Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

May 2006

Tech News14 May 2006 04:08 pm

A bit over a week ago, I had the privilege of attending this congress in Austin.  Security was very tight – APD on horseback, Harley, and on foot. It was an exciting event from Austin – attendees from over 84 countries meeting to discuss topic from economic development to trends in muni wi-fi.


It was however Paul Otellinis’ keynote that reached me perhaps the most.  He gave clear evidence that the digital divide is real and that it correlates with income level.  Over 1 billion people on earth make less than $1K per year.  4.7B make between 1K and 25K.  The remaining 800K make > $25K a year.  Accessibility to PC technology is pervasive at the top of this pyramid, and non existent at the bottom.  (Likely the authors of freakonmics could tear this apart).


Point is there are a few companies like intel that are investing Billions of dollars in working to bridge this divide.  It is a key mission of the team at Simdesk as well.  These initiatives aim at bringing access to technology, and therefore access to information and education to billions of people around the planet.  Through education comes opportunity and economic development.  This is certainly an exciting effort to be a part of.

 The larger question on my mind: could this really grow over time to bridge the strife between people all over the world?  Could the connectivity that the next generation of the internet will bring serve to bring us to a point of being one global civilization in 100 years?  I think back to Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, an amazing work of fiction in 1989 foretold the internet in a way that few can foresee even today – an existence where anyone can “jack in” wirelessly and access information on any topic.  With the advent now of muni wi-fi and wimax projects, the writings now are almost prophetic.

Leadership14 May 2006 03:15 pm

Driving to work this morning, I passed a lady in an SUV with her paperback and couldn’t help but wonder… Yes, you heard me, she was reading a paperback and driving. Not certain how well she was reading, but I can tell you her driving was impaired. This is not a rant about driving while doing stupid things, but rather some thoughts about how we decide what is important and what just isn’t.


One can only conclude this was a very important book to the lady in question. With the absolute deluge of information coming at us day-in, day-out, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Its astonishing in fact you are stopping to read this today in fact. It is easy for most leaders today to simply sit and answer email 10+ hours a day. Of course, this is productive in one limited sense: making and communicating decisions is a core part of what we do every day.


The essential question though, is how do we decide “What’s important”? This is the art of balancing the urgent vs. the important. It is terrifically easy to loose sight of the important in the face of the urgent. No more Covey-isms here, but it is so easy to say and yet so hard to do.

 In high-tech, I have seen myself and many others struggle with this. High pressure jobs put high demands on everyone. Still, a few things really help:

  • Start each day reviewing your priorities (don’t start with email right away).
  • Make sure that in those priorities, you have included something concrete for your children, wife, family, friends, etc.
  • Is someone on your team really struggling with something? What can you do to help?
  • What are your boss’ priorities? How can you best help him/her?
  • What one thing can you do today to avert a crisis next week or next month? Do it.
  • Schedule your personal time into your calendar well in advance and make sure people know they can consult your calendar for your availability
  • Expect more from the people you work with. Are they working as hard as you are? If not, why not?

And, as for the lady with the book, I’ll let you know the first time I see someone watching their video iPod driving down the road. It’s just a matter of time.

Leadership14 May 2006 03:13 pm

Ok, so I’m a little late for the US New Year, but made it in time for Chinese New Year! It’s natural at this time of year to think about changes we need to make in our organizations, teams, and lives. This is not a self-help column, so I leave the latter to Dr. Phil. Software execs rarely have time the think, much less put together a web page. Thankfully, my wife has enabled me to do both this morning…


So about Change…


Teams, especially software engineering teams tend to do tackle obstacles using methodologies that have proven successful previously. Clearly, at times, a proven approach is a valuable thing, but with the challenges of competition, changing technologies, and new marketplaces, we as software engineers need to continually be challenging the status quo.

 This is doubly challenging given the extraordinary efforts just to get things done in the first place using methods that have served us in the past. So, lets look at the reasons people resist change to better understand how to encourage change:

  • Time pressures – e.g. imminent delivery dates
  • Comfort with known approaches
  • Lack of leadership
  • Lack of expectation
  • Lack of trust
  • Organizational alignment
  • Fear

Driving innovation and change is paramount to survival in technology markets, so the above are some of the issues we need to address to lead our teams to success. We can go into each of the above in detail, but this is a blog, not a book, so lets focus instead on how to accomplish change. 

In Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki talks about making meaning in terms of one of the ideals that a start up should have. This is true in selling change to teams as well. People want their lives and work to have meaning. If you can show how the change adds meaning, this is a powerful tool.

 What we need to successfully accomplish significant change:

  • Persistence – an unrelenting force that will not abate until change is accomplished
  • Vision – a direction for the team to grasp, and believe in through difficult times of change
  • Communication – clearly outlining the reasons for change, removing blame from the discussion, and clearly explaining the desired positive outcomes
  • Catalysts – people who cause change to happen, through new ideas, through setting an example, or through just being a burr under the saddle. They cause the reaction to start.
  • Leadership – people to support the team change, giving time, resources, vision, and anything else required to accomplish the change.
Leadership14 May 2006 02:08 pm

Insights from The Big Moo….

Remarkable is…….

  • Remarkable is being unafraid to stand out
  • Remarkable is having a fire in your belly and an idea that won’t quit
  • Remarkable is telling the truth, always
  • Remarkable is knowing that a risky idea might fail, but a boring idea will definitely fail
  • Remarkable is failing often and then trying again
  • Remarkable is more doing and less planning. More testing and less waiting. More dreaming and less sleeping
  • Remarkable is when you stand for something and make it happen and change the world – or your business or your life – along the way
  • Remarkable isn’t up to you. Remarkable is in the eye of the customer. If your customer decides something you do is worth remarking on, then, by definition, it’s remarkable.