Uncharted Waters


July 16, 2013  10:20 AM

The How, and Why, of the Microsoft Memo

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

On Writing WellAt this point, I doubt I need to explain the problems with the Microsoft Memo. You have likely read my analysis but you hardly need to; you could just read the memo yourself.

My article was not inspired; I’m not a genius. Instead, the timing was right, that’s all. I literally happened to be reading William Zissner’s On Writing Well this week, perhaps the most respected book on late 20th century writing style, good enough to keep updated into the 21st.  It was Zissner, and his book,  that explained my discomfort on reading the memo, a discomfort we probably all felt.

After clicking the publish button, the very next questions in my mind where why, and how, the CEO of a Fortune 50 company could get it so terribly wrong.

I believe I may have some answers.

Continued »

July 13, 2013  6:30 PM

What the Microsoft Memo Actually Said

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Yesterday I was struck this tweet from Fog Creek Software CEO Joel Spolsky:

Joel's Tweet

Then I read the memo.

Now I’m with Joel.

The document is not something someone leaked, a half-baked message sent off in a moment when a quick decision was needed. Nor is it an insiders document, full of shorthand terms and abbreviations that make complete sense, but only to insiders. No, this was actually designed for everyone to read, for all employees to read. It is on the web now, hosted on a Microsoft Website; you can read the full memo yourself.

I’ve got a lot to say here, but I’m going to start by answering Joel’s question (‘what the heck does all this mean?’) with a little bit of commentary, leaving conclusions for next time. The original text will be in italics; what it means, in bold.

Here goes … Continued »


June 10, 2013  2:45 PM

Making the Most Of Your Expertise

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

200px-OutliersIf you invest 10,000 hours in deliberate practice — not just doing the job, but doing it mindfully,  then you might just wake up one morning and find yourself an expert.

At least, that is one of the major themes in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, and it makes sense to me.

It doesn’t really matter what you are working; it could be on MySQL clustering, writing mobile applications (or testing them!). It might be your golf swing or your knowledge of University of Michigan football.

Today, I’m going to talk a bit about how to know when you’ve ‘arrived’, and what to do with that knowledge.

Continued »


May 30, 2013  10:37 AM

If it ain’t working, try something different

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

likeABossIf you’ve been in the business world for any length of time, you’ve probably run into a bad boss.

Bad bosses seem especially prone to IT, or, at least, IT workers seem especially prone to complain about them. We even have our own comic strip, Dilbert, to celebrate the cult of the … i’m not quite sure what.

Whenever I think of bad bosses, I think of my friend, who I will call Sam. Cue the music … Continued »


May 26, 2013  4:59 PM

The Lean Business Canvas

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

I’ve been talking about The Lean Startup, which is all about cheap experiments to find value. My last post was on the new book, “Lean Analytics“, and how it focuses primarily on web-based startups — but there was at least one idea that applies to every business, every team, even every person.

It’s called the Lean Business Canvas, and  you’ll find it in chapter 3. Here’s an overview of it’s parent process, the business model canvas:

If you wanted a simple guide to map out your career, or the future of your department, this is it.

Take, for example, the looming shadow of outsourcing, or offshoring. If you take the twenty minutes to analyze your department’s partners, key activities, cost structure, customer relationships, and so on, along with your potential competition, you can figure out what advantages your team can offer against outsourcing … and what to look out for.

Don’t worry, it gets easier.

Ash Maurya, the author of Running Lean, simplified  the business canvas even further, creating this new design: Continued »


May 21, 2013  11:45 AM

Lean Analytics: Practice To Theory And Back Again

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Lean AnalyticsTen years ago I was in a meeting with the director of application development, and she was mad.

“When Joe the Helpdesk guy goes to IT leadership, he has statistics.  Same day call resolution, percentage of calls that go through to a person versus to voicemail, and number of tickets resolved per day. When the CIO goes to board meetings, he can represent that. Accounting has cost numbers; Sales has actually dollars. What does IT dev have? Expenses. The only way to show improvement is to spend less. We need metrics! It doesn’t matter what they are; we’ll just through out a bunch of them and see what sticks. What ideas do you have?”

I’m not kidding; that was the actual conversation.

We came up with a number of measurements, things like the number of projects completed in a month, or the number of requests on the small projects team divided by the number completed in a month, which would estimate the size of the backlog. As you can probably guess, I was less than excited – “we’re really going to base our performance on our customers ability to think of new things for us to do?”

So when I heard that Eric Ries, author of  The Lean Startup had planned to editing a second book in the series called Lean Analytics, I was excited. My copy arrived two weeks ago, just in time to read on airplanes and in hotels; here’s what I found. Continued »


May 18, 2013  9:37 AM

Applying the Lean Startup at Intuit

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

I was recently out in San Jose for a business trip, John Ruberto, friend of mine and one of the engineering leaders for QuickBooks Pro Product, offered to give me an insider’s look at the company and how they apply lean startup concepts.

Yes, Intuit, the company that brought you TurboTax, QuickBooks Pro, and Mint.com – the company you might use to balance your checkbook or pay your taxes. One of the earliest adopters of the “lean startup” philosophy, Intuit earned its own mention in the original Lean Startup book.

I brought my camera.  Continued »


April 26, 2013  2:24 PM

The Lean Green Startup Machine

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

the-lean-startupA strange thing started happening to me about two years ago. I would be at a social event, probably a user’s group, and someone would start talking about either their startup idea, or, perhaps, the idea of startup ideas — specifically, The Lean Startup. The next steps were usually consistent: The person would describe the lean startup with superlatives (“awesome” and “amazing” are common), would find out I had not read the book, then refuse to actually explain it (“it’s too much, you must read the book”). Toward the end of the conversation, they would find out that I had my own business and assume that I had not read the book and must be doing it wrong.

After a couple of years of this I went out and bought the book.

And yes, for what it’s worth, there is plenty of good stuff. I do think I can explain it in the course of a conversation — at least in enough depth to recognize how it is different than other approaches.

Let’s get started. Continued »


April 16, 2013  9:40 PM

Another Lesson From Downton

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Downton Abbey's CastMost of us enjoy drama, that is, as long as it is where it belongs, on television.

In the office, not so much.

So it probably won’t be a surprise to any of us that the culture of downton Abbey, the English Edwardian Period, was almost a perfect fit, set-up by the culture to generate a simmering pot of hidden agendas, plots, conflict and drama.

What you might not have considered is the ingredients of that “culture soup” — and if they might exist in your own workplace.

Today, I’ll talk about three of them, … and how to spot ‘em, starting with an example. Continued »


April 1, 2013  10:39 AM

Project Secrets of Downton Abbey

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Downton Abbey Running a house of twenty-odd servants and a half dozen nobles can be a lot like running a company.  So much so, that as I watch Downton Abbey, the wildly successful BBC drama set in a 1920′s English Manor House, I can’t help but take notes.  (Warning: One large season 3 spoiler is below, but it’s a wide season, and it’s worth it!)

Continued »


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