Thinking on Execution

I read a lot, one the most recent books is The 4 Disciplines of Execution which is, of course, about execution. The first few chapters are the most valuable, some really good thoughts on measuring execution, in particular about lagging and leading indicators. Lagging indicators measure what has happened – say product sales – and leading indicators are the things you do/measure that will impact your lagging indicators – sales calls for example.

That was a learning moment for me. It’s not easy to decide which of a lot of metrics you care most about when you’re building your dashboard/scorecard, and picking the right ones does matter. A lot. But that is half-baked if you can’t include the leading measure that will drive you to your big goals. Measure, heck, you have to know what that leading action is!

Here’s a practical example. Let’s say you want to increase attendance at your local SQLSaturday. You can measure registrations, get the daily report and see how you’re doing. But what are you doing today that you can measure today that will push your registrations up when you review the report tomorrow?

Execution is job one for executives. An executive who can’t get it done is soon gone. Hard to think why it isn’t that way all the way down the line, but it rarely is. But back to the executive and executing, too often it seems to me it becomes a situation where the only things that matters is executing.

I get that without execution there is no step two. No building that great company,supporting local and social causes,changing the world, and all the little things that make those happen. I just think that we don’t see them striving for more than step one.

Building a culture of execution isn’t hard. Get it done or be gone. Building a culture of execution that allows failure and rewards risk, that is something else again. Two different views of how the world should be – which one do you prefer?

Three Not SQL Blogs To Read

Here are three blogs I’ve been reading recently that are interesting. None about SQL, but you might find some value in them.

Let me know if you find one or more of them useful.

Invited to the PASS Summit Blogger Table

Earlier this week I RSVP’d to an invitation to sit again at the bloggers table at the Summit. It was nice to be asked, nice to be included. The “bloggers table” is usually at the back of the room for the keynotes, with a good line of sight and of course two nice things – power and a table. .

Thinking ahead, as always I hope for great keynotes. Keynotes are supposed to be great, or at least exciting. I’ve often felt that the keynotes were trying to convince us that SQL is great. I’m ok with better, stronger, faster, but we already like it. Speak to us, not the 4.25 analysts watching.

I’m also thinking to focus more on networking, as in blogging about networking that I do and see. Not sure what that looks like yet. How to convey the networking feel of the event without just describing my friend/acquaintances as I see them (repeatedly)?

I’ll go to the PASS Board meet and greet of course. It is interesting, though not that well attended. I wish more people attended, but it’s hard to find a good time to have it,and I’m pretty sure it would not make for a good keynote.

I’d like to do a lengthy interview with whoever the incoming President will be,explore their plans, get a real answer on the future of SQLRally in the US, and where they stand on transparency. Tough but fair questions. Will I get that interview? We’ll see! I’d like nothing more than to see a strong vision supported by a plan.

Got ideas for questions? Post them!

I’m also clear that interview aspirations and all, I’m a blogger and not a journalist. No training as the latter and not my focus. I’ll try to be balanced and unbiased, but I probably won’t totally achieve that – just asking about transparency is a bit of bias. Not bad, but there.

Being at the blogger table is fun. We’re a hugely diverse crowd and most of us know or know of each other, and I’m looking forward to being part of that unique group again this year. How do you get there? Write. Write about SQL, write about PASS. Building a following. It’s about numbers a little bit, but it’s about influence too. Do the people that read what you write vote? Attend the Summit? Dream of attending the Summit because of what you write? Everyone gets there in their own way and there is no one formula.

Misc Links for Aug 29,2012

  • Sword fighting. A friend sent me this, debunks the movie view we have of sword fighting. I can’t say I knew all of this, but if you’ve ever held a sword it’s not hard to realize that it’s going to be an ugly business, not quite the bloodless head lopping seen on the Highlander. Still, I do own a katana just in case I’m attacked by mutant turtles.
  • Free security tools from Microsoft. I haven’t tried them yet.
  • Send to Kindle for Chrome. Captures the page and sends to your Kindle. Not dumb, but I haven’t fully adopted it yet either. Do I want to use my Kindle for a reading queue? Or am I just saving things that I found valuable? Both?
  • Profiler event classes 65527,65528,65533,65534. Found this while helping a friend map some profiler events for alerting. Essentially trace admin events. Kudos to Simon Sabin for making it easy to find the answer.
  • Another game as science, Fold.It is about protein folding.

Say Seminar, Not Pre-Con for SQLSaturday

I read a note posted on the OPASS LinkedIn site today about our upcoming SQLSaturday and the two pre-cons by Stacia Misner and Kevin Kline. I say and think pre-cons, but does the new DBA? Their boss? Seminar, One Day Class, or something else, we need to call it something that resonates. Pre-con is in crowd language, not everyone is in.

Put on your marketing hats. Let’s find a phrase or name that helps the attendee and the decision maker instantly get what we’re providing.

Re-Using Phone Numbers at the Office

I’ve been with my current client for just over a year and I still get calls for the previous occupant from vendors, credit card companies, etc. I know that calling is how they figure out the person has moved on, but I get tired of the calls. It goes something like this:

Them: Is this Mr Blah?

Me: No, he is no longer at this number?

Them: Ok, thank you. Or, are you the new Whatever Person? Or, who should I talk to about blah?

Me: I have no idea, I’m just a contractor using the office.

Of course, I could send to voicemail, but I still have to listen to it later. Or I can let someone screen my calls, which I should do but don’t.

What I wish is that numbers were assigned to people. Person X leaves the company,someone in HR can put a message in saying that,and for key roles perhaps indicate the number of the assistant of the person who now has that role. Then in 24 or 36 months release the number for assignment. Why doesn’t this happen already? We’re still locked in that land line hard wired mentality.

Related to that, I don’t give anyone that I deal with personally the work number of a client or employer. They get my cell phone, because that goes to me, where ever I am – the number is me.

We Need Our Community Leaders to Share Their Views

My friend Jack Corbett returned to blogging recently and one of his comments was not wanting to be the guy that just complains about things he think PASS doesn’t do (or do well). It reminded me of a comment I saw on Twitter a while back, that the poster trusted the Board to do the right thing. Those two comments sparked me to write some stuff I’ve been thinking on for a while. [Note: I made minor edits after the original post.]

PASS is better than it was five years ago and that is due to a lot of factors, but I think the main one is the community it serves has started to take ownership of the organization that serves it. I think PASS can do a lot more, but it won’t happen without vision and discussion and argument, because arriving at a vision and executing on it is hard stuff.

I believe that serving on any Board is hard work. I respect anyone who will step up and participate. I believe that most who serve have good intentions. None of that means that they will make good decisions. Or that I’ll agree with the decisions even if they are good ones. In more cases than you might expect there is no right decision. There is no right answer to whether the Summit should always be in Seattle (I think it shouldn’t, but that is what I think).

We elect people to the Board that are willing to serve, but often without the life experience needed to do well – it’s on the job training at its hardest. Experienced or not, incumbent or not, the Board can be a very insular environment. I don’t want the Board to make every decision based on polling data, but I don’t want them to ignore member sentiment either. They need to hear calm,reasoned opposing view points. They may or may not change their mind,but they make the decision with a deeper understanding of the problem. The best learn to listen and explore without becoming defensive or offended, the other ones – let’s call them the ones not as ready – can’t take the criticism and ignore it, labeling those delivering it as the “noisy few”.

For what it’s worth, think about volunteering to do something, putting in a lot of hours, and then having someone publicly criticize you. You did your best, donated hours, and you get…criticism? Can make it hard to want to do it again.

I have been and continue to be part of that noisy few, but I don’t do it lightly. If I want PASS to grow and mature so it can do the things I care about, I have to participate, and so do you some of you. That means some days I’m going to criticize decisions by the Board. I hope to be balanced, to find time time to write about good things too, and to find time to provide ideas, but I only have so much time and if I can only find time to write about a few things, it will be the things that concern me the most.

I’m very aware that it’s all too easy to complain too much, too loudly, and become the village crank. It can be a fine line to walk. It’s not easy to think about risking your reputation to write about things that perhaps few care about. I’ll tell you this – if you take the time to participate and I think you’re crossing the line, I’ll email you. I hope you’ll do the same for me.

If we – that’s me, and you reading this – sit on the bench, then we deserve what we get, because it’s not fair or realistic to think that we’ll just elect three people each year and they’ll figure the rest out. No one is going to come by and give you a “Community Leader” pin and authorize you to have a voice – you have to decide you’re a leader and lead. That can be a tough step to take, but do you expect less from a leader? Lots of ways to serve without being on the Board.

That’s a lot for one post and a bit of a ramble, but I hope it will get you thinking about your role in our community.

Auto Tweets from SQLSaturday

I was chatting with PASS community pollinator Karla Landrum recently and she asked me my thoughts on the auto tweets that get posted when attendees, sponsors, and speakers sign up, especially with regard to privacy.

I implemented or drove the implementation of the auto tweets, trying as best I could to build some starting point for social media integration (and reminding you that I’m not the king of social media, far from it). I also wanted to help events with marketing. Marketing often gets short changed and anything we can build in that generates a little buzz is a plus for the event team. Agree or not, that’s what drove this to be implemented.

As far as privacy, I’m not a fan of complex privacy rules. I think if you’re willing to provide your Twitter information that is the on switch – you’re on Twitter and we should be able to interact with you there, in a mild, useful, and respectful way. Don’t want to be announced as attending? Don’t enter your Twitter handle! We just need to make sure that users are clear on that when they enter the information, not just having it tucked away on the privacy page.

I think there have been more wins than losses from this feature (and the same is true for the networking page). That doesn’t mean it’s perfect or can’t be improved,we just need a vision. Mine is keep it simple for attendees,make sure the privacy stuff is clear, and encourage them to join us in the social media world – and if I could add one thing today, it would be Foursquare check-in for sessions. Think about how that might change things.

Various Links-August 25, 2012

  • Great story about a client who didn’t under the different between Skype and Sharepoint – while doing a Sharepoint initiative! It’s a long post, but worth reading. Lack of shared understanding leads to a lot of misery and its often very hard to catch.
  • Election preparedness. I didn’t dig in to see if sponsored by one party or the other, but seems fairly interesting – we don’t have many states with a “good” rating, including my own Florida.
  • I don’t have a reason to use it, but RabbitMQ is an open source message broker (insert joke about fewer hops here?)
  • Have you though about how to survive and excel in a matrix organization? I work for a weak-matrix client right now and the soft skills make all the difference. I’ll go further and tell you that this environment is the best place to learn those soft skills, but it’s definitely a sink or swim experience