Monkeys Everywhere!

Be careful about taking tasks accidentally…

In the classic Harvard Business Review article Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?, William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass present the idea that tasks can be considered as monkeys sitting out our shoulder. We have to feed them and take care of them. The more tasks we have, the more monkeys on our shoulders. As leaders, we need to be very aware of our team’s monkeys and make sure they don’t jump to our shoulder.

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The Customer is Our Only Customer

invoices-customer

Ever since there have been internal departments like IT (and HR and Finance) there has been a drive for those groups to call the rest of the business “customers.” I believe this is a bad idea and hurts the organization. Let’s start with the sentiment:

  • “We need to take care of our (internal) customers.”
  • “We need to treat the rest of the company like customers to have the proper service attitude.”
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Advice to IT Interns

One spring a few years back, I was looking through a stack of intern resumes. Wanda (not her real name) was not selected and received an email notification. She then, to her credit, reached out and asked for feedback on her resume. Awesome move on her part. This drive to improve will take her far in her career. Here is my response to her.

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Ask The IT Director: Confusing Metrics

Spanish Car dashboard. Photo Credit: Joyce Bredesen

Dear IT Director,

I know metrics are a good thing. But metrics need goals, right? I have some metrics that don’t make any sense to have goals for. Like number of Help Desk tickets coming in. If I set a goal, it will make me and my team take the wrong kind of actions.

Waffling in Wauwatosa

Dear Waffling,

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Ask The IT Director: Trust and Teams

Dear IT Director,
I am a new manager. My team keeps coming to me with questions. They seem unable to make decisions on their own. I have too many of their tasks on my plate, and I can’t get it all done without working 16-hour days and weekends. Help!
Drowning in Delano

Dear Drowning,

Ouch, sounds like you are paying the price for a prior manager that didn’t trust their team. Changing behavior like that is hard. You need to trust that they can do the job you expect of them, and they need to trust you to provide them useful advice and guidance. The bottom line is that you are starting from scratch on the trust game. Here are some suggestions.

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Application Logging

If your IT shop does software development, Application Logging is useful for several things:

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Podcast: Episode 1: Spiders & Conductors

While there are lots of leadership theories and styles, this particular way of looking at leaders doesn’t show up in the books. Listen to this podcast to learn about these. What is your style?

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Spiders & Conductors

There are many books and articles about leadership; I hope you read some of them. There is no absolutely right model of leadership, so read widely and make up your own mind on what makes a good leader. This section covers something I noticed long ago about leadership styles which I haven’t seen it in any book. 

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The First Step Doesn’t Matter

Businesses are littered with first steps. Attempts to change or improve that never get followed up on. A first release of a newsletter with no second.

Look at your intranet to see what is stale. See what hasn’t been updated.
These are failures. You don’t get points for starting something. The first step is not the most important. That first step? It actually doesn’t matter.

Doesn’t matter how big it is. Doesn’t matter what direction it is. The first step just doesn’t matter.

What matters is what happens after the first step.

What matters is setting up an ongoing process to make long-lasting change. Defining a clear owner for the second step. Setting a clear timeframe for each subsequent step.

Rolling out a PMO? That first batch of templates and processes doesn’t matter as much as setting up clear ownership, allocating resources, tasks to drive culture change, setting an update schedule, and having expiration dates to force continual review and updates.

Inbox: friend or foe

https://xkcd.com/2181/
xkcd: https://xkcd.com/2181/

If your job doesn’t fundamentally depend on your email*, then ask yourself if you control your email or if email controls you. Our Email Is A Monster (Oatmeal). Some ideas to consider:

  1. No matter how focused you are, when that little window flashes up in the corner of your screen or your phone beeps, you have at best a micro-distraction that derails your thinking and at worst a full distraction. Turn off your email notifications and schedule time during the day to open email.
  2. Signal (high priority emails) to noise (low priority emails) in your inbox is a problem. Not all emails are equally worthy of your time. If conditional formatting (like in Outlook) is available, use it. Set a condition for when you are on the CC list. Read those last. Set a condition for when you are the only one on the TO: list. Set conditions for people that you need to respond to right away.

* Customer service type jobs and a few others do require constant vigilance of an inbox so the above suggestions don’t help you. Hopefully you have other techniques to make things more efficient.