Solving The Unsolvable In 3 Steps

Legend tells us that Alexander the Great visited the city of Gordia, in asia minor, before he conquered most of the known world. The shrine in the city held an oxcart that was fastened to a pole using an intricate knot with no loose ends. It had been prophesied that the one who could solve this Gordian knot would become the king of the world. The Alexander solution to the problem of the Gordian knot has become a timeless metaphor for the solution of intractable problems. It was, according to himself, his greatest victory.


There are actually two different solutions to the Gordian knot with somewhat different implications. Aristobulus tells us that Alexander removed the pole from the oxcart and thereby exposed the loose end of the knot. This implies that sometimes, the way forwards is to look for a clever shortcuts that cut through all the difficult steps. The other account, the classical one, from Plutarch tells us that Alexander used his sword and cut the knot in two. This would invite us to look for an elegant out of the box solution, simple and resolute or perhaps even a brute force solution. The key to either of these solutions is to look at the problem from a new perspective or to redefine the goal.

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Don’t Kill The Deal By Pursuing “The Perfect Contract”

I am sure we have all experienced that one deal that was done on a handshake, and ultimately became the deal “from hell” that turned into a money pit. Perhaps it was as simple as a customer signing your proposal that might have the innocuous wording of “we strive to make our customers happy,” yet it turns into “scope creep” (because the customer never became happy) and you wind up spending more time, effort and resources than what you were paid (if you were paid at all). Many of us have also experienced a deal making process that included so many provisions for every possible scenario, that crafting the agreement became an obstacle to getting the deal done.

So, what do you do? Do you try to have a 30-page contract that contemplates every terrible scenario (and risk scaring off your customers with an over-reaching agreement) or do you leave out critical issues and risk that an agreement casually entered into will cost you more than it is worth? Sometimes, well thought out agreements of only a few pages can do the trick; addressing the critical needs of both parties and outlining a process for revision that works for all.

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Software Quality

There’s an old joke in the software business that states, “In the past 40 years, we’ve had two years of experience twenty times.”  Unfortunately, this joke has more truth to it than most of us would care to admit.  Many programmers are under the mistaken impression that the problems that they’re facing are new and haven’t been seen before and/or successfully solved.


None of this would be very important if the overall quality of the software we use was not horrible.  If software quality is measured by its reliability (doesn’t crash), being free of errors (bugs), and ease of use, we have been moving backwards.  This, coupled with the fact that software plays an ever increasing role in every aspect of our lives, means that we are depending more and more on things that are getting less and less workable.

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You’ve Got To Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em

What does a deck of cards have to tell us about leadership and teams?  I suggest that we look at the poker hand as an analogy for a team, and that we consider the suits and numbers as characteristic of human traits. I will go through the values of hands (team structures) in order and briefly discuss the characteristics of the individual suits and higher-ranking cards. And, if anyone does not know, a poker hand has 5 cards.
I will refer to two different types of alignment: an alignment of perspective (where one is standing) and an alignment of intention (what one is committed to).  I suggest that the number or value of the card represents perspective, and the suit represents what one is committed to. I’ll start with the four suits (commitments).

Busting a Performance-Killing Myth: “It doesn’t matter anyway”

Despite what your parents may have told you once upon a time to make you feel better, it is not the thought (alone) that counts- or your feelings, or “intentions” or anything else, but action itself. The only thing that really counts, the thing that really makes an impact in the world, is action. Your results are a direct function of your actions, and the state of what you have and don’t have is a result of what you’ve done and not done. It is simple and inescapable logic. Action matters.

In fact, it is the only thing that matters. The refrain of “it doesn’t matter anyway”, whether pertaining to a specific action or to life in general, is just not true- and yet seems to be a chronic and costly mistake in judgment. If you hear yourself say it, whether aloud or to yourself, know that you’re fooling yourself. And that pretense has far-reaching consequences.

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Busting a Performance-Killing Myth: “I’ll Do My Best”

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’.” -Yoda

In the world of performance, the world of action, the world of results, something either gets done or it doesn’t. When it all boils down, whether you “did your best” or not, no matter how hard you “tried”, even if you did everything you knew to do, you either did it or not.

The key here is the mindset- the approach you take in the first place, and the way you relate to your end results.

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Helping Others

In previous articles, I’ve mentioned the importance of helping others as a significant part of your networking efforts.  Many people have trouble with this and feel that the only way to help somebody is to provide them with a new client or prospect.  And, they are uncomfortable providing a referral to people they may not know that well.  

Here are some ideas to keep in mind for helping people you meet when you want to begin a new collaborative relationship.

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ALS On The Road: The People of India

I recently returned from a business trip to India and I am deeply moved by what I have seen of the people and what I see as the future of that nation.  I am also inspired to look at the America I know, and to offer my thoughts about what it is we have to learn from what is happening over there.  I am clear that at least once in American history, we were a nation much like they are now: proud to be who we are, anxious for the opportunity to learn more and to work harder and willing to do what it takes.  We were a nation where innovation was the rule and created new opportunities constantly.  

From the people I met in India I regained a connection to what it takes to become a great nation, a global leader. None of this is intended to exalt India or its people as if they have no problems, nor is it intended to put down the US, but to offer a critical look at the patterns of thought and behavior that have move people, organizations, nations forward and some that don’t.

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