I’m Terrified Right Now

Derick Bailey:

“I want this horrible, sick feeling because it means I care about what I’m doing. It means I understand that I can really screw this up, and I really don’t want to. It means I care enough to make sure I have every detail right… This gut-wrenching sick feeling that I have right now, means I am growing in some new way and doing something new and potentially amazing … and potentially terrifying and horrible, too.”

The Reward For Good Work

Derick Bailey:

For me, my work and my reputation are tied together. I’m not known for social graces, being easy to work with, or having the best bed-side manner when helping others. But I am known for quality work, for pushing others to do better, and for clearing a path on which others can travel. Sometimes my technical ability makes up for my lack of empathy.

My experience exactly. I would add that as my reputation grows, I find that I get more interesting work.

Better Questions

Organizational culture emerges from the process of answering questions. The answers aren’t necessarily articulated explicitly, but they’re expressed in the decisions people make, the way people treat each other, and in so many other ways. Organizational leaders may be unconsciously undermining the very culture they’re trying to create, but they can’t change it until they start asking the right questions. Continue reading “Better Questions”

The Problem With GTD

I’m a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, but it suffers from one major shortcoming, at least for me: it offers some great methods for managing inputs and outcomes, but it is little help for managing knowledge in a usable electronic form, largely due to its reliance on paper as a least-common-denominator representation of ideas. Paper is inherently disconnected, and any given piece of paper can only be in one place at a time. It seems to me that these two factors are too constraining in today’s always-on world. That’s why I’m working on this project, to try to liberate as much as possible of the GTD process from paper while preserving the parts that work well for me. We’ll see how it goes.

[To be fair, GTD was published in 2002, before Twitter, RSS, Instapaper, Remember the Milk, iPhone, iPad, online banking, and ubiquitous connectivity. I doubt any of my nine-year-old work has held up so well in the face of such amazing change.]

Knowledge Work: Marshaling Inputs

I’m beginning a personal project to help me manage the barrage of different inputs I juggle every day. I know I’m not alone in this, so I’ll be sharing my thoughts here as I work through this project. I don’t know what form the end-result will take—could be software, could be a change of my habits or mindset, I don’t know.

Step 1 was to list my main sources of input—email, IM, our help desk application, etc. The list was dizzying, but as I stared at it in disbelief, two dimensions emerged:

  1. How synchronous is the communication medium?
  2. Is the information already in the form of text on my computer, that I can copy-and-paste wherever I need it?

Here’s the result:


Once I organized the list on those two axes, I noticed a couple of interesting things. First, IM, Twitter, and TXT messaging are sui generis, at least among my primary sources. Maybe that’s why these are also my favorite sources? Second, the disconnectedness of some media is a significant barrier to turning information into action.

Next steps:

  1. Listing desired results (file information for later retrieval; put on a to-do list; hold and wait for more information; open a help desk ticket; schedule a meeting; read later; correlate with other inputs; etc.).
  2. Analyzing the various paths from inputs to results.

Should be fun…

On Failing Successfully

Inspired by an episode of the “Ockham’s Razor” podcast:

“I want to argue that failure doesn’t get the credit it deserves. If you want to understand success, you must appreciate the ubiquity of failure, and if you’re not regularly failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

-Mark Dodgson


“As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

“Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

“Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”

-William McKnight, Chairman of the Board at 3M Corporation, 1949-1966