An article on Harvard Business Review tackled a very real problem today: Cutting through the inevitable corporate cruft to simplify your work day and get your job done. But the recipe the article’s author, Ron Ashkenas, has cooked up sounds like one designed to create more conflict than anything else:
How many times have you gone to a meeting that lacked an agenda or a clear set of objects — and didn’t do anything about it? How often have you received unnecessary email or reports — but didn’t let the senders know that they were clogging up your inbox? How often have you sat through a presentation with too many slides, unclear points, and too much data — but didn’t provide any feedback to the presenter? And how often have you been the perpetrator of these complexity-causing behaviors without anyone pushing back on you?
We all allow these things to happen. Often, we’re guilty of doing them. But since most people dislike confrontation, we let things slide. It’s an unspoken conspiracy: “I won’t challenge you if you won’t challenge me.” The net result is that we unwittingly create a culture of complexity.
Ok, boring presentations are a waste of time, but isn’t finger pointing and clique building (The second piece of advice: Build an informal “simplicity support group” of like-minded peers) what wastes the most corporate time in the first place? Tell your boss he’s clogging up your inbox or berate a subordinate for making “unclear points” and using “too much data,” and you’re pretty much guaranteed to violate the No Asshole Rule, and employees will spend more time grumbling than getting things done.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of solid productivity advice out there, and ITKnowledgeExchange and its sister TechTarget sites have a number of tips to give you a Conan the Barbarian-like focus on the task at hand. I’ve culled through the archives plus some reader suggestions to get you started:
- Trust your subordinates. As Yusuf Salwati reminds us, just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should. He advises executives hire a skilled personal assistant to screen e-mails and phone calls, make travel arrangements and keep you organized. But even if you don’t have the money or position for a personal assistant, it’s important to trust others to do their job, even if they’re doing it differently than you would.
- Collaborate smarter. Karen Guglielmo noted that not finding information costs companies $3,300 per year per employee! The problem isn’t too much data, it’s not having the right data in the right place at the right time. And if you don’t believe IDC’s data, Eric Golden, CEO of Equipios, said his company has saved $65,000 savings in recurring costs by better tapping into collaborative tools.
- Results first. Don’t forget what you, or your company, are there for. As Caroline Hunter reported, last year’s Usenix conference attendees were in an uproar over shoddily thought-out “productivity” tools. One worker complained he “had to take five hours to complete a report, then include those five hours in the report,” Hunter wrote.
- It’s about time. Peter Radizeski suggested a timer, a simple tool Google uses to keep meetings on track. Jonathan Lieberman and Yaw Etse had similar thoughts, suggesting reading The Four-Hour Work Week for advice on cutting out pointless meetings and mindless distractions while pursuing your goals — without annoying the rest of your company. Julie Geng had similar thoughts, suggesting users unplug from the Internet to stay focused. Meanwhile, Eric Anderson suggests shifting your work to the most productive hours (in his case, the evening).
So, workaday warrior, what are your tips for hacking through red tape and, against your company’s best efforts, being truly productive? Share in the ITKE forums or e-mail me your productivity horror stories and triumphs. I’d love to hear and share them.
Google’s “Go Google” campaign is well underway, having kicked off at the beginning of the month with a series of plus-sized billboards in strategic cities, the now almost mandatory Twitter hashtag campaign and some major customer announcements, including Motorola’s mobile devices unit. The must cunning strike, however, might be a series of cheeky, innocuous-seeming posters:
It’s not quite inciting an all-out user revolt, but anonymous postering, cryptic typewriter text and the imperative demands all break the mold in how IT projects are usually handled: It’s more V for Vendetta than white paper analysis and staged roll outs.
Have you felt the heat from users? Does it strike you as a cry for freedom from clunky, expensive apps or a call to IT anarchy? I’m curious as to your thoughts, either in the comments below, to email@example.com, or on Twitter at @morisy. In the meantime, perhaps V himself can give voice to those guerrilla user’s demands:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/chqi8m4CEEY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Our next live virtualization chat with Microsoft virtualization pro Edwin Yuen will take place on August 27th from 11 am to 2 pm EDT. The IT Knowledge Exchange community will have an opportunity to pose their most pressing virtualization questions to Microsoft in a live, open discussion. You can visit the blog now or sign up for an e-reminder here.
We look forward to seeing our IT Knowledge Exchange virtualization pros with us in the chat on the 27th; remember that you can always post your questions ahead of time in the comments.
View the transcripts from previous Microsoft Virtualization chats:
Alternatively, you can view the Microsoft Virtualization Chat questions and answers by visiting its associated tag on IT Knowledge Exchange.
You may have noticed a small change on our homepage — “Unanswered Questions” have now been replaced with “Recent IT Discussions,” allowing you to see what questions are receiving the most attention at the moment. Fear not — you can still view Unanswered Questions on any parent tag page, or by visiting the URLs in this blog post.
Having trouble viewing the updated tabs on our homepage? Be sure to clear your cache and cookies.
Google’s become known for being willing to try almost anything when it comes to the data center: The Internet giant’s re-vitalized small Iowa towns, designed and commissioned its own custom hardware and even floated the idea of a sea-based data center (Mark Fontecchio dissected that strategy in a blog post).
One strategy the big G hasn’t been willing to try however is transparency, according to New York Times reporter Ashlee Vance:
No one really knows how effective Google’s strategy is. The secretive company releases precious little information about its internal operations. Maybe it saves vast amounts of money by fine-tuning a super-efficient data center. Or maybe the “must-be-invented here” method adds a lot of cost and complexity to Google’s infrastructure.
Microsoft doesn’t seem terribly worried about Google’s eccentric methods. It continues to buy systems from companies like Dell, SGI and Cisco Systems, as it builds out some of the biggest data centers on the planet.
“I can’t say how we compare to Google,” said Debra Chrapaty, Microsoft’s vice president in charge of the company’s infrastructure. “I really haven’t seen them be as ‘open kimono’ as we have been.”
Microsoft, more open and transparent than Google? It can happen, apparently. And if Google’s talking about putting data centers on a boat, Microsoft seems prepared to take them on the road. Chrapaty said Redmond’s considering ditching buildings altogether, putting data-centers-in-a-box out in the open. That would make them cheaper to deploy, if perhaps a bit more exposed, and also raises the possibility of nomadic data centers, traveling from tax haven to tax haven as local legislators try to lure high tech firms.
Sound far fetched? Talk to Quincy, Washington, which lost Microsoft’s Azure data centers to San Antonio for just that reason. Make the data centers more portable, and who knows what will come of it.
Some ITKnowledgeExchange Data Center Resources:
- Data center facilities pro blog
- Mainframe Propeller Head
- Server Farming
- Adventures in Data Center Automation
Here are the most current standings for our Flip UltraHD Knowledge Point contest:
- Carlosdl: 4115
- BlankReg: 3570
- Philpl1jb: 2940
- Labnuke99: 2195
- Technochic: 1480
- Mshen: 1375
- Mrdenny: 1345
- Yorkshireman: 730
- Whatis23: 655
- Gabe9527: 635
There is still time to step up your game and earn Knowledge Points toward one of four Flip UltraHD pocket camcorders — the contest period ends on August 30th. Visit the blog post for more details and start contributing!
Storage Monkeys is a new social network created especially for storage professionals, allowing experts from all over the globe to connect, network and share photos, videos and information. IT Knowledge Exchange became familiar with Storage Monkeys through Twitter, and upon visiting the site, we recognized many familiar faces in the storage community. If you’re an enterprise storage pro, this is a great site to check out!
The heat is on as our Flip UltraHD Knowledge Point contest gets into full gear for the month of August. The top four (4) users with the most Knowledge Points from July 13th to August 30th will win a Flip UltraHD pocket camcorder, perfect for capturing the moments of summer! Here are the point standings so far:
- Carlosdl: 2,425
- BlankReg: 1,670
- Labnuke99: 1,495
- Mshen: 1,375
- Philpl1jb: 1,365
- Technochic: 1,130
- Yorkshireman: 730
- Mrdenny: 615
- Fubar: 510
SearchNetworking.com has recently featured a free book chapter from Network Know-How, a great resource for network troubleshooting.
“Troubleshooting,” Chapter 17 of the book Network Know-How shows you tools and methods that will help you identify and solve most network problems. Consider using the techniques in this chapter as a guide to logical problem-solving processes. The steps in this tutorial address computer connection problems in Windows, Macintosh, or Linux/Unix operating system as well as on the network itself.
Visit the article on SearchNetworking.com for more information on the chapter, as well as the full chapter text and links to download a PDF version.
This week’s featured blogger is Michael Krigsman of IT Project Failures. In his blog, Michael discusses a wide range of topics, including enterprise software purchasing, “zombie” projects (projects that “just won’t die”), and appropriate measurement and metrics in enterprise 2.0 collaboration. Michael is CEO of Asuret, Inc. and specializes in consulting with companies on the successful implementation of hardware and software. Be sure to check out Michael’s blog for more insights!