Throughout all my time in the workplace, I’ve heard employees at various levels complain about management. Workers always want to blame management for all the problems that end up derailing a project. Or, as a business owner, I hear other business owners complain about how poorly their projects are going with their clients. This is the status quo. Blame management and stay in your safe space without working to fix the problem. Or, maybe you’re on the other side of the equation… maybe you’re a manager or a business owner complaining about how the resources working on your project aren’t accomplishing the goals you had established for the project.
I don’t think the problem is management, or workers, or other businesses. I think the problem is much simpler… poor communication. I know this is true in my business. Some clients are eager to communicate with me. We have weekly meetings, discuss progress, determine if direction should be changed to better meet organization objectives, and spend a little time developing our professional relationships. Other clients simply can’t be bothered. Their schedules are too busy for even a weekly phone call. Which projects do you think go smoother?
Maybe you disagree. Maybe you think that resources should focus on accomplishing the mission assigned to them. Maybe you don’t want to spend time communicating with them. What impact does that have? When dealing with software projects, lack of communication can be catastrophic. You may tell explain a new feature to me, but I may misinterpret your request. Or, maybe your request wasn’t actually what you needed but I delivered exactly what you asked for. In either instance, both time and money has been wasted to move in the wrong direction.
Fortunately, the solution really is simple. Schedule time to communicate with the people on your team – both internal and external, senior and subordinate. Ensure that everyone understands the objectives of the project and provide frequent feedback as the project moves forward. Listen to questions and concerns and work with them to find a solution that best resolves any issues. If you want to achieve the most from any project, this is a necessity. If not, you’ll still be complaining about the same things next year.
Anybody who’s ever worked for any business knows that Windows PCs are the norm. Sure, there are always a few Macs to be found in the marketing department or with people who work with graphics, but the bulk of business computers are PCs. It’s easy to point out reasons why that’s the case. For instance, PCs are substantially cheaper than Macs (although many Mac users would be quick to point out that you get what you pay for). But one of the bigger problems I see is how incredibly business hostile Macs are. Let me give you a some examples of problems I have with one of my clients. Like most organizations, they are predominately Windows. However, they have a few Macs that are used exclusively for multimedia. And they work great – until it’s time to upgrade the OS. You can’t upgrade a Mac without an AppleID. Of course, the customer has no real reason to setup an account with an AppleID, but you have no choice. As several different people use the computer, nobody is going to use their AppleID for the machine and since all users need to share documents, settings, etc, multiple accounts are out of the question. Now, that leaves only one option – creating a bogus AppleID just to upgrade the computer. And, as Apple demands a phone number to setup for Two Step Authentication, some user will need to be the primary point-of-contact for any issues that require authenticating by that AppleID. Not to mention that information must be fabricated for the imaginary user and logged somewhere – including answers to security questions that make no sense in that instance. This is all easy compared to the fun of trying to create a developer account for a business. Not only do you have to go through all the above hassle, you also need to setup an Apple device for Two Factor Authentication. Sending a message to a phone number isn’t enough, you must have an apple device connected to the account. None of this was a big deal until recently – when Apple said that the person responsible for an apps content must have their own AppleID. Previously, someone else – with an AppleID took care of everything. Now, we have to find another Apple device to setup for their 2FA. For a client who is already Mac-shy, this does nothing but confirm their PC bias.
My message to Apple: Find a better way. You may do a great job with individuals, but your policies are a disaster in the business world.
Over the past decade, the deep rooted traditional business methods have taken a shift, arguably for the better. In the Information Age where almost anyone can find out what they want to know, it’s much harder for businesses to feign values. People quickly become aware of any inconsistencies between what the businesses say they stand for and what they truly are. The same applies to company culture.
To note one thing in particular, the difference between a business that stands out as genuine versus the alternative comes down to looking at how control and responsibility are at play. A business feigning values will often have a structure of controlling more than they should, while shirking responsibility for mistakes onto those who fall lower on the totem pole. Rather than accepting a lack of sufficient leadership, they often play the blame game in an arrogant attempt to avoid displaying vulnerability or weakness.
Fortunately, in looking at the structure of Talixa, I see quite the contrary. Our business is exceptional at delivering quality through the services we offer, yet I see selflessness from our leadership and the other team members. Rather than trying to micromanage and control every part of the business, we each have lanes suited to our skills and experience as well as having a plethora of opportunities to excel. Since responsibility is shared across the board, team members are not afraid to admit to their flaws and work together to develop and grow. By filling in our gaps and working for the good of the team and the community, we are better equipped to scale as a company.
Hardly anybody likes when people pat themselves on the back, though. As far as I personally am concerned, I can’t take credit for the company culture and the success we have seen. I can, however, speak on behalf of the wonderful people that are also a part of this team and working to bring new industry and growth to our community. The more I get to know them individually, the more I am blown away by their willingness to serve. Where does your business or employer land on this spectrum of control and responsibility? If your business is community driven at its core, we’d love (insert shameless “Happy Valentine’s Day” plug) to develop a relationship with you.
My first job as a computer programmer was for a small software company. Our tech department consisted of only a handful of people. I functioned as developer, QA, tech support, and network administrator. When I left, we had three programmers. As the person with the most time in the organization, I had the title ‘Senior Developer’. At the time, it sounded great. However, it would be more than a decade before I would have another title suggesting my status as a more senior level engineer.
Likewise, everyone wants to be a Full Stack Engineer today. Sure, plenty of people can do all parts of a project – from the HTML frontend to the backend and the database. However, very few are actually experts at all of the above. Most Full Stack Engineers are really just jack-of-all-trade sorts who have not mastered any particular part of the process.
I see even more title inflation when I look at small business owners. Everyone is a Founder or CEO – yet few, if any, of them have employees or revenue to command such a lofty title. Or better yet, people claiming the title Director of some department or another yet having nobody underneath them. You’re only fooling yourself.
What have I learned from all this? Titles are meaningless. What really matters is what a person has accomplished. If you had to prove to someone that your title was appropriate, could you do so? On your resume, can you provide several bullet points to validate your title? If you cannot, you will be disappointed when the next organization you work for gives you a title inline with your actual skills.
When building anything, keep the end goal in mind. Too often, businesses fail to consider the importance of big picture thinking when starting a new project, especially regarding an intentional design process. In designating specific tasks or planning out projects, most would focus on immediate results. However, in looking at a company like Amazon, there is such an emphasis on long-term growth that their team is looking seven years out and planning accordingly.
Jeff Bezos is noted for saying that when people compliment him on current growth, he can’t help but be amused, because the next few quarters of sales were already determined for the most part by the planning and processes designed years ago. Similarly, in looking at the long-term nature of building out a sustainable income on a platform like YouTube, very few businesses want to hop on board, knowing that they would barely make any money initially. The same goes for other Social Media platforms, though I’d contend that a lack of understanding of how to leverage these platforms is a contributing factor as well.
Ironically, the type of work that pays out well in the short term doesn’t scale very well. In addressing goal-oriented design, one of the biggest upsides comes from knowing that the growth ceiling is often much higher despite taking a bit longer to see returns. We’ve all heard it said that slow and steady wins the race, yet too many times businesses take an overly aggressive approach to increasing company revenue. We can’t really blame them, but what we can do is make better choices for ourselves to change the narrative of how success is achieved in business.