This post if for IT people but applies to any field with their own jargon. Scroll down to see the video I’m talking about.
Gustav Holst write a brilliant piece of music call The Planets. In particular, the Jupiter portion has always been one of my favorite classical music pieces. I don’t know the creator of the video, but he seems knowledgeable about music. He dissects Jupiter in a very deep way, using tons of music jargon.
I don’t understand most of what he is saying… I believe he knows what he is talking about, but I don’t know that he knows what he is talking about.
If you are an IT person, I challenge you to start at 1:30 and sit through at least five minutes of this video (for the adventurous, start at 7:30). Make a sincere effort to understand what he is trying to say. Try, as if your business depends on understanding it. Unless you have musical training, you probably won’t get much further than I did.
This is what we sound like to people outside our field. The organizations that depend on us aren’t able to understand the technology to the level we do. This isn’t because they are dumb (I hate the “dumb user” trope), it is because they are experts on other things and haven’t put in the years of focus that you have.
It is our job, not theirs, to figure out how to communicate better. We need to be creative in using analogies, metaphors, and straightforward language to communicate.
If we don’t, they may wonder if we know what we are talking about or just faking it by using jargon they don’t understand.
A great system, implemented badly, will probably fail. A mediocre system, implemented beautifully, will probably succeed.
In the IT world, there are often projects that require selecting a product. The team determines requirements, creates a long list, reduces it to a short list, and makes a selection. This is usually done with large systems, like ERP.
It is important that we get the selection process right. The wrong technology can hamper our organization for years.
However, implementation is at least as important, if not more important, than selection.
The point of the IT department is to help the organization succeed. To do this, we need to understand that organization and the world it operates in. In addition, we must understand technology products, services, and trends enough to know how to apply them to our organization. We must understand the overlap between business and technology. That is where the IT department lives.
While this concept applies to any staff group in an organization, including HR, Finance, etc., let’s look at what this means for IT.
IT folks all know the drill. Someone calls the Help Desk to report that some spreadsheet or program isn’t working. The Help Desk can’t solve the problem and escalates it. After much conversation, we realize that we have discovered another Shadow IT orphan. The creator of the complex spreadsheet or, worse, a VB6 program, is long gone. The users have been using it for years, not knowing it is a time bomb.
The expectations on IT at that point are to become the adopting parents. Sometimes we can get lucky and foist a spreadsheet off on Finance to have them try to figure it out, but that doesn’t work very often. But the programs? Sigh, those we have to deal with.
Whether you are a current IT leader or hope to lead an IT organization in the future, this book will be useful to you. This book is a collection of the scars and skills that I have earned over the years.
From The Introduction:
Organizations structure themselves, in part, to manage people (HR), money (Finance), and technology (IT). These departments understand the details of their areas and how their work contributes to the success of the organization. The Information Technology (IT) department lives at the intersection of the organization and the technological world.
It is often a thankless job. The criticisms are many. IT is too slow to roll out changes. IT is too rigid with its rules and processes. IT is too expensive. IT has a huge backlog. IT is working on the wrong things.
Or so the organization believes.
As leaders of the IT department, it is our responsibility to run the department to meet the needs of the organization. Unfortunately, even with the best of efforts, the perception of the organization never matches our own. Even worse, sometimes the perception is correct.
There are a lot of books, magazines, websites, and individual postings aimed at the IT professional. But few of them address the larger problems organizations care about. There is significant information about specific technologies, but not much on how to lead an IT department.
Since I couldn’t find such a book, I wrote it.
If your IT shop does software development, Application Logging is useful for several things:Read More
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:
- 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.
- 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.
This is an excellent article on writing email subject lines, article titles, etc. Anyone who sends emails or writes should internalize the message from the article.
In telecommunications, the concept of Signal To Noise Ratio has been around for a long time. The basic concept is the signal (what you are trying to communicate) and the noise (all the crap that isn’t the signal) are related. The higher the ratio of signal to noise, the better. High ratio: more signal, less noise. Low ratio: less signal, more noise.
A high Signal To Noise ratio is a good thing. Thinking about the concept, not the math, if we have better signal and less noise, we have better communication.
This post is mainly about receiving communication. This includes talking to someone, email, texting, social media, etc. Some of this is obvious: if you are trying to listen to someone and there is a jackhammer going on five feet away, there is too much noise to hear. If someone texts you with a name you need and wraps it up in 2000 characters of opinions and other useless info, that is bad signal to noise.
But there are some non-obvious ways to look at it.
If you get a lot of unnecessary emails or texts, it will be harder to find those that you want to get. We can keep an eye out for message from people we want to hear from, but we will miss messages. The list of things to read (the list of conversations in your text messages, your email inbox) is something that has a signal to noise ratio.
If we have curated our social feed, we have lower noise and better signal..
Consider a few possibilities
- Email: be vicious in unsubscribing from things that you don’t actively need. Be proactive in managing your inbox.
- Social feeds: be aggressive at muting, blocking, unfollowing those that post noise (you get to define that). If you complain about Facebook or Twitter about how much stuff you have to scroll to see anything interesting, then you are following too many of the wrong accounts.
- Learn the controls available to you. Yes, it is a pain when Facebook, et al, keep changing their feed algorithms and add/remove settings. But learning them takes time. Yes, understanding Gmail’s tab structure and conversations seems overly complicated. However, spending a few minutes trying to figure out how to use them to your advantage will save you lots of time in the long run.
Curate your electronic life. It pays off quickly.
Coming fast from everywhere
Are you in control?
As a developer, I was so tempted to put messages like this in the parts of the code that should never execute. I did a couple of times, although never this clever. I’m not up on the latest programming languages, but I imagine that it is still possible to have these places of despair. These ‘black holes’ of code where you should never go but if you do, you will never recover.Read More