You get this often when managing people. Somebody, often outside of your chain of command, comes to complain about your subordinate. “He’s stubborn.” “She’s doing this wrong.” “He exceeded his competencies.” and anything else you can think of. What do you do?
There are two natural reactions to this situation:
you go to talk to your subordinate, get her version, decide who’s opinion is correct and persuade the other side to comply.
(with time) you get both interested parties in a meeting, have them discuss the situation and either mediate to find a solution or come up with a Solomon-like compromise that should fit everyone.
Which one is right? Probably neither. The right thing to do is nothing.
When you do react in any of the above ways, you give others permission to shortcut resolving conflicts, by relying on command & control structures to force compliance. Consequently the people you manage will always feel as if you’re not on their side, but are instead giving in to external pressures and opinions. You lose their trust.
What you should do instead is to explain to the complaining party that your subordinate has good reasons to react the way he or she does, and both of you are working their best for the organization. Whoever is coming with complaints should continue to work directly with the other person in question until they reach understanding and a solution.
There are obviously cases of valid complaints, where your subordinate is guilty of misconduct. But 99% of the time you’re working with competent, committed people, who get into conflicts because both sides are devoted to doing a good job. They might simply have different ways of getting there, different definitions of what a “good job” means, or might be placed in an organizational system that naturally sets them against each other.
Once in place, your behavior creates a system and culture where everybody is responsible for keeping good relationships with others whom they cooperate with. It’s the equivalent of what Collin Powell named “mommy’s not here, son“, broadly present in the military.
I remember once watching a documentary on Navy Seals training. Whenever a team of them got into conflict they were ordered to walk rounds in the sand, carrying a long, heavy wooden log with a huge inscription “MOTIVATOR”, to understand that they must work together. None of them could carry the log alone.
There are no logs to carry in white collar companies, but there are just as many conflicts. And people need to learn to handle them as grown-ups. It’s a powerful lesson I learned from Tribal Leadership and still often fail to implement in my daily work.
Where’s the Save button? Scrolling up and down the settings page, finding none. The trend is nowadays to just skip those and save all changes automatically. Just like we don’t need the Stop button ever since the iPod came out. We just need Pause.
The trouble with this approach is trust. Most users do, and always will, approach any computer system with a slight discomfort. On the surface, there’s this colorful array of boxes and buttons, maybe with a few cute icons. But underneath, there’s this made-in-hell machinery, that operates on the verge of magic. Nobody knows how it works “under the hood”, besides the creators maybe. Least the users.
When I modify settings and click an explicit Save button, I assume my changes were saved. But what if there is no such button? And no message that says anything about saving? I feel this inner discomfort knowing that perhaps something just malfunctioned, the app probably saved my changes, but maybe it didn’t.
Think of software design as a conversation. One where the parties cannot see each other – like with walkie-talkies. The receiving party responds with a confirmation – “roger”, “over”, “settings saved”, “account created”.
The more operations your app performs automatically for the user, the more important it is to confirm outcomes, both correct and erroneous. This is how you build trust.
In the end I went for a self-hosted WordPress instance. It’s just the easiest way to go – actively maintained platform, huge community, really easy to set-up and I could both configure URLs as well as redirections where needed. My bottom line is: I just need a place to write and publish.
If you find anything broken, please be so kind and let me know. I might have missed it.
Later I will likely take some time to design my own theme – simple, minimalist, content first. For the moment enjoy the visually excellent design by SiteOrigin.
“Copying Windows files”, “Getting files ready for installation”, “Installing features” … and so on. Installing Windows 8 is an experience pretty much the same as it’s ever been, where too much information is presented to those who don’t care, and not nearly enough to those who do. On top of that I’m informed that “my computer will restart several times.” Lovely.
Computers used to be the domain of hackers – people, who wanted to push the limits of what’s possible and know all about the machines they were using. Then the PC came along (or the Mac, if you’re that kind of fan) and all sorts of people strolled into the computer world, not always willingly. Most software changed along the way, but the installation processes were mostly left out of the changes.
Every piece of software – as big as an operating system or as small as an instant messenger – should have two modes of installation:
What we’re getting instead is usually a mix of both. Noobs find the installation process too daunting, to the point where they’re just confused and keep clicking “Next”. Freaks find it mostly unsatisfying, distrustful about the installer doing something they would probably not approve of. Nobody’s happy.
Think of installing software as the “unpacking experience”, like Steve Jobs always emphasized it, and Apple continues to do. It’s the first experience a user may have with your application and you want it to be as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Do your users a favor and design your installation process, just like you design your application.