often do you think about breathing? The cultural results of these efforts? Well it would not be the first time that some CFO wonders what “all of those people” do down there all day.

Let’s try new functionality. Time to market is always longer than what someone wants it to be. Additionally, as soon as it makes production (70% of IT projects never make it to production) its resulting impact is typically not managed and measured thus its overall impact to the organization is typically not understood or realized.  No wonder some organizations deliver the exact same functionality with 32 developers what other organizations deliver with 12.  Who knows the difference?

You do. 

Let’s not play the victim here.  And please, let’s keep our professional immaturity in check.  We are paid well for this “miserable plight” we are forced to contend with and we ought not need a pat on the back every day or exhaustive training to go along with our high salaries.  70% of the nation makes less than your average technician with just 3 years of experience. 

The top and the best and the greatest are often led by an internal drive and driven by a force not clearly understood by others.  Whatever you may want to call it (that in and of itself could raise a 3 hour debate with IS folks) re-capture, renew and re-energize more of it within yourself because you are going to need it.  Don’t expect your boss to get what you do and don’t expect the CEO to value your contribution over the contributory efforts of the most average (defined here as the median not the emotional lexicon of average) salesperson.


In the year 2000, then Bank One posted $511 million in net losses as they hired Jamie Dimon to take over the reigns. Over the next 6 months Jamie Dimon cut $500 million in costs ($1 billion in his first year) in what was called “waste reduction efforts”. Can you imagine the comments when he announced his plan of action? I am sure he was called chicken-little, over-reacting and the other packaged responses typically used by those who lack action. Dimon pushed profit and loss reporting and analysis down through the organization to increase the understanding and change the management approach at all levels. He changed compensation structures to more appropriately align leadership decision-making with results. He walked away from non-profitable customers and even told long-time sacred cows to pay for their own Wall Street Journal. Many said he was the wrong guy for the job and was a prolific deal maker but that was the limitation of his talent. Boy were they wrong (remember, this is the guy that proactively and independently gave himself a 93% pay cut when he accepted the bailout funds). Hindsight is most interesting if we chose to view the past with objective lenses.

Stage 1: Define the strategy. Dimon could have asked for a 6 month analysis of where they could cut the “fat” or “waste”. Dimon could have sent out RFP’s to consulting companies for 6 months deciding which consulting company would execute a project to find the “fat” or “waste”. He could have then followed that up with a series of SWOT analysis on alternatives surrounding “how” to cut the fat. It could have taken 2 years. He knew there was inefficiency. He knew the inefficiency was fat and he knew he could get rid of it.  Not everyone agreed – but he knew it.  Go after the fat that you know exist and simply get rid of it.  The developer that is counter-productive.  The great developer that is ambivalent to estimation accuracy.  The process rich with churn and low in productivity.  If you know where it is – make a plan to go get it.

Stage 2:  Just Do It!  Imagine a “waste reduction” that will save the organization $10 thousand dollars a day.  Now, urgency ought not be confused with recklessness or panic.  But, delaying that gain by 2 weeks just cost the company $100 thousand dollars – the cost of indecision.  Was the risk mitigated by the analysis equivalent to $100 thousand dollar exposure?  Fear and hope are not proper leadership strategies and if you know it – just do it.

Some people see inefficiencies as a part of their core vision.  They are just wired that way.  It reminds me of the Matrix – they just “see it”.  Obviously, all aspects of a process and impacts must be taken into proper consideration in order to mitigate risk.  But sometimes “fat” or “waste” is relatively obvious.  In consulting, did we not call that “low hanging fruit”?

The last time I checked, I think Gartner still indicates only 40% of all code actually makes it to production; only 40% of every IT dollar spent actually realizes ROI.  There is enough inherent “waste” in our business – go after the “low hanging fruit” and increase your own individual numbers.