Friday, October 17, 2008

My First Lightroom Project

I shot this in Shibuya (渋谷), Tokyo, back in 2007. I forgot to bring my tripod that night, and I was hand-holding my camera on a stone column in the street.I love the "impressionist" feel that was both the effect of people's movement as well as my handshake. It was not my original intention but it worked out pretty well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My First Dilbert Moment

I've been working in the computer industry for 13 years by now, and I've never had a Dilbert moment until a month ago.

I work for a large computer manufacturer. Every year, the company hands out surveys to all employees asking them whether they're happy, whether they're productive etc. etc. Our VP saw the results, and it was terrific this year compared with last year. However, there're still some negative sentiments in certain areas that showed no improvement. In other words, the same percentage of people are still answering some survey questions negatively compared to a year ago. Among them, "Group finds ways to improve productivity", "Process allows me to meet customer needs", "Senior management supports innovation", "I have the tools and resources to do my job well", "My accomplishments are recognized".

And here comes the Dilbert moment - our VP asked all non-managers to meet as a group and come up with concrete recommendations to improve those negative areas!!! I mean, isn't it management who's supposed to improve group producitivity, devise processes to allow me to meet customer needs, support innovation, give me enough resources to do my job well, and recognize my accomplishments? For God's sake, he's PAID to solve those problems and all of a sudden they've become our problems! Kicking the ball right back to our court is the ONLY THING he could think of!!!

The story isn't finished as it was heading into an interesting twist. We non-managers had a group meeting afterwards as directed by the VP. We had serious discussions regarding "Group finds ways to improve productivity". And here's what we came up with as recommendations to mangement:#1 Development regression tests should be made to run on our laptops so that we don't have 10, 20 people trying to overwhelm the test servers.#2 Development regression tests should be ported to SQL Server so that we can catch errors early on that platform before we check in our code.

Do any of you see the problem here? Not only did we tell management exactly how to do their job, we've created more work for ourselves, as opposed to give them more work to do!!!

In summary, here's how management works. First, its employees have a productivity issue. They let management aware of the problem. Management turns back and asks them to come up with a solution. Employees get together, figure out a solution among themselves, report back to management, and implement the plan!

So, why the hell do we need management?

(originally written on 10/02/2008)

Siebel's Mission Statement

Few companies in the software industry have a mission statement. Oracle, the 2nd largest software company in the world, doesn't have one. SAP, the largest ERP vendor, doesn't have one either. Siebel, who was later acquired by Oracle, was one of those few who actually put forth its own mission statement.

Siebel was founded in 1993. But it was not until 2000 when its mission statement was born. The story I've heard was that Tom Siebel, the company's founder, commissioned the PR department and the marketing department to come up with one. It's understandable why a company would want a mission statement. Done correctly, it promotes brand awareness and improves one's public image. Therefore, a mission statement must be simple, concise, and easy to remember. At the same time, it must be ambitious that it'll be valid over a long period of time because the last thing you want to do is to change your mission statement every year. Siebel's mission statement failed on all fronts.

This is Siebel's mission statement: "Be a leader in eBusiness application".

As a foreigner whose native language is not English, I may be the least qualified to say anything on the subject of English language. But there's only one word in that sentence that I understand - "leader". I couldn't find the word "eBusiness" in the dictionary. Nor did I find any fitting definition for the word "application". Going beyond English, and drawing on my 13 years of experience in the software industry, I still find it hard to define an "eBusiness application", let alone explaining it to ordinary people. Does email count as an "eBusiness application"? Well....sure, I send invoices via email to my customers every day. Does Excel count as an "eBusiness application"? Well....yes, I do my sales forecast over there. If you examine every piece of software, you'll probably find that every one of them has an "eBusiness" aspect to it. And since the word "application" is just a glorified term for computer program, all software can be considered as an "eBusiness application". So, here's a question for those MBA PR and marketing geniuses at Siebel, why don't you just say "Be a leader in software"? It's both more specific and easier to understand, especially for the general public. Are you guys so chicken that you're afraid to take on Microsoft directly?

Of course I know why they chose the term "eBusiness application". It's the buzzword at the time! Those people at Siebel sacraficed the basic principles of communication over what's fashionable for the season!!! I would not be surprised that if Siebel had survived, their mission statement of today would have been "Be a leader in Web 2.0 B2B peer-to-peer social networking internet search application". In my opinion, it reflects the inability for today's companies to communicate directly in easily understood terms.

In 1975, a man founded a company in Seattle in what would become one of the most successful businesses in the world. Its mission statement: "A computer on every desk". That, my friend, is a true mission statement.

(originally written 10/02/2008)