The Rule of the Lazy Class

Approach.Botonomy.com has an interesting article on Why the Puritan Work Ethic has No Place in IT.

The article echoes many of my personal sentiments that your administrators and developers need to be encouraged to work smarter, not harder, even to the point of having “free time.”

… You want an environment where sysadmins kick back and read IT magazines occasionally, because their run-of-the-mill administrative tasks (adding users, managing disk space, etc.) are all scripted and/or automated. They can then focus their energies on the unexpected and unavoidable issues that crop up from time-to-time.

Beyond handling the unexpected, through having this “free time” administrators will have the ability to identify areas in need of improvement. If your administrators are running around fixing stuff all the time your team has a problem! Not only will morale, and therefore retention suffer but your administrators will have no time for evaluating new opportunities.

The best teams celebrate those who sit back and let their computers do their work for them. You want to have a project team that considers repetitive development activities to be tasteless. Sometimes necessary, but generally frowned upon.

Check out the full article and think a bit about what your team could be doing if they weren’t fighting fires all the time.

Of course this is exactly why I am writing a book on Oracle Shell Scripting due out next year.

project management, it management, information technology, database administration, system administration

Blogger Recreates Blog from Google Cache

GoogleAfter a catastrophic disk failure a long-time blogger was faced with complete data loss.

“I had the database backed up into a separate directory, but unfortunately it was on the same disk as the live one, so when that disk died I lost everything” the blog administrator sheepishly admitted. “I wasn’t sure what I could do. Professional data recovery is costly and not guaranteed, and the thought of starting again from scratch after having hundreds of stories was daunting. Then it struck me… Google has all my data!”

OK, so this never really happened, but why couldn’t it? Of course you’d have to manually copy and paste all your content, but if you were trying to recover from complete data loss on a public-facing web server you could conceivably recover all your text, with markup, from Google’s cache.

Go ahead and try it. Go to Google and search for your site. Right now the search “site:www.lifeaftercoffee.com” returns 376 results (or actually ‘376 Wesuwts’ since I changed my language to Elmer Fudd) and from those cached pages I was easily able to find most of my content.

Remember to backup often and to a secure location separate from where your server is, but if you’re ever trying to get a page or site back from the dead, Google may just save your bacon.

google, disaster recovery, blogs, internet, information technology

Management By Walking Around

I’m not sure when I was first introduced to the term “management by walking around” (or MBWA) but I experienced it in practice while working for Bob Bean at WebCT. It was hugely successful there and while appearing almost effortless, Bob managed to build a tight knit team out of a group of disparate IT workers.

The idea is in order to stay in touch with what the people who report directly to you simply walk around, talk to them, share with them, observe them, and don’t be critical. If you do this with all your employees on a regular basis, you will quickly identify where they are succeeding, where they are struggling, and where they need help.

As a natural byproduct of this technique a trust relationship builds up between employees and manager. The employees will feel like their manager knows what they’re doing and the manager will have a better rapport to address issues, both good and bad, with their employees.

While I could not find any clear origin for either the practice or the term of management by walking around, I did find some great information on it.

In this article from futurecents.com the author outlines 12 guidelines for MBWA:

  1. Do it to everyone.
    You may remain in such close contact with your direct reports that MBWA is redundant with them. The real power of the technique lies in the time you spend with those in lower levels of your area of responsibility. Get around to see those who work for your direct reports and any others whose work is important to you.
  2. Do it as often as you can.
    MBWA sends positive messages to employees. It reveals your interest in them and in their work, and it says you don’t consider yourself “too good” to spend time with them. MBWA also enables you to stay in touch with what is going on in your department, section or unit. Put aside at least thirty minutes a week to spend with all employees. Aim for once a quarter to see those you must travel long distances to visit.
  3. Go by yourself.
    MBWA is more meaningful when you visit with employees alone, and one-on-one. It encourages more honest dialogue and speaks loudly of your personal commitment to the idea.
  4. Don’t circumvent subordinate managers.
    Some employees may take advantage of your presence to complain about a supervisor who is your subordinate. Counsel them to discuss the issue fully with their supervisor first. If you have cause to question the supervisor’s judgement, don’t indicate so to the employee, but follow up privately with the supervisor.
  5. Ask questions.
    MBWA is a great opportunity to observe those “moments of truth” when your employees interact with your clients. Ask them to tell you a little bit about the files, projects or duties they are working on. Take care to sound inquisitive rather than intrusive.
  6. Watch and listen.
    Take in everything. Listen to the words and tone of employees as they speak to you and to each other. You’ll learn a lot about their motivation and their levels of satisfaction. In the words of Yogi Berra, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
  7. Share your dreams with them.
    As a Yukon Dog Team handler used to say, “The view only changes for the lead dog.” MBWA is a solid opportunity to make sure that when you lead the sled in a new direction, the employees behind you won’t trip over themselves trying to follow. Tell them about the organization’s vision for the future, and where your vision for the department / unit/ section fits in with the “big picture.” Reveal the goals and objectives that you want them to help you fulfill together as a team. Ask them for their vision, and hold an open discussion.
  8. Try out their work.
    Plop down in front of the computer; get behind the wheel; pick up the telephone; review a project file. Experience what they endure. Sample their job just enough to show your interest in it, and to understand how it goes. Think of great ways to reconnect with your front line workers, and gain a current understanding of exactly what they are dealing with during a typical work day.
  9. Bring good news.
    Walk around armed with information about recent successes or positive initiatives. Give them the good news. Increase their confidence and brighten their outlook. So often employees are fed only gloom and doom. Neutralize pessimism with your own optimism, without being non-credible.
  10. Have fun.
    This is a chance to lighten up, joke around, and show your softer side without being disrespectful or clowning around. Show employees that work should be fun and that you enjoy it too.
  11. Catch them in the act of doing something right.
    Look for victories rather than failures. When you find one, applaud it. When you run into one of the many unsung heroes in your job site, thank them on the spot, being careful not to embarrass them in front of peers or to leave out other deserving employees.
  12. Don’t be critical.
    When you witness a performance gone wrong, don’t criticize the performer. Correct on the spot anything that must be redone, but wait to speak to the wrongdoer’s supervisor to bring about corrective action.

I also turned up this testament to MBWA where a manager discusses his success with the technique.

If the twelve guidelines above seem overwhelming try these five:

  1. Visit everyone
  2. Stay positive
  3. Be genuine
  4. Make sure it’s not all business
  5. Don’t expect results right away


Carla Emmons, who manages a successful IT team of 9 had this to say about MBWA:

I believe in team collaboration through walking around […]. If the team doesn’t have unstructured time to shoot the shit, the team loses out on the brilliance that comes from random tangents, but it must be genuine. If someone is not humble when he or she takes the walk, the effort is just not going to work.

management, mbwa, management by walking around, it management, it, information technology, project management

IT Worker’s Oath

It’s hard to believe Mother Teresa didn’t have tech work in mind when she coined this wholly applicable quote.

We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

Thanks to Jon Graton for getting this stuck in my head quite a while ago.

it, information technology, quotes

Tom Kyte’s Rant

Tom Kyte, one of the (many) good guys in the Oracle blogging community posted quite a rant a couple weeks ago. In short, Tom was disappointed with the attitude of a user who asked a broad, newbie question and was then upset when Tom’s answer was more involved than “Take two of these and call me in the morning.”

Tom’s experience reminds me that there is a right way and a wrong way to use the information on this site (and others.)

The wrong way to use information on this site:

“There’s the code I need!” copy, paste “That’s done!”

Using any commands you don’t understand in a production system should scare you. If it doesn’t, just consider what good excuse you’re going to give your boss when a system fails due to some code you just got off the internet.

The right way to use information on this site:

“That looks like what I want to do, let me read more on that and try it in a test system.” or “What was the syntax for what I’m doing?”

The information here isn’t provided to solve your problems, it is provided for educational purposes. Education and reference. While that may sound like it’s intended to lower my liability when you blow up your production database, it is; but it is also my true intention.

I am the type of person who wants to know how everything works. That doesn’t mean I won’t grab some code, throw it in a test database, see what happens, and learn from that example, but it does mean that I won’t put my job on the line with someone elses information.

Seek knowledge, not information. It takes longer to acquire, but it is far more applicable and will get you much further.

technology, oracle, information technology