Leadership Lessons from a Heart-wrenching Tragedy

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com April 2011.

Pardon me if I’m not my normally humorous self. I’m obsessing on disaster these days after the recent quake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant tragedies in Japan. While there have been plenty of tragedies in the past that could have consumed my emotional bandwidth (see the complete list on Wikipedia if you don’t already feel like self-medicating with tequila), this is much more personal. Just about every month for the last five years I’ve flown to Japan to work for a couple of weeks. From my home in the Silicon Valley, Japan seemed a long way off. Until now, that is.

On March 11 at 4:00 AM the iPhone on my bed table rang. It was my dad calling from my parents’ home in Florida. “Get up! Your friends are in trouble,” he said. I don’t know what he thought I could do about a natural disaster occurring over 5,000 miles away, but that’s my dad—no matter how dire the circumstances, he always thinks there’s something a person can do to make a positive difference.Continue reading

Avoiding Stone Age Practices in the Age of the Internet

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com January 2011.

Albert Einstein once said “There are two things that are infinite, the universe, and human stupidity — and I’m not sure about the universe.” Like most people, I usually write this off as an amusing, sarcastic quip he made on a bad day. I mean, it can’t possibly be taken literally, right? Then I wander across a news item or business situation that make me wonder if maybe he was on to something. In spite of common sense, again and again I encounter companies repeating tragically avoidable mistakes, hamstringing themselves with the same ludicrous errors their competitors (fortunately) are also making.

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

Although Steven McConnell clearly mapped out a step-by-step recipe for successful software product development projects over a decade ago in his Software Project Survival Guide, a surprising level of ignorance seems to prevail in some software development organizations. Here are a few real-world examples that I have encountered in the past year:Continue reading

Give Thanks If You’re Not Miserable at Work… Most People Are!

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com Nov. 2010.

This time of year in the US we celebrate something called “Thanksgiving.” According to Wikipedia, it’s one of the busiest travel times annually, and the night before Thanksgiving is one of the most crowded times for bars and pubs due to college students returning home for the holiday. Traditionally, it’s a time to be thankful for our good fortune . . . a time when sometimes-whiney, often-ungrateful cynics (like me) pause to reflect on what we’re grateful for in our lives. This year I sincerely hope it’s a break from moaning about the economy, condemning the evils of outsourcing, and endlessly ragging on one political party or another’s ineptness. After all, in the United States of America we continue consume 30% of the world’s resources and produce 30% of the world’s waste in spite of making up only 4% of the world’s population. And most of us shower in water clean enough to drink while nearly a billion people (1 in 9) around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. So when people ask me how I’m doing, I say something like, “Well, no one’s shooting at me, or blocking my access to YouTube, and the gas main under my home hasn’t blown up!” My life is truly blessed!Continue reading


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