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Tag: "leadership"

CEO for a Day

A Simple Decision Making Tool: What if I Were CEO for the Day?

CEO-for-a-DaySometimes I find myself thinking inside the box too much. I automatically enforce rules and behaviors based on what I believe an organization would do as opposed to what it actually could do in a situation. For example, it is easy to think that your company would never “buy in” to your idea and execute them. You may think that there is no time, no resources or no to a whole bunch of other things.

The truth is what a company does or does not do is usually up to people like you.  A good idea is hard to beat down. The difficulty is finding the mindset to help break out of our everyday self-imposed box. I have a technique I use called “What if I were the CEO”.


If you were “King for a Day”, you might not have to answer to others and face fewer challengers. This is not necessarily a helpful decision making perspective.   Unlike the King, the CEO has owners, internal staff and external staff to answer to on a daily basis and is always dealing with repercussions. However, the CEO can still help steer a company to start a new initiative and execute on the “right idea” at the “right time”. For a decision-making perspective, I like to look at something and ask, “If I were the CEO, how would I consider this problem? Could I direct some of the company’s resources to make it happen?”

I give you a mythical instance. Say you work at a custom software development company and your client (who has been a long-term partner) wants something done in less than a month. Although you think it should take six weeks, the client is coming to you with that expectation. Do you agree to the gig, try to find a way to solve the problem, and then tell them “Hey, it will actually be six weeks the way we have it planned — or we could do two weeks with half functionality.”

Or do you sit back and really try to make sure you are thinking about all of the opportunities. If you were the CEO, is this client worth more than the standard answer? Will this affect your reputation as a business? Can this be more than a vendor relationship? Is this really the business you are in and not something that got mangled in the sales process?

Now, you are truly looking at all of the options. What if you could shrink the schedule by adding more people even if it was on your own dime? (Mythical Man Month people get in that line over there, but some problems can be addressed with man power if you manage and architect correctly.) Can you do that with more people, different people, partnering with another firm, working in a completely new way to achieve the outcome? Do you contemplate redefining the engagement with the client as a true partner between businesses as opposed to a transaction? What would you learn? What options might this create?

Thinking along these lines has helped to remove my own mental obstacles. It generates creativity without irresponsibility. The goal is to come up with more than just the standard answers and then see if you can validate them with your client and your management. But what if you acted like you were CEO for today?  Could you make a difference?

Is This Obstacle Real? A 4-Step Process to Deal with Obstacles.

This is the second in a two-part series: “Obstacles”

Last week I introduced my approach to increasing a team’s RPM and predictability by identifying and removing obstacles.

Now, let’s go further and look at a four-step approach to help a team effectively deal with the obstacles they uncover.

As a member of a team, you probably see obstacles all the time. You complain and then ask for help. However, when you ask for help, you have to sell others on why this issue should be dealt with. You may very likely be told to “work around it”.

Air Cav infantry Soldiers compete in company challengeSo, once you identify an obstacle, first and foremost:

1. Get a clear consensus that this is truly an OBSTACLE.
Obstacles and issues are different things. Obstacles aren’t risks either. So what is an OBSTACLE? A detriment to success. Something that prevents you from being effective at delivering on a commitment.

Make OBSTACLE a reserved word. Use it only to identify key challenges that need management support in order to remove.

2. Next, clearly identify what the obstacle is.
Is it a procedure that unmistakably interrupts the team’s performance and rhythm? Is it a tool that requires you to do all sorts of work-arounds and forces you to spend eight out of every 40 hours working around it? Is there a person being disruptive because he/she isn’t working on the same problem as the rest of the team?

These are all issues and risks. What makes it uniquely an obstacle, is that you are “working around” these issues and risks and creating unpredictable results. These issues and risks shouldn’t be here. It is reasonable to ask your organization for help in eliminating them so you don’t spend any time on them.

3. Clearly identify what the difference would be if the obstacle is removed.
If the difference is “your day will be better”, you probably did NOT find an obstacle. But, if removing the obstacle allows you to deliver a proof-of-concept two weeks early, then this is tangible and of common value.

4. Finally, directly identify how to successfully eliminate the obstacle.
For example, if this means you no longer need to use the tool – and you can “write your own” – then be clear: We can delete the tool and I do it myself.

If you are the manager of a team that is identifying obstacles, then use the above four steps to clearly test: Is this a real obstacle? Are the benefits of removing the obstacle worth it? How do I support my team?

Let the team deliver for you.
Management’s role is to remove obstacles — not to micro-manage the team. If you don’t support your team in removing the obstacles that prevent it from delivering, you are setting your team up for inefficient and unpredictable results.

And that is exactly what this blog is about — sharing the different best practices and thought leadership around improving your team’s RPM, helping them become more efficient, and, eventually, more predictable.

I’m excited to participate in a blog devoted to my lifelong passion — making software development predictable. How do you identify, understand and remove obstacles? Do you have results to share? Add your comments below. I’ll be keeping an eye out and look forward to everyone’s contributions and the discussions that follow.

Dealing With Obstacles That Slow Down Team Performance

This is the first in a two-part series: “Obstacles”

Welcome IT Leaders and Teams. Getting Predictable is a blog devoted to helping leaders and teams jointly develop a no-surprise partnership. We do that with best practices that help us identify, understand and overcome the obstacles that prevent teams from being predictable. This is the first of a two-part introduction about the spirit and mission behind this blog.

3639604882_b2b2ef6fc6_mAre You Being Set Up?

Imagine the reaction if you told your CEO the reason your team was late and over budget on his project was because the team was “set up for failure” … that they didn’t have a reasonable chance of being successful.

In my career, I’ve experienced this dreaded feeling more than I care to admit. In fact, I’ve worked with teams that are continually frustrated because they truly, legitimately feel they are being set up for failure. We’ve all been there. Leadership frustration rises because their teams are always missing schedules or are over budget.  To them, the only thing consistent (or predictable) is the team’s lack of predictability and a steady stream of unwelcomed surprises.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard this question from my peers, direct reports and senior executives:  What (or who)  can we change to fix our team?

Get Set Up for Success

I’ve dedicated most of my career to answering this question … to finding ways to help teams get set up for success rather than failure and to achieve a “no surprise” approach to delivering business value.

The truth is, technology teams are very tired of being told they’re late, spending too much money, or missing the boat when it comes to getting the business want it really needs. When something outside of their control changes, they’re tired of fighting physics and trying to stuff 10lbs of work into a 5lb work-week.  You may have a highly talented team that feels like they are in a no-win situation. What a loss of talent!

Many of us have a passion to find these best practices.  Our drive in this area has yielded some very powerful best practices and rich peer-to-peer discussions that have been truly rewarding for me,  my network and my co-workers.  Now, it’s time these practices are shared and some new ones are learned. Along with other contributors, it’s time to engage in conversation as a technology community … hence, this blog. A blog  devoted to identifying and fixing  the obstacles that prevent our teams from producing their very best.

For starters, let’s paint a picture of obstacles.

Suppose you neglected to change the oil in your car. The oil will get thick and sludgy, right? It affects the performance of the car.  At one point, you determine the problem and you change the oil.

In other words,  you effectively remove the obstacle that is holding back the performance of the car. And by simply removing the obstacle, the entire car, and all its parts now hum at a higher RPM.

Identify the Obstacles

This is what we, as leaders, need to do with our teams. We need to identify obstacles. To do that, we need to listen carefully to the obstacles our teams are pointing out. Then, using best practices, we need to help remove the obstacles, ultimately raising the RPM of our teams.

In my next post, I’ll share a way for a team to identify and communicate obstacles. And I’ll share one way I’ve worked with leadership to remove these obstacles and improve overall team performance and success.

Until next week, I’ll leave you with this:


Let the team deliver for you.

One of Management’s most critical roles is to remove obstacles.  If you don’t support your team in removing the obstacles that prevent it from delivering, you are setting your team up for inefficient and unpredictable results.

What about you? Can you think of any obstacles you wish your leadership would remove from your personal day to day processes?