Et Tu, Brute? The Obsolescence of Power

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com August 2011.

Traditional sources of power are obsolete in the 21st century business world — or at least I hope they are. I came to this realization on a recent vacation, and it’s been nagging at me ever since. Every year I travel to Ashland, Oregon, for the annual Shakespeare Festival (which is a bit of a misnomer since it runs February through November). This year I saw Julius Caesar, with a twist that I really appreciated: Caesar was played by a woman, and the script was changed to use “she” and “her” to match. This play left me feeling emotionally unsettled for the next 24 hours, but it had nothing to do with Caesar’s gender bender. The intensity began before I even entered the theater. As I approached the entrance, a dozen huge banners featuring slain leaders from around the world hung from the lampposts and beat noisily in the wind. More banners adorned the theater lobby, and as I devoured the dates and details of each one, an icy feeling crept into my heart.Continue reading

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


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