Too nice!

In my career I have not had a lot of reviews but that works for me. Formalized feedback processes are tough at any level and in my experience get more challenging the higher you go.

That said the single negative piece of feedback I have gotten, from three different companies is, “Andrew you do a great job with the team and results and working with your peers, but you are simply too nice.”

I have agreed to this criticism each time. I mostly interpreted this as needing to push the underperforming members of my team harder to perform better or find somewhere else to be. Not fun but fair. Allowing low performers to hang on too long is not good for the team.

That said I never agreed with the management approach that posits being aloof and tough even on good contributors gets you more total productivity. The following HBR lays echoes a lot of my reasoning well and I was feeling like a bobble head as I read it.

I have no studies to cite but feel that in software development the ‘need for nice’ is even more critical as development skills are highly portable and in demand. Good developers, qa and product professionals just don’t need to put up with jerks.


Next Gen DevOps

At Vitals we have been trying to up our DevOps culture and resources. We have started to scale our Healthplan solutions and it presents some infrastructure challenges.

As a team we recently attended a talk on Beautiful Builds by Roy Osherove. Good stuff. Automation, visibility and how to handle dependancies. Hint, its all about the automation. I found this overview from Oreilly a bit help as weel: … I love all the automation but customer comfort is the challenge.

This is CLEARLY how we need to go but the biggest chalDevOpsDayslenge will be getting our Healthplan Customers to accept many aspects of it.

Like many changes the culture change is harder than the technological one.

Healthy Urgency versus Fear and Anxiety Driven Activity

There really is different kinds of energy and urgency and this HBR article articulates the difference. We need to give more thought to how to recognize the difference and how to transform the bad to the good when things are going wrong.

Pricing Software

In my new gig (VP of Engineering at Vitals) I have once again gotten involved  in some of the pricing decisions.  It has gotten me in a new round of thinking about the strange world of software pricing.  That fascinating fixed up front cost and nearly zero incremental cost.  

At Vitals we are really working to change one of our core set of offerings to move from lots of custom work to a real standard platform.  Obviously our customers will get a break (and a more vibrant evolving product) but ~how much cheaper~ will we offer it at?

You need to be acutely aware of the chasm when you are selling B2B software.  Either it costs 100k+ plus maintenance and you might be able to afford the long involved complex sales cycle of larger organizations OR you price it cheaply (1k or below) so individuals can try it out within their own budget and carry the flag for you.  In between lies danger and frustration.

Here is some classic wisdom on software pricing. If you haven’t read it, take a look.

Only Send What Changed

Simple and powerful and it comes up again and again. 

Only send what changed.

I wonder if there are meatspace equivalents that will come up with the “internet of things” that is climbing the hype curve right now.


3D hype off the chart

3D hype off the chart

I know hype attracts eyeballs. And I really think 3d printers are cool and I want one to play with. But the hype on the technology to upset all manufacturing is just silly. Material costs, time per unit, precision and tolerances. These things matter and will not be easily over turned for large classes of common objects.

MUST READ article – the capitalists dilemma

Nearly everyone know of the Innovators Dilemma.

Well this is an article and not a book but I think the recent NY Times article by Clayton Christensen is perhaps even more important.

It focuses on the “” and lays out how several short term and efficiency focused measurements (IRR, ROCE, RONA) guide nearly all investment and those along with tax policy are tripping up our economy.  

Is it a bit simplistic, perhaps, but I think its critical we frame a new conversation about helping to encourage the “next big thing” that will drive employment and our economy and stop hoping it will show up.