A Day in the Life

A day in my life. Thoughts on leadership, management, startups, technology, software, concurrent development, etc... Basically the stuff I think about from 10am to 6pm.


Grid Computing: Steps to a Gridified Enterprise

Let’s start with the basic assumption that you’ve heard of grid computing but you really don’t know much about it. No one is currently using it in your company but what little you do know indicates that there are some applications that would benefit. You’re at the beginning-when you have the most options and choices. So what are you going to do?

Step 1: Take an Inventory

How many machines do you currently have available? What OSs are they running? How many are often idle? Does your company have a policy about leaving machines on/off at night? What are all the applications currently being used in house? How many were built by you? How many are 3rd party apps? What is your budget? What type of training does your staff currently have? With this exercise you want to make sure that you understand your business, its resources and its objectives. Once you know what you have and what your needs are its time to do some research....

Step 2: Conduct Investigative Research

You have choices. There are both open source and commercial grid platforms available. Some grid platforms are Linux, some are Windows, some are heterogeneous, some are tied to one language (such as Java) and some are open to multiple languages. There are a variety of options. As you research companies make sure that you understand what you have. For example, if you are a Microsoft only company, then buying Linux servers and hiring a Linux IT person may not be cost effective. If a programming interface is in a language no one on staff knows...is that grid platform an option? During this step you want to eliminate companies that DO NOT meet your needs. When you are finished you should have a short list of companies that on the surface look promising. You have also been busy educating yourself about grid computing. Killing two birds with one stone. Now it’s time to look back inside your organization.

Step 3: Identify Grid Opportunities

Grid opportunities can be either application-based or process-based. Process-based applications can be batch jobs that could run in parallel or they could be file-based processing, such as EDI, which could be broken up and run in parallel. Application-based opportunities can be algorithms that are computationally intensive, such as risk analysis, or provide a service that can get bogged down, such as a web service, or are data processing intensive, such as data mining. In particular look for applications/processes that take a long time to run. When you finish this exercise you will have a list of in-house grid opportunities.

Step 4: Conduct Detailed Research

Because of Step 2 you know what your grid platform options are, because of Step 3 you know what your grid opportunities are; now it’s time to narrow down your target grid platform(s). Using your grid opportunity list identify which grid platforms can be used to grid-enable the process/application. Do not be surprised if you discover that one grid platform doesn’t meet all of your needs. This is not an uncommon problem. If you’re lucky you will get several platform candidates. This is the ideal case because then you have negotiation options.

Step 5: Choose a Proof-of-Concept Project

From your list of grid opportunities select a project that you feel confident you can succeed at, will save enough time and/or money to satisfy the decision maker, and will give you a good feel for the quality of the platform. Ideally the project should not take long.

Step 6: Decide on the Platform

Now engage the grid platform providers. Whether you make a purchase at this time or not depends on your conversation with the providers and how your company makes IT decisions. When talking with the providers make sure that they are the type of people you want to do business with. Are you going to get the support you need? Are the people helpful? Is the platform cost effective? You want to succeed at this project so make sure you stack the deck in your favor.

Step 7: Take a Picture

You’ll want to know what the value add is, so make sure you take measurements before you start the conversion. One of the great things about grid computing is that it can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete a process. (Depending on your project you may want to collect multiple datasets.) So take the relevant measurements before you begin.

Step 8: Grid-enable your Project

This step is project and platform specific. But here is where you’ll spend a little or a lot of time getting the selected project adapted to the grid. Track everything you learn because it will help in later projects. If the platform company has sold you consultants, you still need to know what they did and how they did it.

Step 9: Take another Picture

The project is done and it’s working! Now collect the new measurements, build your comparison charts, and calculate the cost savings and the productivity gains (there should be some, if not you picked the wrong project).

Step 10: Grow your Grid

Pick another application/process and grid-enable it, repeating steps 7 through 9 until you have grid-enabled all the identified opportunities. At this point you’ve learned a lot about grid computing and that knowledge coupled with your business knowledge may reveal some new internal and external opportunities. What information/processes are proprietary? Do I have anything that can use a utility grid service? Should I add another grid platform? Can I add any other resources to my grid? Can I use grid computing to create a business opportunity with a partner? Can grid computing create a product opportunity for us?



Musing: The Other People with My Name

Have you ever Googled yourself to see where you are listed and instead you get a bunch of hits about other people who have the same name as yourself? I think of myself as uniquely me but here are all these other women who share my name. Greenlee isn’t even that common a name. When I Google in Images I can see what some of these women look like. (I’m in the hockey photos.) The Internet has created this warping of my reality overlaid with others. And so I say...it’s just weird. I’m glad I don’t have a more common name. It would be even more disconcerting to be lost in that large a dataset. Swimming in a pool of others. Like me, but nothing like me. I think I need to go to bed..... :-)

Company Leadership: The Power and Risk of CEO Blogging

Katherine Heires just published a great article on blogging called "Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere?" As more corporate leaders start to blog, they will need to make sure that their content is accurate, timely, and well written. Why? Because blogging makes their thought processes visible-creating a window through which we can judge them. I wrote earlier about how it is important to create visibility within an organization. The CEO tends to be the person that we have the least visibility on. Sure they are more in the public eye but do they really know what they’re doing? Are they worth that big employment package they’re sitting on? As they write and react to comments, we get to see a little of the inner workings. This gives the average stockholder and employee an insight not currently available.

I have worked with some executives who just didn’t seem competent and I would have loved to read a blog by them to either prove or disprove my interpretation of their actions. (And inactions as the case may be.) I suspect that if leaders were expected to communicate to those they lead, we would have a different set of leaders in place. Perhaps CEO and executive blogging will provide a way for corporate America to get back to the basics of taking care of the customer.

I predict that some CEOs will hire ghost bloggers and that there will be a market for such folks. Just as today there is a market for speech writers. The thing about the Internet though is...they won’t get away with it for long.


Grid Computing: A Very Brief History

Technology is evolutionary in nature. Each new development is built on other technologies. Grid computing is no different. The evolution of networking technology, and Internet development and acceptance are the critical foundation pieces for grid computing. Using Hobbes’ Internet Timeline you can see how network technology has been developing over the last 50 years. The earliest reference I have found to “grid computing” is Multics (a UNIX ancestor) in 1965. But it wasn’t until 1996 that the Globus project was launched and the label “grid computing” coined.

Since then there have been some public projects (SETI@home is the one most people recognize), academic and research projects (here is list), a few commercial efforts (some are doing well and some have folded), and private efforts (Google is making oodles using search technology built on a private enterprise grid). Grid computing is definitely maturing and gaining acceptance. But there is a major difference between what the “official” definition of grid computing is versus the generally accepted definition. I will discuss that in a later post.


Grid on the March



Grid Computing: Data Mining Article

Ahhhh, finally...a technical article that discusses a grid computing application. You can find it in the December 2005 edition of Dr. Dobbs. “Building Grid-Enabled Data-Mining Applications”. I hate to see people building the grid infrastructure themselves but this is a great article and discusses an application developed by people in the trenches. Many of the companies taking advantage of grid computing see it as a competitive advantage and they don’t really want to talk about it. So seeing a practical technical article instead of a speculative article is a great sign that grid computing is becoming more mainstream.



Company Leadership: Who to Hire – Consultant, Contractor, Employee

I realized that in telling you how I think you should interview an employee differently than a consultant, I failed to tell you under what circumstances I would hire each.

I consider a consultant to be the white knight who is hired to save your ass. They are experts in something and if you need that something...you need it bad. A good consultant will ride in, fix your mess, and get out quick. They have the skills to quickly identify root problems, implement the required changes, and leave you ready to tackle the next big thing. All for a large and well deserved fee.

A contractor isn’t hired to be a hero, although she may be. She is hired to act as a temporary worker who you should interview as if she was being considered for full-time employment but with the understanding that you don’t have to keep her. Most consultants are actually contractors. I use contractors to flush out my teams when I need more people and I can’t afford or don’t want the long-term investment that comes with an employee. Contracting is also a way that many companies hire, this gives the company a relatively risk free way to evaluate candidates before establishing a more permanent relationship.

An employee is someone you want to keep. It actually surprises me that this is the employment preference for most workers and companies. I firmly believe that employee candidates should work as contractors for 3 months at which time both parties should sit down and reassess the situation. An employee is expensive. Between the taxes, health care, and extra perks, a company should make sure that the investment is sound. And from the contractor’s perspective it’s better to say that the contract ended than to say that the manager was incompetent. (This isn’t something you would want to share in an interview.)

Business is about money. If there is no money there is no business. But successful businesses are also about people. Both customers and workers. It is the manager and business owner who must make sure to balance those two forces to maximize the value of both.

Grid Computing: Reading, Reading, Reading....

In December I’m presenting at a Microsoft & Partners Technology SIG for eBig and as I prepare for the presentation I’m doing A LOT of reading. I ran across a really good overview of grid computing written by Dr. M. Mitchell Waldrop called “Grid Computing”. This report is also tucked inside a larger document called “The Future of Computing”. I’m trying to collect a timeline and figure out the matrix on where all the grid solutions live and what kinds of problems they are good for. If I ever get it finished I’ll post a copy. One thing for sure is that there are many definitions for grid computing.


Grid Computing: John Powers Interview

Last week some of the Digipede team went to the supercomputing conference SC|05 held in Seattle. While they were there John was interviewed by WindowsHPC.org here is the link: http://www.windowshpc.org.

John’s interview is a great place to get an idea about what Digipede is doing and the value-add a product like the Digipede Network can bring to an organization; quickly and with very little ramp up. Enjoy!


Company Leadership: The Software Developer Interview

I’ve done a lot of interviewing in my career and I have found that I interview employment candidates differently then consulting candidates. I use a different yardstick and so should you. When I hire a consultant I expect the consultant to be an expert in one or more areas that interest me. For example if I’m looking for a TCP/IP expert then the consulting candidate should be very familiar with TCP/IP. However, if I’m hiring an employee I am still looking for the TCP/IP knowledge but NOT EXCLUSIVELY. And that is my point. You hire a consultant to solve what is hopefully a targeted, short-term problem. You want the consultant to come in, do the job right, and leave for the least amount of money. An employee on the other hand is going to stick around, with a high probability that the person will be assigned to other tasks. So although the TCP/IP experience is important I also look for less tangible and harder to pin down traits.

I will ask an employee candidate to write some code. I’ve been asking for a strcpy() function for so long I’m still surprised by the number of people who can’t or won’t write one. I’m always amazed by the senior level software development candidate who refuses to write the strcpy(). Basically, the interview is over when that happens. Inflexible, arrogant, incompetent are words I’ve used. Fortunately for me and my team the candidate was kind enough to let me know early that he wasn’t the type of person I wanted to work with.

What I look for in an employee candidate is problem-solving skills, ability to learn, flexibility, curiosity, and the answer to the question, “can I work with this person”. I want smart, adaptable people around me who will help out the team when the unexpected happens, dig into the boring gnarly technical issue that no one else wants to look at, stand-up and fight for a design that he believes is best for the company. You can’t find out that kind of information by asking misstated puzzle questions that you don’t know the answer to, asking for exact syntax on some esoteric Oracle SQL call when the candidate has only worked in SQL Server, or by talking tech in areas you don’t understand.

I’ve been surprised by the number of bad interviews I have had over the last few years. I’m not sure if it’s Silicon Valley or the times. But interviewing employee candidates as if they are consultants is VERY short-term thinking. If you want a consultant, post for one and be done with it. Don’t waste a good candidate’s or your company’s time because you don’t know what you want.


Grid Computing: Adoption Realities

If you go to Google and search on “tipping point” “grid computing” and then read through some of the articles, you’ll see people say that grid computing has reached its tipping point. Checking the dates on those articles you can see that some folks have been saying this for a couple years. But it’s not true. If I still have to explain to people what grid computing is, then it hasn’t reached a tipping point. I don’t think that it will for about four more years. A tipping point is reached when the need for a product or service has become a “must have”.

Business adoption of Grid computing as envisioned by Globus is going to take some time. Mostly because it requires a paradigm shift. The scientific and academic communities are built on the concept of collaboration. Sharing and exchange of ideas is part of the culture. This is not to say that there is no competition, but there is a level of expected sharing. The business community is quite a bit more cut throat. It’s a “dog eat dog world” so to say. Winning in business is measured by market share and profit. And winning happens because you have more of the right information then your competitors. The competitive nature of business will keep grid solutions in-house. And the cost of using the Globus toolkit will keep those types of grid solutions in large enterprises.

Adoption will follow the steps identified by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book “Crossing the Chasm”; Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards.

The Innovators are the Globus, academic, and scientific communities. The Early Adopters are the large companies currently using grid computing. These are enterprise companies with the money, resources and time needed to build grid solutions themselves (or hire the expensive consultants to build it for them). The Early Majority are now starting to come on board because they’ve seen the ROI that the Early Adopters have gained. And they are starting to realize that they can not compete if they don’t.

The Early Majority are looking for an inexpensive and risk free way to deploy grid computing within their organization. That is where companies providing packaged, out-of-the-box grid platforms can contribute. Like Digipede Technologies, these companies will provide homogeneous systems that are inexpensive to deploy and easy to use. This is a common trend in business. The companies first into a market are like the ice breaking ships that clear shipping lanes; they’re out there getting out the message. The smaller companies with more flexible approaches come in behind filling the voids. Bridging the chasm. And this is where the grid computing market is right now. We are looking across the chasm to all those Early Majority customers, each company hoping to win over the Early Majority because only they have the power to create a tipping point.



Company Leadership: What is Google Really?

As I’ve been researching grid technologies it came to my attention that Google uses grid technology to provide the really fast search response I’ve grown accustomed to. (See the paper: “Interpreting the Data: Parallel Analysis with Sawzall (Draft)”). This got me thinking a lot about Google. It occurred to me that Google’s use of grid technology isn’t the most interesting thing about them.

I use Google all day long. Many people do. The information we provide to Google by our search criteria, the times we search, the locations we search from, and what we write about; tell Google a lot about us and what is important to us. That is the power of Google. They know us. And everyday we help them know us better. I would love to have a look at the data they collect; the Internet use patterns, the social trends, the technologies trends, the MARKET trends! Have you been wondering why Google is pursuing some of the new markets? I have. I suspect that they have a well thought out plan based on an analysis of their collected market data. The question isn’t whether the data is accurate but whether the analysis is. Chances are good that it is but in life there are few guarantees.

Google makes a big chunk of money on the ability to understand the needs of its users. This is interesting because Google is a very technical company and few technical companies are good at the people thing. There is a lot to like and respect about Google and I wish them the best. I’ll dutifully continue to tell them about myself as long as they dutifully continue to take care of me.


Connections: Linking Up!

I’ve been a member of Ryze.com for a while now and I just joined LinkedIn.com. If you are a member and want to link at either site send me an email! If you have other social networking sites that you like make a comment and let me know about them.


Community: Who Better to Blog?

Today I saw the article “Senior Citizen Bloggers Defy Stereotypes” and I thought it was interesting. But then I started reading some of the blog links and I started thinking. Who better to blog? It’s not surprising that our older generations are computer savvy. They’ve lived through a tremendous amount of change already. The computer, being the great tool that it is, is no great stretch. Its not like they’re being asked to pilot a jet plane and I’m pretty sure that some of them could pull that off. When my grandfather was losing his eyesight to macular degeneration it was his computer that he turned to to keep his world alive. He played games and surfed the Internet. I’m sure that if blogging had been available then he would have blogged.

My family is different from most people I know because my family is mostly old people. I say you’re old if you’re older then my Mom. There weren’t many cousins for me to play with. For whatever reason most of my childhood was spent with adults. And I’m talking adults my grandparents’ age. What I learned from them is that they’re people just like me whose bodies are a bit more worn, they’ve got a whole lot more experience then I do, they have very interesting ideas, stories, and insights, they can be fun and they can be jerks. When we act surprised that the generations over 40 are blogging we forget that they know far more about technology change then us younger folk do.

My favorite blog sites are the ones where I learn something. Whether it’s information to help me in my life or just something that makes me think. What better place to stretch then the blogs whose writers write from experience.


Announcement: Developers Webinar

Mark your calendar and signup early, Dan is giving a Webinar on 11/17/05 at 10 AM PST!

Developing Distributed Applications with the Digipede Network
Digipede Technologies invites you to a complimentary webinar, describing the Digipede Framework Software Development Kit (SDK). This SDK enables you to build distributed applications for the Digipede Network – the leading grid computing software on the Microsoft Windows platform.

The webinar lasts 45 minutes and is scheduled for Thursday, November 17, 2005 at 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time.

See how easy it can be to grid-enable your own applications with just a few lines of code. The Digipede Framework SDK includes the API for the Digipede Network, as well as examples with sample code to enable developers to being productive work with the Digipede Network in under an hour. This Webinar will introduce key concepts such as splitting computing jobs up into tasks, building master applications and distributed applications, and passing objects from master to distributed applications.

Dan Ciruli, our Product Manager, and Nathan Trueblood, our VP of Client Services, will show you how the Digipede Framework SDK can be used to build “supercomputing spreadsheets,” using Excel as a front end, or to develop truly scalable Web applications. You'll learn how your organization can enjoy the benefits of grid computing without expensive consultants, and without the needless complexity introduced by other solutions.

Visit http://www.digipede.net/products/webinar.html today to sign up for this event.



Event: Microsoft - Rock the Launch

I attended Microsoft’s Rock the Launch event Monday in San Francisco. Besides having a great time I had a few moments of “this is really cool!’ I’m excited about how powerful all the new tools look while at the same time I’m a little intimidated. It all looks really great, but all the changes represent yet another development shift with more stuff to learn. On the plus side we can use a lot of our current knowledge base but...it’s going to take another time investment. I think though that this time there will be some really nice productivity gains so that the invested time will actually see a quick return. The first language I worked with out of college was MASM so you have to keep that in mind when I talk about development paradigm shifts. I’ve experienced a few.

Microsoft has really made some nice changes lately. I suspect that many of them are driven by the open source initiatives. I remember when the Borland C compiler was preferred to the Microsoft C compiler, back in the MSDOS days. The reason: Borland provided documentation. Documentation is pretty much taken for granted these days but back then it was really cool to get 10 books that explained all the APIs in detail. Sure made our jobs easier and we could get code out faster. What Microsoft is learning is that the easier they make it for people to use their products the more people will use them. Here are a couple of links to tutorials and learning aids on the Microsoft website that I have found very valuable:

Shows and Webcasts. These webcasts are recorded so there is no interaction but they are still great.
Visual Studio Developer Center. This area is a great example of using Virtual PC as training device. You get to play with Microsoft toys without having to buy or install them. Sweet.
Channel 9. If you don’t want to listen to the presentation, there is usually a transcript you can read.
MSDN Events & Webcasts. Live educational opportunities are listed here.

Of course there is a lot of other stuff out there. The Microsoft employee blogs are great, lots of articles, etc... So as to not make this a Microsoft love fest, I do want to state one thing I hate about the MSDN site...searching sucks. Most of the time when I’m searching for something I want to see a description of a function or method. For some reason I always give MSDN search a try but invariably I can’t find what I need and I go to Google search, which not only finds what I need but finds it on the MSDN site. Bill?

I’m very excited about Microsoft Express editions of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 because they are free. This makes Microsoft development accessible to people who want to try the products before they buy but more importantly, students can now afford to use those tools. This is a great way to grow the Microsoft development community and to create a presence at the university and high-school levels.

I saw some demos that I’m really excited about.

Fujitsu has a really wonderful server. Someone who came by our booth talked about how Fujitsu got the cooling idea right. They put all the hot stuff on top and the cool stuff on bottom. So I went over and asked for a look see and it was a very clean engineering design. The power supplies are on top and as you move down through box the devices did move from hottest to coolest with a good venting system. I’m not a hardware person, but it did sound reasonable to me. And for me this was the coolest thing (after the Digipede stuff!) I saw there. Unfortunately for Fujitsu I don’t buy hardware that big nor am I in a position to recommend it. But I can blog about it!

• In Coding 4 Fun area there was some robot demonstrations which I thought were fun. I talked to the owner of Phidgets USA.com. He showed me a demo of a robotic arm that his company sells. I think robots are one of the next big things. He was controlling the arm by a Windows application that was using DirectInput to send the signals to an input device connected to a USB port.

• I also enjoyed talking to the Windows Mobile Developer guy and he was very helpful. I learned that the version of IE that runs on the mobile devices is not the most recent and may be as old as version 4. So if I do any work there I’ll have to test very carefully! I also learned that soon emulators will be available for download so that they are separate from the development environment. This will allow folks to demo the devices without requiring a complete Visual Studio install.

At the Digipede booth we had a great location, (thanks Microsoft!) and got a good amount of traffic. I met Oliver Nguyen the President of the Bay .NET User Group. Meeting him was on my list of things to do and it was nice to see him moving at a little slower pace! The first time I saw Oliver he popped into the Microsoft ASP.NET Oakland Event and then flew out again quickly. This time he had time for some conversation. I also met some people who were very knowledgeable about grid computing which was great and I spent some time explaining the value of grid computing to many others. This was great for me because it gave me a chance to work on my presentation and it was A LOT of fun. I love talking to people and finding out what they are working on!

The last few days have been busy but fun, which is the best kind of busy to be.


Event: supperhappydevhouse

This weekend I attended the Super Happy Dev House event. This was the first time in my entire development career that I had seen anything like it. There was one company I worked for a very long time ago where we would all gather in one room, drink beer, and write code. (After business hours of course) This event brought back those happy memories of hanging out with friends and coding. That alone would have been enough to make the event interesting but one other thing that happened there were the presentations. I really enjoyed those. People got 10 minutes to show something really cool they or their company has been working on. It’s always fun to find out not only what others are doing but to also get a feel for what other people think is important.

Products that looked interesting to me were Zimbra and Meebo. Both of the products looked well thought out and they are filling a need. Zimbra is open source but without a services arm I don’t have a good feel for how they’re going to make money. They do have VC backing so maybe there is something there. Meebo on the other hand has an interesting opportunity. I don’t see how they can be huge, but they are filling the need for an instant message system that exists only on the Internet. There are a lot of people who can’t install software onto the machines they use and Meebo gives them the chance to have IM access. This is a service that I think people would be willing to pay for and they could probably sell this as a subscription.

I didn’t stay for all the presentations because they were done outside and it was cold. So I missed the AjaxWar demo and everything after it. Thanks to the folks who hosted this.



Company Leadership: Creating Visibility

I was watching the Pittsburg Penguins vs. Florida Panthers game on Oct. 25th; the Penguins have a young player named Sidney Crosby. He is amazing. He’s 18 years old and he plays with no fear and an incredible amount of passion. And he’s good....really good. During that game he drew 6 penalties. (Which, for you non-hockey folks, is a good thing.) He didn’t score but it wasn’t for lack of effort, in fact it was his scoring attempts which drew the penalties. Athletes, actors, and political figures all live in a bubble. The public can legally scrutinize their performances and the details of their lives. We have open analytical and emotional discussions about every nuance. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could watch a fresh young engineer and determine, after just a few minutes, whether he is the software development equivalent of a Sidney Crosby? I would sure like to know. Not only would I like to know about my subordinates and peers but I would like to have complete visibility through the entire organization. Engineers don’t like politics. We like to think that a company bases promotions, raises, and bonus’ on personal contributions, on the quality of our work. Basically...that the companies we work for are meritocracies. That the best man or woman for a job is in that job. But...that’s not how it works. It is the rare company that creates an environment of visibility, the rare company that runs as a true meritocracy. I hope they are out there, but I’ve never worked for one. I’ve worked at plenty though that wanted me to think they were.

As a coach I spend a lot of time watching my players. What they think they need to work on to improve is often not what I think they need. This is the common problem of not being able to truly see ourselves. It is pretty common for skaters to think they are actually better then they are, which is easy for me to solve. I tell them to get someone to video tape a game. I have yet to have one come back to me and tell me that they didn’t have some thing (often a whole lot of some things) to work on. The video tape creates visibility and realigns our perceived skill levels with our actual levels, exposing us to reality.

Creating visibility within an organization requires directed processes, especially for the knowledge worker whose best work is not inherently visible and whose quality can only be judged by his peers. If your staff was made up of ditch diggers then anyone could judge the quality of the ditch and be pretty close. But that isn’t going to happen with knowledge workers. Peer reviews are a good thing and management needs to support this process by making time for it, clearly defining the process’ goals and objectives, acting on recommendations, and rewarding desired behaviors. Management has to treat it as important for the staff to treat it as important. The executive staff must also implement 360 degree reviews. Yep, bosses should be reviewed by their subordinates, not just by their bosses. Without this visibility upper management has no idea the real quality of the middle management. You certainly don’t want a middle manager who makes all his deadlines but only because his staff is being beaten into submission. (Well...maybe some of you would...I wouldn’t.) Or you have a manager you really like but whose department is hemorrhaging people like crazy...you need to talk to the staff to find out what’s going on. (Training and hiring is expensive, retention is better!)

It’s management’s responsibility to identify the stars, the utility players, the plodders, and the slackers. Each will need to be mentored and managed differently. But to accomplish this there has to be some methodology for creating visibility in a way that is productive and not destructive. This is one of the many challenges of real leadership.