How Management has evolved

In the old days, it was just God and you.

There were rules, you make a mistake and you either die or get urself kicked out of the promised land with some curses thrown in.

Then came the lovey dovey stuff where you'll be forgiven, provided that you ask for it.

Then came the age of looking at the bright side, yes; you did something wrong, but at least you're good at other things, so let's celebrate what we've achieved.

Perhaps what's missing, is a prophet to go along with this, or maybe there's just too many prophets already. Folks who say "Don't sweat the small stuff", go work on your "StrengthFinder 2.0"...

Now I see the age of denial upon us.
The rules are unseen but felt...
The actions are unclear but expected...
The decisions are required but not obligatory...
And only one commandment sums it all:-

"Thou shall not bring tidings of ill for thou shall only bring gladness and resolution"

... and so here we are today, wearing invisible robes with peons singing songs of praise. Oh how wonderful it is to be the CEO today, for my consultant brings forth my wonderful new robe!

Tower of Truth vs Pyramid of Pain

The problem with dark management managed organizations is the want of truth when information propagates upward to the CEO.

“It’ll take 18 months, and at least 20 new recruits and there’s at least 3 major infrastructural projects that needs to move first to support this initiative” said the analyst

“My boys need 20 months and a further 10 recruits and we need some upgrades”, the team lead assessed, knowing that it’s going to be hard to get that many new hires anyway.

“The section will require 12 months to complete the job and more hires will be necessary”, line manager reports in the weekly update. It’s a ripe enough target to meet this year’s bonus, and 20 months is just way too long. Heck, the infrastructural issues is not his problem.

“We can do it in 9 months! And I’ll stake my reputation on it“, the departmental manager held his head high, believing that there’s nothing like a stretched target to inject some ‘creative tension’. And when challenged by the General Manager about the extra weight it’ll put on the existing corporate platform, he nonchalantly claims that the existing upgrades is only 8 months old, so it’ll hold.

“The project seems simple enough, I think the team can complete it in 6 months, and we may even be able to run the project concurrently with the other core projects”, finally as the General manager wraps up the quarterly report to the CEO.

“One more thing, we’ll split the department into two due to the concurrent running projects”, and before the GM could conclude, the CEO butts in.

“From today onwards, they’ll be a freeze in recruitment, we’re too bottom heavy, I’ve just got a report from the consultants that companies our size runs with 30% less people”.


From analysis inception to the final board report, probably 3-6 months would have passed; that’s if you’re lucky. But “management” needs to meet a magical dateline that’s pegged to yearly bonuses or some other arbitrary political interest like owing his buddy the vendor quarterly targets from the server acquisition that the project will incur.
So all this shit storm comes crashing down on the grunt; management yells go go go, and the whirlwind of excitement actually makes the CEO feel good.

“Yeah, I run an awesome performing company!”

So what’s this Tower of Truth? Well; that’s assuming that such organization actually exists and that there’s no lost in information as it flows. Gradually, the CEO gets smart after several failures and turns the flow into the “Trapezoid of Tyranny” through micromanagement.

The Gap

Geoffrey more calls it “Crossing the Chasm” when discussing the elements required for new innovation to bridge the gap between tech-heads and conservative stalwart consumers. Within Management, I’ve noticed this “gap” that exists between top management and line managers as illustrated below.

So what interests me is the stark difference in behaviour, particularly how positive they can be. So the excuses provided by dark managers are that, top management; in lieu of their sky high salary and perks as well as lack of grounding and distanced from the stresses of the middle management can afford to be “virile” and “visionary” in all its pomp and glory.

However, this notion can be challenged as the layer down, the line managers, exhibit all the passion and desire to do the right thing. So it begets the question, what happened?

Do line managers go through some sort of metamorphosis as they age?

What kind of dribble have they consumed to chrysalis themselves with their own sputum and emerge as a Dark Manager?

Try it out and look around, most large companies will have this ‘gap’; it’s scary when you can see it.

Turning Guessing into an Art Form

Just when I though I've seen it all, here comes another organization with its variant of Dark Managers.

Now, where I come from, when there's doubt, you remove it through inquiry, enquiring and face to face meeting with facts on the table. On the other hand, you have the "maybes, perhaps, could've would've assumptions" answer to any uncertainty. Used by a dark manager, it really means avoiding ever leaving your cozy seat to find out WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG!!!

Apologies, I fluster.

But seriously, here's what I experience on a daily basis dealing with the budget for one of the largest banks in South East Asia.

Mgr A: How come CAPEX from IT differs from CAPEX in business?
Me: Would somebody just go to the business and find out why?
Mgr B: Maybe they've included head counts in it?
Me: Would somebody just go to the business and find out why?
Mgr C: No wait; maybe they turned their CAPEX / OPEX formula around?
Mgr B: Cannot be... that's too dumb
Me: Not any dumber than a bunch of clowns "guessing" what's wrong with the numbers.
Mgr D: I know! It's because they didn't include software licenses..
Mgr A and B and C: Ahhh.. that's it.. that's it. Let's move on.
Me: Huh...? You mean that's it!? nobody even bothers to go through the numbers and cross reference it with someone from business?

As far as South East Asia is concerned, I am pretty sure that the Japanese concept of "Genchi Genbutsu" is as alien as physically getting your asses up from your desk other than going to the loo or for lunch.

Quotations on Teamwork

"Teamwork is knowing your responsibilities so that you can help one another"

"Teamwork is knowing your responsibilities so that you know who to pass the bucket to"
- Dark Manager

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results"
- Andrew Carnegie

"Teamwork is the ability to work separately toward a common lie. The ability to misdirect individual accomplishments toward your own objectives. It is the fuel that allows dark managers to attain the perception of uncommon results from common effort"
- Dark Manager

"The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses."
- Napolean Hill

"Why does he even want the job?"
- Dark Manager

Why Dark Manager's Shouldn't mess with a Geek

Hacker Disables More Than 100 Cars Remotely

towtruckMore than 100 drivers in Austin, Texas found their cars disabled or the horns honking out of control, after an intruder ran amok in a web-based vehicle-immobilization system normally used to get the attention of consumers delinquent in their auto payments.

Police with Austin’s High Tech Crime Unit on Wednesday arrested 20-year-old Omar Ramos-Lopez, a former Texas Auto Center employee who was laid off last month, and allegedly sought revenge by bricking the cars sold from the dealership’s four Austin-area lots.

For the rest of the news: here

The Architecture of Fear

I got this from a blog called "time for a pause" and the notion of an "Architecture of Fear" is just so quaint. But not to fret, the author also provides an "Architecture of Abundance" within the same article.

Check it out by clicking on the image

Will Lehmann cause E&Y's downfall...?

The last time an accounting firm was implicated with a major screw up it went belly up, remember Andersen which was swallowed up by E&Y. Now it seems that E&Y have their own dirty customers to deal with.

So who exactly can we trust these days?

Lehman file rocks Wall Street

By Francesco Guerrera and Henny Sender in New York and Patrick Jenkins in London

Published: March 12 2010 00:41 | Last updated: March 13 2010 00:21

The fallout from the report into the collapse of Lehman Brothers shook Wall Street and London on Friday as US officials grilled banks about off balance-sheet trades and questions were raised over the City’s role in the company’s attempts to cover up its problems.

The 2,200-page report by Anton Valukas, appointed by a US court to probe the reasons for Lehman’s failure in September 2008, paints a damning picture of the bank’s top management, including former chief executive Dick Fuld, three of its chief financial officers and auditors Ernst & Young.

Read the full news here

On Strategy

"Strategy without Tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat" - Sun Tzu

"Action without Glory is the hardest route to being sidelined. Glory without Action is best noiseless when you take credit for other people's work" - The Dark Manager

Hubris & the Carping Cycle

Kubler-Ross in the 1969 book, "On Death and Dying" introduced the concept of "Coping Cycle" when dealing with Grief. Indeed, management turns this model on its head where we could replace Grief with Hubris; and what i'd like to call the "Carping Cycle".

This is essentially what happens when failures happen during the Dark Manager's watch

Stage #1- Denial
The Dark Manager will start of ranting about how well it could have been done. Complaining about how the staff or contractor do not have the skills to manage the situation, and usually ends saying something like "this is a small issue" or "non-issue".

Stage #2- Anger
The situation gets escalated to Audit which now breaths down the manager's neck. He/She then vehemently shows proof that all procedures have been followed and a two bit fresh grad with 1 year experience has no place diving through his documents.

Stage #3- Bargaining
So Audit sends someone of higher seniority, and the issue gets escalated higher up. Which now the Manager justifies that he is after all protecting the company's good name. And that tight datelines need to be met and hence concessions were required . Approval is sought from the upper management for more time to close the gaps.

More often than not the Dark Manager will begin to ignore emails or play hide and seek with the Audit manager with excuses like "Oh, the VP just called me, I have to go..." and since there's at least 12 VPs in the organization, no one really knows who he's talking baout.

Stage #4- Depression
The project crumbles around him, staffs are resigning, and you see him either spending more time in the smoking room sulking or not seeing him at all. We term it as going AWOL but in his terminology - he's just too busy working with international customers that he needs to be on site. He/she begins to swear by Genchi Genbutsu.

Stage #5- Acceptance
Unfortunately, Acceptance never actually happens. The manager pushes ahead anyway and concocts a report that everything is under control with the project. And that it is NOT HIS JOB to fix environmental/situational problems. The often quoted comment is "My job is to deliver the project on time, everything else is irrelevant.

An extremely nifty approach should your organization be filled by other Dark Managers that are too lazy to "prepare" the necessary requirements for the project in the first place.

How to be a Crony by Reading between the Lines

There was this discussion about experiences that vendors go through when they're in the middle of a tender or price negotiations. For the record, I have either NOT encountered any such Dark Managers, or its an art that needs to be honed further.

Apparently, one needs to "infer", the hints thrown across the opposite end of the table and work behind the scenes in fulfilling those needs. For example:-

  1. I do not believe that my phone will work well with your solution.
    Emphasis on the work "my", as it really means; if you wanna be my buddy - by all means give me a new phone asap. Especially one that'll work with the solution.

    It's not necessarily a phone, but could be anything. For example, I do not think my firewall will be able to work with the solution. If the person is a straight shooter, it's probably true, but more often than not its a lazy manager that's been sitting on an upgrade to an old firewall that's 12 years old and about 200 patches behind.

  2. I'm sorry, my kids are screaming at me for an x-box and I need to go now...
    Perk your ears for any "domestic" complaints, it's actually a problem requiring a solution. In this over simplified scenario, it's an x-box. It could be anywhere from "my girlfriend wants to go to a concert and I can't seem to find the time" to "I think I twisted my back the other day..." which really means, I need a spa weekend massage. Happy ending or not depends on the person.

  3. How many customers have used your product?
    This yells SITE VISIT like a beacon, just jump right through it and get it done and over with. Book your tickets to Thailand, Singapore and South Africa (hint - world cup), Vegas etc. Never mind that the closest demo center is just a 15 minutes drive.

  4. Can you tell me the benefits of this system?
    Book a personal time later to explore what kind of "benefits" tickle the Dark Manager's fancy. Especially when you ask whether he/she requires more private time with the "team" to go through it in detail.

  5. How many users can this system support?
    The question above shows doubt, which requires "investments" in terms of a "proof-of-concept" machines. I.e. the operations team requires a loaner as they're facing an IT catastrophe. Oh, be warned though, the loaners tend to go missing or returned to you 2 years later.
Once you've fulfill most of the needs, the hints will be more obvious and by then you're pretty much a good friend. Feel free to add-on to the list...

Getting a Return on Judgment

Getting a Return on Judgment

The financial meltdown showed the limits of bureaucracy. Recovery depends on how well companies adopt the practices of personalization instead.

by Julian Birkinshaw and Huw Jenkins

The article above took the words out of my mouth, where bureaucracy creates moral and emotional detachment to actual outcome, elimination of personal accountability and situations such as "communally approving" hanky panky covered under the guise of governance.

Indeed personalization of accountability is key.


Dark Managers achieve control through various means:-

• Information Clamp Down.
Where possible, limit the amount of information leaving the project or the department. The only news that gets reported should only transpire between him and the CEO. It’s a simple principle really; most people gripe, and the amount of lies you put out means that these lies will eventually reach the CEO. So keep your team and your peers in the dark, more importantly if the project is high risk, short in time and lacking in resources.

Secondly, it also allows you to deny things, because CEO’s have so many things in their minds these days, they’ll potentially forget.

• Remember Nothing
It’s easy to remember nothing; you sign nothing, and approve nothing - That way, nothing bad ever happens. This is contrary to the belief that by telling the truth you will not need to remember your lies, in some ways correct but in many ways not actionable. Once you've told the truth, you need to back it up in the future, the knife cuts both ways.

• Make your lie other people’s promise
In short, you’ve over committed on behalf of the organization that overall performance of the system will be fantastic. Now, everyone in the value chain is forced to own up to the promise. The network team is screaming at you that you know better that the bandwidth can’t support it, the infrastructure team is also screaming because the servers won’t handle the load. But guess what, they'll be too afraid to mention to the CEO that no upgrades have been done for the last 5 years cause they've been too lazy to do anything other than order the vendors around.

• Bureaucracy
There’s nothing like a manual time sheet in a book with a strung pen even though the company has already automated it online. It forces your team to go up to your desk, sign in and you get to smirk at them or smile at the prettier ones.

What do you think? Are you confident about the progress of the project?

Perhaps this post would better serve appearing under "white lies/half truth to upper management", but it happens often enough in "Steering Committee" meetings that it's better addressed here.

A steering committee intends to "steer" a particular endeavour towards a roughly correct course or direction. Through the Management's wisdom, having had 5 years working experience (I exaggerate, but you get my point that corporate businesses are being run by folks wet around the ears cause they're related to the boss) their input is like manna from heaven.

So what happens when the "Chairperson" asks you "What do you think? Are you confident about the project?"

As a Dark Manager, there's only ONE answer, "YES SIR! Everything is going on schedule, no major issues".

Even though you know that:-
  • half the testing will not be completed because there's not enough time
  • the training manuals are 2 versions behind yet still being published anyway
  • 80% of the users will not be trained with the product
  • Arbitrarily, you decide to re-categorize Major, Moderate and Minor bugs
  • Half the team has resigned because they know that the system will go live with a ton of problems.
  • The illogical project schedule was dictated by the same "experienced" chairperson.
Why? Because based on the principles of Tai Chi - There's always someone else to blame or able to solve your problem.

Corruption = Dark Management?

Eigen observed that "Good Projects" often take years to fruition because of the number of studies and planning required. While "bad projects", those that are fueled by corruption are extremely quick and fast.

And he is SPOT ON!

What's even more amazing is his disclosure that for European companies, foreign bribery is allowed under their corporate governance practices!

Getting a Straight Answer

There are things in life that are certain, like all males have balls unless you’re a Dark Manager where they shrink to the size of ornaments.

Here’s how you can tell when you’re NOT getting a straight answer from a Dark Manager:-

a) I suppose... / I presume.../ I think...
That means that the manager is “guessing” or extrapolating from an assumption or logic. The person “may” be correct, but more often than not wrong. Dumb Dark Managers out number smart ones by 10:1.

b) I believe...
Nope, still not good enough. A belief is based upon “faith” which is as good as believing that there’s an invisible man in the sky that you talk to on a regular basis.

c) I trust...
That’s like saying, all spouses won’t philander, if you have to say that you ‘trust’ someone; it usually means that you don’t trust them enough. Did you ever notice that the moment you say that, you’ll immediately follow up with a phone call to confirm it?

d) It’s possible...
With enough time and money everything is possible. We don’t need another half baked project or situations that “suddenly” go out of hand through acts of God or factors beyond our control

An exact answer means just this.

a) YES or NO. Period.

Followed with...

b) We will or we shall by such and such date...
If this came from a dark manager, he’s a good one. Especially when the statement of commitment was stated loudly vs a whimper. E.g. We SHALL meet the date of 3rd week in May...

Patients with amygdala injury 'unafraid' to gamble

amygdala in the brain, artwork
The amygdala is associated with fear

Californian scientists think they may have discovered the part of the brain which makes people fear losing money.

The study, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at two patients who had damaged their amygdala, deep within the brain.

These patients were less worried about financial losses than the normal volunteers they were compared with.

The scientists say this could translate to how people make decisions in fields ranging from politics to game shows.

'Loss aversion' describes the avoidance of choices which can lead to losses, even when accompanied by equal or much larger gains. Click here for full story


On the Dark Management front, it now makes a lot of sense why managers make stupid callous decisions. Psychometric tests are highly recommended to include a section on gambling to separate wheat from the chaff!

How to Make Friends and Move Around Paperwork

A colleague made this observation that rules were created to manage exceptions that occurs only 5% of the time while crippling proven everyday processes. If we were to abide by each and every process; nothing would ever move.

So you almost always have to intervene, make friends with the approving authorities and talk it over a cup of coffee.

The gauntlet of procedures, processes, ISO standards and Audit tasks now controls the organization rather than work for it. Why should we even bother with processes then considering that it’s easily side stepped through “relationship”? Adding salt is the fact that through relationships, most of the heinous business crimes are committed; remember Enron and MCI-WorldCom anyone?

So maybe processes need to be replaced by cold heartless computers. No negotiations, just binary Yes or No.

The root cause however, does not lie in the paperwork, but the people running it. Dark Managers being evil, sadistic creatures take root and dig deeper than barnacles to entrench positions while edifying red tape to the stature of Holy Scripture with the CEO being God. I mean, think of it this way, scripture says; Thou Shall not Kill, but it’s OK to kill when God tells you so.

Seriously, why do we put up procedures due to listing requirements? Shouldn’t it happen by default? And why do we complain about it once we have the processes up online like it’s a disease that you inflict on yourself knowing that you don’t have a condom.

It a choice ladies and gents; rule like leaders, or have the rules rule you

The Business and IT Dichotomy

There’s a big difference between IT and Business. Technologists seek absolute certainty; while Businesses thrive on uncertainty.

A good case study would be Microsoft's launch of Windows 95. It may be the crappiest piece of OS at that time, but the businessman in Gates saw that since most software were rotten anyway, it’s ok to release one that’s crappy with style.

Advice for the IT Guy
It doesn’t matter what you think, at the end of the day; if the emperor feels that the invisible clothing looks good, it will be good. Any further negativity will label you a whiner.

Advice for the Business Guy
Once in a blue moon just humour the IT guy to a cup of coffee. You might just learn a thing or two, and thank God that you’ve outgrown being a geek.

Advice for the Dark Manager
If both the Business and IT give thumbs up, the project will be a glorious success. If either one of them says otherwise, make the person who says NO the key decision maker. At least you’ll be erring on the side of caution. However; if you’re the one that’s forced to say YES to some higher up, make sure you’re not cc’ed any emails, have them sign everything and practice your selective amnesia..

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

One thing that you gotta hand it to is Steve Jobs' presentation style, a lot have been talked about it and its now condensed in this simple book. Click on the link for business week's round up.

My Pet Questions during an Interview

a) Tell me about yourself.
The question opens up a huge can of worms which you can dig deep and explore further. Between, megalomania, shyness, a total lack of enthusiasm or someone with a temper problem.

b) Tell me about the biggest and hardest project that you've worked with
How detailed the person gets and the kind of topic he covers will let you know whether he's
  • A people person
    Talks about the stakeholders, the team, the challenges with the customers
  • A techie
    Jumps right into the how many components the solution has, but before he/she can move to the next component, you've already got a huge gobbledygook of why the 64bit processor driver couldn't work with the HBA drivers.
  • A faker
    Everything stops at level 1, you just can't prob him any deeper.
c) Tell me about the most difficult situation you've been in.
  • A liar or someone who just forgets easily
    "I've never been in any difficult situations". Potentially a good/dangerous sales person
  • Highly committed but sarcastically jaded and cynical
    May be a whiner, or someone that will put in a lot of effort. Be wary of whiners as they tend to give 1001 excuses why something can't be done.
d) Tell me about how you solved it
  • A quiter
    The problem was never solved, but he's resigned, or decided that it's too dangerous to proceed
  • A good guy
    Probably doesn't exist, unless the company went bust.

Bjarke Ingels: 3 warp-speed architecture tales

There's very rarely presentations that makes me go WOW! Bjarke talks about how architecture rocks!

EDS loses lawsuit to BSkyB - 709m pounds!

BSkyB's lawsuit against EDS may just be the wake up call that IT Outsources need, or rather IT management in general. Here's some tips before pushing any IT Outsourcing deals.
  1. Hire a realist.
    IT Sales person should stick to selling commodity IT equipments. A realist can tell you at least 10 things that can go wrong with the project and how to get it to work.
  2. Hire a realist that has a solution
    Some realists happen to be perfectionists that requires the gates of Valhalla to be opened before a project can proceed. There are workarounds and sensible percautions without having to pave the road with gold to get to your goal.
  3. Never have a Sales Director lead the brokering
    Sales Directors pretty much get to where they are after achieving a deal that's so big, they can't possibly fathom ever eclypsing it; end result. They quit the job 3 months later, having padded their resume with the results.

The thing about gargantuam deals is that, no sane company would sign on to it unless "sweeteners" are put in place. Secondly, those come in many forms and apply to many entities, like the people making the decisions or perks to the organization.

In short, if you don't know what you're getting yourself into. Better just shut up, and let the IT Realist do the talking. Some deals are just not worth the bullshit.

Actual news from ComputerWorldUK here.


“I swear by Babbage, the innovator, Jobs, Gates, Dell and Grove, and I take to witness all the CEOs , to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art. Too gay- omitted.

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my customers according to my ability and my judgment and never to overcharge anyone.

I will not give lethal consultations to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give the CFO an alibi to cause fraud.

But I will preserve the transparency of my life and my work in linkedin and audit entries.

I will not propose half bake IT solutions, even for customers in whom the business requirement is manifest;

I will leave this operation to be performed by the actual technology architects, specialists in this field.

In every company where I come I will enter only for the good of my customers, keeping myself far from all ignorance based ill-doing and all fiduciary seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with the boss’ staff, be they interns or executives.

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and honour in nondisclosure agreements and beer sessions.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my job, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the fate of Enron and Skilling be my lot.”