Flavor of the month

Sometimes, I don’t get how large companies work. Management mostly spends time managing appearances or taking it too seriously. By that I mean, making sure that whatever is the hip, cool, shiny thing that upper management is discussing, their team should be able to show that:

  • Their team understands it
  • Their team practices it already
  • Their team excels at it and even evangelizes it to others.

Let me take an example to illustrate this. Lets say, upper management is discussing “Using analytics for decision making” this week. Managers see a sudden urge to demonstrate incredible competence in this area. So.. they:

  • Show that they understand the decisions should be driven by data
  • Their team collects vasts amounts of data for analytics
  • Their team has been asking other support teams for data for quite some time and have been encouraging the use of data in sub-organizations and scrum teams.

Now, if the manager wants to keep up appearances, he will not trouble the team and use existing knowledge to demonstrate these points. And to me, that makes a good manager.

The other extreme is a manager who will push all this down to his team and start asking for data and analytics on the smallest of item to demonstrate that they are acting on data. This causes a fair amount of upheaval and disruption to the team and costs productivity losses.

There is little focus on what problem organization really wants to solve by adopting data driven decision making. For example:

  • Were bad decisions made when data was available?
  • Is their a desire to use data to make decisions in a certain area?
  • Is there a desire to use data to drive out lethargy?

Unfortunately… there is a new flavor every couple of months in large organizations.. so its upto good management to ensure teams stay on track.


Public Transit and Ants Marching

There is perhaps nothing sadder than sitting in a morning commuter in a foreign land seeing people trying to make it to work. It’s especially sad in Tokyo as most “salary men” and “office ladies” look tired and jaded. It reminds me of the Dave Mathews Band song called “Ants marching“. It has poignant lyrics. His metaphor compares the working class to ants in a line.

All the little ants are marching,
Red and black antennae waving,
They all do it the same,
They all do it the same way.

Even more impressive at the simply spoken but deep lyrics in this verse.

Goes to visit his mommy
She feeds him – well, his concerns, he forgets them
And remembers being small
Playing under the table and dreaming.

I guess its depressing for me because I think that maybe I’m the ant and I dont even know it. Maybe I’m living someone else’s dream.

The salary men and office ladys often sleep with each other. I mean, on trains, without even knowing it. Leaning on each other yet silently pulling away as they realize they are invading someone’s personal space. I think Japanese salary men and women have Ninja powers to sleep at will and in any position. It is hilarious to see some of them type feverishly into their cellphone and the be completely asleep 2 minutes later.

Mass transit in the summer in Berlin is also worth talking about. Non-Airconditioned trains in and around Berlin remind me how hard life must have been in East Germany. Young and carefree germans drinking on these trains and their mannerism seems no different than a young and loud American in Brooklyn. They can make you feel old. Older than you feel before seeing them.