March 13, 2013

“What if Michael Bay did our developer recruiting video?!”

The action-packed, explosive-laden trailer faded from the screen, and the developer next to me joked “That’s what our developer recruiting video should look like!”

It seemed like a great idea, so we brought it up with the filmmaking-types in the design department. “We need something awesome! Explosions! Police cars, ambulances!”

I guess they didn’t have the budget for all that. But I’m pretty happy with what they did come up with.

December 19, 2012

I want a camera built into my car

I want a camera built into my car. I want it right in front of the rear-view mirror, capturing the same wide view I’m seeing through the windshield.

I want it to record on a continuous loop. If I press the steering-wheel mounted trigger, I want it to store 10 seconds before and after that moment so that I can choose the perfect still, or capture something I just saw.

I want to offload images via WiFi or Bluetooth or the SD slots or USB ports new cars already have for music import.

Another obvious feature would be to store video immediately before an accident, though I imagine this kind of “black-box” recording (and the likelihood of it being subpoenaed in an accident or crime investigation) would be a concern to some people.

There appear to be plenty options as after-market accessories, but I don’t want wires and suction cups. I just want it built in and working ‘automagically.’

November 26, 2012

Nacho perfection

Nachos are the perfect food. Prepare them perfectly:

Line the tray. Scraping melted cheese off a dish or tray is no way to end an evening. Line your tray with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Thin chips. The heavy-gut-guilt of a bad tray of nachos comes from thick corn chips. Remember, we’re not here for the corn. It’s just a light, crunchy base for cheese.

2 year-old cheddar. Medium, sharp, or extra sharp? No. Buy cheddar graded 2 years, 3 years, or ‘weaponized.’

Pro-tip: Grate cheddar onto a paper towel or, better yet, pre-sliced wax paper. Easy to dump on the chips, easy to clean up.

Chili con limon. Or “chile lime seasoning.” This is the secret; shake it liberally over the cheese and chips.

Jalepenos. Lots of them.

Broil. Don’t let me hear that you are microwaving nachos…

 

October 22, 2012

Business is triage

Any idiot can run any project well.

Hire experienced professionals. Staff every project completely. Get the best tools. Use the highest quality materials. Have independent consultants and auditors verify everything. Take the time to do things right, and never settle for second-best.

If leadership is the art of delegation, then everyone can lead a product launch, a construction project, or a rocket launch.

All you need to succeed is a pile of clichés (“Never settle for second best,” “Quality is job one,” “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well,” etc.) and an even bigger pile of cash.

Fast Company had a great article years ago about software development for the Space Shuttle. There are some interesting and even useful lessons about the process that kept software errors to 1 in 420,000 lines of code.

The problem with applying these lessons to my business: at that point they’d been working on the code for 22 years and were still spending $35 million a year on maintaining it. I can’t afford government-level quality. (And I mean that in every way it can be interpreted…)

Business is triage. Resources are limited and competition is intense, and the never-ending job of a business leader is deciding what we can get along without and how good something has to be before we ship it.

Sometimes a well-meaning employee asks when we’re going to “get through this phase” — stop changing direction quickly, stop taking on big projects with small teams, stop shipping things as soon as they are market-viable, etc.

The answer is “never, I hope.” Because a business that isn’t in triage mode is a business on its way out of business.

 

October 12, 2012

Profit Is Why You Are in Business

Does your business have a noble mission? Mine does, too. But making a profit is what enables a business to accomplish its mission. Profit needs to be the first priority or you will not have a chance to pursue any others.

It is easy to fall into the trap of labeling things “strategic” as an excuse for unprofitable work. I know, I have done it.

Chapter 10 of Fire Someone Today is now online, and summarized in these slides:

October 3, 2012

The four-word employee handbook

Everything I want from myself and others at work (and in life!) can be summed up in four words:

Honor God. Love others.

When we started Logos Bible Software twenty years ago, I used a software program to generate a boilerplate “attorney approved” employee handbook. When employees asked “What’s our policy on…?” I might refer them to the handbook, since I couldn’t always remember what it said. But more often I would just approve their special request, or tell them to use their best judgment.

Then I took the Zappos tour, and read the Netflix culture slides. And I realized that we already employed awesome, smart people who trust each other. What did we need a butt-covering book of legalese for?

So that’s it: Honor God. Love others. Our new employee handbook in a nutshell, and the primary measure we weigh decisions against.

To complement the nutshell-handbook we developed a set of slides that expound on the theme, meet the letter of the law, introduce our corporate values, and explain the culture. We even decided on two actual rules: no smoking, and no open flames.

It can be scary to work with so few guidelines. Managers wonder if employees will abuse the un-tracked vacation time; employees wonder if they’re embracing too much or too little freedom. It requires trust and openness and conversation. But after 18 months it is working well.

Practical wisdom on growing your business that you can start using today.

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