As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few.
The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods.
The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Author & Philosopher (1803 1882)
What I've Learned about What I Do
There is a tremendous amount of complexity involved in working with organizations, partnerships, and technology. There is also an aggressive velocity of change in the technologies and approaches that need to be learned. Even so, I find that the more of this work I do, the more I come to value principles that have proved themselves over time:
Working with Organizations
- Organizations are More Than the Sum of Their Parts
- Effectively directing a group of people from different backgrounds toward a common goal requires one set of skills to manage the individual relationships and another set to manage the collective.
- Process is Great in Small Quantities
- In situations where there is a lack of clearly defined process the thoughtful addition of a small amount can bring great results but 'too much of a good thing' can quickly inhibit performance.
- Mosh Pit, Square Dance, or Something In Between
- When a large group of people try to move together they will either adopt or invent 'rules of engagement'. It's leadership's job to call for the right dance to fit the music, the dancers, and the occasion.
- The Creator of the Picture Controls Perception
- If you are person that frames up a problem/scenario/situation then you are also the person that controls how people see that scenario. This can give you great leverage in driving a satisfactory solution.
- Make Your Priorities Clear to All
- It's easy to be overwhelmed by everything that you cannot accomplish. Focus instead on what you can and make sure your priorities are clear to all this will make your value self-evident.
Working with Partners
- People are the Most Important Thing
- The ability to work effectively with many different types of people is the most critical factor in the success of nearly any effort. Even in 'pure technology' it's the people on which the effort depends.
- Organizations Also Need Interfaces
- If you want partners to connect you must make it easy. Think of the challenges avoided by the standard USB cable then apply that thought to working with your organization.
- Partners are Better than Vendors
- Whatever the actual relationship might be, treat a vendor like partner and they will act like one. No matter what they are selling, they have valuable knowledge and insight to share.
- Everyone Shares Some Common Ground
- It may take time to find, but everyone shares common goals, beliefs or experiences. Identify those, then frame what you're trying to achieve accordingly and your message will resonate.
Working with Technology
- Meaningful Solutions are Holistic
- The best solutions are those that take into account all factors in the equation; hardware, software, users and context. Without seeing the full picture you won't understand the needs of the full solution.
- Simpler is Better
- When defining a technological solution the best approach is generally the simplest one; it will be quicker and easier to implement, break less often, and prove easier to maintain and evolve.
- Customization Should Be the Last Resort
- Many stakeholders feel that getting more customization is getting their money's worth, but this most often leads to wasted time and money. Only customize when there is no other viable option.
- Diagrams are Better Than Documents
- If you want to communicate an idea the best way is (almost) always in pictures. This is because diagrams show the factors involved, the factors that are missing, and the relationships between them.
- It's Never Really 'Done'
- You may stop working on it for a time, but since neither technology nor business stand still your solutions must continue to evolve to keep pace.