Book Review: The Lazy Project Manager

“There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” Some attribute the axiom to Frank Lloyd Wright but others are adamant that he’s not the origin of it. Whoever said it had a somewhat elitist or cynical perspective about the general population.

At times, however, the saying has proven itself to be true. That’s why sometimes it’s best to state the obvious, rather than taking it for granted.

In his book “The Lazy Project Manager“, Peter Taylor doesn’t tackle the basics of Project Management as a profession. Do don’t buy the book as a Project Management how-to guide; it’s not intended to be that. Taylor rightly observes that much has already been written on the topic. He even provides list of resources that he’s found helpful in the back of “The Lazy Project Manager”.

Instead Taylor attempts to supplement the purely academic studies of Project Management with practical and actionable approaches.

A Common Sense Approach

“The Lazy Project Manager” focuses on the subtle nuances of how to shepherd a project from its initial phase through to its completion. Taylor concentrates on working with your team to move the project toward success. He advocates using humor to diffuse a situation, evaluating the team personnel, and remembering that communications is more than just the message.

Much of what he shares should be considered common sense, especially to a seasoned professional. However, the advice proffered will likely be helpful to many who are new to the project manager role.

This short book is replete with anecdotes from Taylor’s experiences. He shares some of his successes as well as his miscues over the years. He recounts his missteps and what he’d do differently now that he’s on the other side of the mishaps.

Proper Planning

Despite the intentionally eye-catching title, the book’s premise can be distilled down to the old adage of the 7 P’s: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance.

Taylor contends that most projects require an awful lot of work up front and if done well, the long middle part of the project goes very smoothly. Eventually every project wraps up with a flurry of concluding activities at the end.

The book models this as well. The first portion of the book sets the stage. Then Taylor offers to let the reader skip the middle section and just right to the end of the book where the final two chapters summarize everything that you may have skipped.


I suspect many who buy the book can easily skip to end without missing anything; I certainly felt as though I could have. Others may find the middle, though it sometimes wanders a bit, to be helpful.

The eight reviewers on Amazon give the book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I think that’s a bit on the high side. I’d give it a 3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars. But then, I’ve been self-employed 15+ years and I’ve managed hundreds if not thousands of projects.

Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it. – Walter Chrysler

Related Posts

So I Got Promoted, Now What? Get To Know Your Peers

[This is part four in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

How do you recognize an extroverted IT professional? Answer: He looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

That’s a harsh joke. It’s certainly not true for the people I know in the IT field, but it does illustrate a point. Those of us in the IT realm are not known for our exceptional interpersonal skills. It’s not that we don’t have interpersonal skills. It’s just that we tend to be more at ease when “interfacing” with other techies.

Being comfortable amongst similar people comes naturally. I’m reminded of the old sales axiom: People buy from people they like, and people like themselves.

Why Should I Care About My Peers?

Getting along with other IT folks may have been sufficient in your prior role, but as you get promoted up through the ranks you’ll need to extend your comfort zone to include a broader swath of the organization. Business is relational and you’ll need to be as well to succeed that landscape.

Why? There are many reasons. Here are but a few.

Learn From Your Peers

If someone has been in a position that’s similar to your new role in the organization, it stands to reason that they may have picked up some good insight during their tenure. I’m not suggesting that they’ll be perfect or that you’ll want to follow their lead. That’s probably not the case. You need to be true to your own style and make your own mark, but they may be able to help you navigate around potential land mines as you adjust to your new responsibilities in the organization.

Establish Lines Of Communication

In most organizations, a certain level of cooperation is required from multiple teams and departments. You must work with other groups to push the organization’s goals and objectives forward. It’s much easier to work with someone else when you’ve already established a professional relationship with him. People are more willing to go to bat for someone else if they know him.

Prepare For Future Conflicts

When two people interact regularly, there will eventually be conflict, even under the best of circumstances. The likelihood of conflict is escalated when put in the context of a stressful or demanding project. Some would even argue that the conflict helps to produce s better outcome. Regardless, those conflicts are less intense and are more easily resolved afterward if the two parties have already established trust and mutual respect for one another.

Vet Your Ideas Before Unveiling Them

As we come up with ideas for our department or the organization, it’s good to have a trusted colleague with whom we can share those ideas and get good and honest feedback. An idea that we conceive may have downsides that we haven’t considered. Vetting the ideas before announcing them will help you to improve the ideas and lay the groundwork for better acceptance of them when announced.

Expand Your Network

Let’s face it, business can be turbulent. Mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations and outsourcing, recessions and contracting economies all make for a very dynamic workplace. In such an environment, it’s good to have an extensive network of people who can help you if needed, or who you can help.

Ok, But Who Are My Peers?

That’s a good question. I’m reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan where a young man asks “Who is my neighbor?” and learns that his true neighbors extend far beyond his confort zone.

Getting to know your peers means getting to know others both inside and outside of your current organization, those with whom you work regularly and those you only see occasionally, those who are in the same industry and those who work in complementary industries. In short, most anyone you come into contact with can be considered your peer for these purposes.

However, that’s a pretty ambitious target so let’s narrow it down a little for starters.

Peers At Work

The peers at work are primarily your colleagues at the same level in the organization. If you are the DBA Manager, your peers may be the Dev Team Manager, the Customer Service Team Manager, and the Quality Assurance Team Manager. Don’t limit yourself to one department or physical location; reach out to peers in other departments and locations.

You may also go up the promotional ladder a rung or two, depending on the culture of work environment.

Peers In The Same Industry

Trade shows and conferences offer great opportunities to meet other people in the same industry as yours. If you go to these types of events and only consume the information presented in the break-out sessions, you’re missing out of one of the most important aspects of the event. Networking (in the best sense of the term) is probably the most important aspect of these events. You can even participate when you’re unable to attend in person.

Peers In Complementary  Industries

During the course of your business day, you’ll likely meet people from other walks of life. Getting to know your suppliers, your customers, your service providers will help you to work more effectively with them.

How Do I Get To Know My Peers?

Getting to know your peers is not really that difficult. Little kids seem to have an innate ability to do it. If you go to a playground and watch for a few minutes, you’re bound to see a new kid arrive. At first he tentatively plays near the other kids, then before you know it he’s joined their game.

As we grow, we sometimes convince ourselves that it’s much more difficult than that. We start believing that meeting new people is hard. It’s not. If a little kid can do it, surely we can. Initially you may have a certain level apprehension or even anxiety about striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know very well. As you practice, it will become much easier.

Lots of books have been written about the subject. If you’re looking for a good starting point, try the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a good common sense approach for becoming a good conversationalist. In general, it’s simply finding common ground and becoming a good listener.

Some specific examples of situations where you can get to know your peers may be:

At Meetings

Meeting are pervasive in business today. Our calendars are full of them, so why not use them as an opportunity to meet someone new? Arrive early and introduce yourself to someone else who’s early. Spend a few minutes talking with her before the meeting. Afterward, send a short follow up email. Something simple like “Hey Darlene – It was good chatting with you before the meeting earlier today. Here’s a link to the resource I was telling you about. See you next week.”

Small Tokens

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers with little acts of kindness. For example, if you occasionally bring bagels or donuts for your team, buy some extra and give them to your peer for his team. Let him be the one to give it to his team. “Hey Marc – I was at the bakery this morning picking up some bagels for my team and thought your guys may want some too. Enjoy.”

At Lunch

Of course, lunch is one of the more common ways to get to know your peers. “Let’s do lunch.” as they say. But you’ll probably want to be more genuine than that. I find that it’s typically easier to establish a working relationship with my peers first and then invite them to lunch. For example, after I’ve met and talked with someone a few times I may ask “Hey – I was thinking of trying the new Mongolian place for lunch today. Have you heard anything about it?” And then you can invite him to join you.

Start Today

The best part about all of this is that you don’t have to wait until you’ve been promoted to begin getting to know your peers. You can start reaching out to your co-workers, customers, suppliers, and colleagues in other industries now. What’s stopping you?

I’m Choosing To Cheat

I’m cheating. And I bet that you are, too. In fact, most us of cheat at one time or another.

That’s the premise of Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley. In it, Stanley contends that we are all far too busy. We have too many commitments at work and at home; we’re stretched too thin, being pulled in every direction. There’s no way we’ll accomplish everything. Sound familiar?

So Many Things, So Little Time

So what do we do? We try as hard as we can. We spend a few extra hours at work to try to get caught up, cheating our family of that time. We take a long lunch or call in sick to get some personal things done, cheating work.

But we still come up short. No matter how hard we try, some things will be left undone. There’s just too much to do. We can’t do it all. We will miss some commitments that we’ve made. The only question is which ones.

Who Are Cheating?

For many of us, the two largest sources of commitments come from work and family. Think about those for a moment.

At work, you are replaceable. As good as you may be at your job, you’re still replaceable. If you quit, they will find another person to do your job. If you do your job poorly, they’ll fire you. If business becomes slow, they’ll lay you off. The company has very little, if any, loyalty to you as an individual. Yet many of us have great loyalty to our work. We work long hours, often burning the midnight oil, in the hopes of getting caught up or being recognized for a promotion.

Conversely at home, no one else can fill your shoes. You are the only husband or wife that your spouse has. Only you can be the mother or father to your kids. No one else can fill your role. And your family has nearly unlimited loyalty to you.

Yet when push comes to shove, many of us choose to cheat our family rather than work. We choose to devote extra time to the entity that has zero loyalty to us while robbing those that have nearly unlimited loyalty to us. We focus on areas where we are replaceable at the expense of areas where we’re irreplaceable. We choose to spend our time doing things that will be obsolete in five short years while cheating in areas where our impact may be felt for a lifetime or even longer.

Why? And what could we, should we do about it?

Making A Conscious Choice

In Choosing To Cheat, Stanley tackles this problem. He doesn’t pretend to have easy answers. But he does call your attention to the problem and offer some creative ways to approach your work and home life. I definitely learned a lot from the book.

It’s a short, easy read. You can easily finish it in one sitting or on a short flight. But it can be life changing if read with an openness and taken to heart. I have a good friend who would say that it literally helped to saved his marriage.

So, if you’re cheating, are you choosing wisely?

Making Presentations With My iPad

I recently gave a couple of talks at devLINK 2010 at the David Lipscomb University campus in Nashville.

One of the talks was technical in nature, the other was a professional development session. These are typical of the presentations I give for conferences, user groups, and clients.  devLINK 2010 made a perfect time to try out my iPad for presentations.

But first a bit of background.

You Need An Adaptor

The iPad is sleek, it’s thin, and it’s attractive. And it doesn’t have room for any external connectors like SVGA outputs or even USB devices. Everything must run through the sole proprietary connection port on the bottom. Fortunately, you can buy a dongle that allows you to connect the iPad to a standard SVGA device. Unfortunately, it’s not the same dongle that the MacBook Pro uses so it’s an extra “thing” to carry around. Every time I pack up my stuff for a presentation I can’t help but mentally singing “I’ve got dongles that dingle dangle dingle.” to the tune of “I’ve got spurs that jingle jangle jingle.” I guess that’s just me though.

Simply connecting the dongle to the iPad and a projector does not automatically send video to the projector. That surprised me. Instead it’s software driven, but not at the iPad O/S level. You won’t find a configuration switch in Settings to send all video output to the SVGA device. Instead it’s driven by the presentation software. That’s disappointing. That means you cannot show apps on the big screen that are not specifically designed to work with a projector.

The Presentation Software

To make a presentation, I bought Keynote. Keynote is software for the iPad that’s similar to PowerPoint. It’s surprisingly rich and powerful. And it’s completely amazing for  a $10 piece of software. It has cool animations, charts, tables, and all of the other things that you’ve come to expect from PowerPoint. You can create your own presentations in Keynote on the iPad or you can edit and show PowerPoint presentations that you’ve created on your laptop.

As you proof your presentation, you see the output on the iPad’s screen. A swipe of the finger from left to right will advance to the next slide. Reversing the direction of the swipe with go back on slide in the deck. One nice presentation feature is that when you put your finger on the iPad and leave it for a second, a red dot appears on the screen and you can use that instead of a laser pointer. Nice.

Unfortunately there are a couple areas where the Keynote development team seems to have been short sighted. First, when you go into presentation mode while an external projector is connected , the iPad screen goes black and only displays buttons that allows you to go forward or back. It doesn’t show the slide that’s being displayed on the projector. That can be bad since you, as the speaker, will have to turn your head from the audience to see what they are seeing on the screen. The iPad doesn’t act like a monitor for you.

Second, if any other application on the iPad takes focus during the presentation, the output to the project is cut off. This happened to me during devLINK. A calendar reminder popped up, killing the SVGA output. Fortunately as soon as I closed the reminder, the presentation was immediately displayed again. It would be nice to have a universal setting to suppress every thing else while in presentation mode.

Putting It Into Action

So, how did my experiment at devLINK 2010 go?

My Technical Presentation

When I give technical presentations, I try to make them engaging and interactive. And the best way that I’ve found to do that it is to incorporate live demonstrations in the presentations. I strive to make each presentation approximately 50% live demos. I bounce between the presentation slide deck and the SQL Server Management Studio.

That’s just not possible with iPad. Obviously SQL Server Management Studio won’t run on a device made by Apple. I thought about connecting to a remote server via an RDP client called WinAdmin that I have for the iPad and doing my demonstrations on that server. But WinAdmin doesn’t support the SVGA output so I couldn’t get the graphics to the projector.

Unless I revamp my presentations and make the demonstrations canned images embedded into the slide deck, using the iPad for technical demonstrations won’t work for me. For devLINK 2010 used my MacBook Pro.

My Non-Technical Presentation

My non-technical “Conducting Effective Meetings” session at devLINK was in the Alumni Auditorium with a seating capacity of a couple of thousand and an on-stage projection screen that was at least 20 feet tall. The session was recorded by devLINK, that’s why I was in the room for the big boys.

The A/V guy came to help me get set up and miked right before the session. I could tell he was a bit hesitant when he saw my iPad. He gave me the “You’re on your own with this one.” glance. Fortunately, I plugged it up and it worked without any problems. The graphics, even on the 20 foot tall screen were excellent. And apart from the small interruption due to the appointment reminder, it worked flawlessly.

In fact, it worked well enough that I’m planning to use it for the SQLSaturday #51 opening keynote address in Nashville on Saturday.

Related Posts

How I Use My iPad for Business

“The iPad looks like an iPhone made by Playskool.” That’s how one comedian characterized the iPad when Steve Jobs first unveiled the revolutionary device. And his sentiment held a lot of merit. At first glance, the iPad does look lot like the iPhone OS on a giant device that cannot even make a telephone call. What’s so revolutionary about that?

However, over time I warmed to the idea and even convinced myself that this device could and would help my manage my business better. I needed to be more productive and the iPad was just the tool to help me do that. So I bought one about a month ago with very high expectations.

Why I Needed An iPad

For years, I carried a nice moleskine made out of leather. I carried it everywhere. In meetings, I’d make notes. While working, I’d record my hours and accomplishments. At other times, I’d jot down ideas for blog postings or record items that I need to do. In Getting Things Done terms, the moleskine was my ubiquitous collection device. I even had a legend for flagging to-do’s, waiting-for’s, etc.

However, the moleskine was only where I captured incoming information. My daily work was driven by my electronic system. I use Omnifocus to management my projects and to-do’s; I use my calendar to management my schedule; I use EverNote to keep reference materials that I may need later.

So there was an inherent duplication of effort in my system. I’d initially record things in my moleskine and then transfer the information to my electronic system. I’m busy and transferring the information was a chore. So, I’d postpone doing it, neglecting it for a week or two at a time. It wasn’t uncommon for a deadline that I’d captured in my moleskine to have expired before I ever got it into my electronic system where it could be integrated into my workflow.

In short, I was dropping balls occasionally and I didn’t like that.

My Electronic Moleskine

I need a way to easily capture information, obligations, to-do’s, etc, no matter where I am. I want the device to be lightweight, instant on, not very intrusive, and fully integrated into my other electronic systems. The iPad promised all of that plus more. So, I bought one and it’s worked out very well for the most part.

I carry it wherever I carried my moleskin. In meetings, I can easily capture meeting notes directly into EverNote, add to-do items directly into OmniFocus, and add appointments directly into my calendar. I could do all this with my laptop but I’ve found two distinct drawbacks to opening my laptop in a meeting. First, the temptation to mentally check out of the meeting when it drags on and on is too much. I’ve written about that already. Secondly the laptop screen places a subtle barrier between you and the person on the other side of the table. It’s intrusive at times.

I always have the iPad have with me so I can record my hours, jot notes, and calendar appointments as they come up.

The Apps I Use Most

Since my primary objective for getting an iPad was to eliminate redundancy, every piece of productivity/business software that I consider for it must allow me to conveniently sync among my various devices – my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro. I’ve already mentioned several of the applications I use, but it may be worthwhile to put them all in one place.

  • Omnifocus. I use OmniFocus for my GTD implementation. There’s a client for my MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone and they all sync over the air using WebDAV. The only real drawback to OmniFocus is views each client as a separate stand-alone product. So buying all three can get expensive.
  • EverNote. I converted to EverNote a few months ago in preparation for buying the iPad, and I’m glad I did. EverNote can capture pretty much anything and index it to make it completely searchable for you later. I use EverNote as my repository for reference materials I may need later.
  • Mail. There’s a built-in mail client for the iPad. I have it configured for IMAP so messages that I read, delete, forward, etc, on my iPad appear that way in my other clients as well.
  • Web. Safari is the browser provided on the iPad. I don’t know if there are others available. The only issue I’ve discovered with Safari is that it doesn’t support Flash.
  • Calendar.  The iPad also comes with a Calendar application. I have mine automatically sync to my Google calendar over the air.
  • Contacts. I use Google to manage my contacts and the built-in Contacts application on the iPad syncs directly to it.
  • WinAdmin. At times I need to remote desktop into a client’s server to take care of an issue. I use WinAdmin for this. It uses the normal Remote Desktop Protocol and works well. There are other apps for this, too.
  • TwitBird Pro. The most popular Twitter application for the iPad appears to be TwitBird Pro. That’s what I use. It’s pretty good, I guess. It has FaceBook integration as well so your tweets can become status updates on FaceBook if you choose.
  • iBooks. I’ve been pleased with the iBooks app on the iPad. The graphics are nice and it’s easy to read.
  • Kindle Reader. I’ve also downloaded the Kindle Reader so I have access to a much larger variety of books from Amazon.
  • KeyNote. Presentations can be made from the iPad using KeyNote. It’s similar in many respects to PowerPoint. Actually I was quite surprised by the $10 app. It’s very, very, good. You can buy a dongle and drive a standard VGA device like a projector with your iPad.

The really nice part about these applications is that none of them require me to physically sync my iPad or iPhone to my MacBook Pro. All of it is done over the air. If I add a contact on the iPhone, it automatically shows up in the other two locations. If I delete an appointment on the iPad, it’s automatically removed from the iPhone and MacBook Pro calendars. All without syncing. That’s a big, big plus for me. I want all of my systems to be up to date all of the time.

No System Is Perfect

There are, of course some things I wish would change about iPad.

  • The Keyboard. The keyboard is, simply put, not a joy. When in landscape mode, it fits my hands well enough but there a reduced set of keys available. The biggest issue is the home key for my right pinky finger. On a traditional, full sized keyboard the home key is the semi-colon; on the iPad, it’s the return key. It doesn’t sound like much on an issue, but it happens more than you’d think. Additionally the reduced set of keys can be an annoyance when remoting into a client server using WinAdmin. I don’t have the control key available to me to use shortcuts.
  • Inconsistent Keyboards. One nice surprise for me was that iPhone apps work on the iPad. That’s really convenient at times. However the iPhone has a different keyboard layout than they iPad. They are both QWERTY, but the backspace key is in the lower right hand corner for the iPhone and in the upper right hand corner for the iPad. So the keyboard layout on my iPad changes based on whether the app is a native iPad app or one designed for the iPhone. That’s bad.
  • Single-tasking. I know studies show that individuals are less effect when they multi-task. They are even less effect when they try to multi-task on a system cannot multi-task. That’s the case with the iPad. It cannot multi-task. Supposedly there’s an update coming that will add that capability.

Parting Thoughts

Overall, the iPad has done exactly what I’d hoped it would do. It’s helped me to streamline the various inputs into my trusted GTD system. I can now enter information directly into the various applications and have it all available to me over the air to my other devices. That’s what I was hoping for.

It’s not perfect though. The keyboard leave something to be desired, however I found that with a little practice I can indeed keep up while taking notes. Also, since there is no multi-tasking, switching between applications (eg from EverNote to my calendar and back) does take longer than necessary. Hopefully that’ll be addressed in a future update of the iOS.


  • How do you use your iPad?
  • What applications have you found to be useful?

Conducting Effective Meetings at DevLink 2010

I’ve sat in a lot of really poorly run meetings. Meetings that didn’t start on time, didn’t end on time, and didn’t accomplish anything. What a waste of time! And time is a precious resource in any organization.

Early in my career, I didn’t think it was my place to try to improve the meetings. Later I assumed it was just the way things worked. Eventually I realized that I was wrong on both accounts. Meetings can and should be better than they are.

So, I actively sought ways to make every meeting better. After much research, trial, and error, I’ve discovered some best practices for conducting meetings. I’ve also learned some things I can do to help improve meetings that I attend but don’t run.

I’m going to share these best practices later this afternoon during a session that I’m giving at devLINK. Here’s a link to the slide deck I’ll use.

Here’s a summary of my best practices:

  • Distribute an agenda prior to the meeting. Without an agenda, people won’t know how to prepare ahead of time and the meeting will wander
  • Have clearly defined purpose & outcome. Let your attendees know exactly what you expect to accomplish during the meeting.
  • Start the meeting with a welcome, an agenda review, introductions, & ground rules. This sets the tone for the rest of the meeting.
  • Keep to the agenda. Don’t drift; don’t run over.
  • Create and document action items. Make sure everyone leaves the meeting with a clear understanding of who agreed to do what by when.
  • Appoint a scribe to take & distribute notes. The notes don’t have to be fancy; just cover the decisions reached and action items assigned.


  • Have I missed a good practice?
  • Are your meetings productive?
  • What do you do to make the run smoothly?

So I Got Promoted, Now What? Employ the Same Successful Tactics

[This is part three in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

Constant Change

It seems that Moore’s Law is on its seventh double espresso. The law, which was originally described by Gordon E. Moore in 1965, primarily relates to advances in computer hardware. But given the dizzying pace of changes in all technology , I think it’s more broadly applicable to other areas today. The affects on IT Professionals is fairly obvious.

Can you name a database administrator, a solutions architect, a seasoned developer, or any other highly skilled, highly technical IT Professional that views his job as a run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 position? I can’t. Most successful people in our industry realize that in order to do their jobs, a certain amount of continuing education is required.

So over time, we’ve developed ways to keep up with the latest trends in our field. We listen to podcasts, read blogs, attend conferences, participate in user groups, and take training classes. These sources, among others, help us to do our jobs better.

There’s A Lot To Learn

It’s important to realize that once you’ve been promoted, your job has substantially changed. Many IT Professionals fail to recognize this shift and languish in their new role as Team Lead, Manager, or Director. I’ve seen it countless times at the companies where I’ve consulted.

Need proof? Think back to the first few weeks or months as a new database administrator or application developer. How much did you know, really know, about your job? At the time you may have thought you knew it all, but if you’re honest with yourself, you didn’t. Think about how much more you know now.

The same applies to your new job. You may feel like you know how to manage others and work at a higher level in the organization, but trust me when I say there’s plenty more to learn.

New Job, Same Preparation

That’s not to say that everything you learned in your last role is now obsolete. On the contrary, we can supplement that expertise with newfound and complementary knowledge and once again prepare to excel in our new role. The good news is that you already know how to do this – just take the same approach that landed you the promotion.

Dive Into Your New Role

In much the same way you seized your prior technical role and sought out every bit of information you could in your area of expertise, you can and should do the exact same thing in your new role. How?

  • Seek out podcasts on how to manage a technical team. I like Manager Tools series of podcasts.
  • Look for blogs that are dedicated to effective management.
  • Attend a non-technical conference. Once again I hear good things about the Manager Tools conferences.
  • Read books on effective communications and leadership. There are classics like anything from Peter Drucker and Dale Carnagie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People as well as more contemporary books like Good to Great.
  • Join associations.

Expand Your Horizon

In your prior role, you may have found it valuable to learn some ancillary technologies to help you do your job better. The same is also true for your new role.

  • Get involved with ToastMasters International.
  • Read books about making presentations. Presenting to Win describes how to create an engaging presentation.
  • Learn more about negotiations tactics.
  • Look for opportunities to improve your budgeting and financial skills.

You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure

As a database or network professional, you may have found that capturing statistics and benchmarking data paid off in many ways. Metrics help determine when things are begining to depart from the norm. They can be used to help predict when upgrades will be needed. And they can be used to identify where the problem really is, and more importantly where it isn’t.

Metrics can be used in your new role, too. Capturing metrics can help you to justify new expenditures, identify gaps in your current levels and processes, and benchmark your areas of responsibility. Remember the adage: you cannot improve what you don’t measure.

Show Me The Money

Redundancy, high availability, and up-time are all good concepts and even measurements in some cases for technical people. We can see how they naturally help us to achieve our goals. However, oftentimes those concepts are a bit too abstract for other people, particularly those who may hold the pursestrings. In those cases, putting the concept or technology into financial terms often helps. For example the cost of a High Availability solution may be $200,000. That sounds expensive until you realize that the cost of being down for just one day is $500,000. In that case, $200,000 maybe well worth the investment depending on the probability of an outage.

The same tactics can be employed in your new role. Learn to associate your projects and requests with financial measures. Calculate the Return On Investment. The practice will help you to better understand the real need (or lack of real need). And it’ll help form a good basis for your request to your boss.

Carpe Diem

Although I couldn’t find a reference for it, I believe it was Tom Peters that once quipped “Nothing begets failure like success.” I believe he meant that once a company was successful at one endeavor, it was in danger of always trying to repeat that success and thus stifling true innovation.

As individuals, we are susceptible to that as well. If we, in our new job, continue doing the exact same set of tasks that made us successful in our prior role, we will doom ourselves to failure. However, we can employ the same fervor, the same passion, and the same tactics that lead to our prior success in our new roles and seize the day.

So I Got Promoted, Now What? Stop Doing Your Old Job

[This is part two in a series of posts about how to effectively transition to your new role after being promoted.]

Series Outline

Your Hard Work Has Paid Off

You’ve work hard over the past few years, going the extra mile to make sure that everything in your charge has gone well. You’ve managed your individual and team projects well; you’ve organized your work and developed a personal discipline so that nothing has fallen through the cracks. And now your hard work has finally paid dividends. You’ ve been recognized with a promotion. So now what do you do?

This is a question that many highly skilled, highly technical people ask themselves once the euphoria of increased pay and acknowledgement has worn off.

Unfortunately, many don’t pursue the answer long enough to find it. Instead they get mired down into the daily routine of their new role and never explore how they could better prepare to succeed. Many languish in mediocrity at best, and fail at worst.

So what’s the first thing you need to do?

Stop Doing Your Old Job

Stop doing your old job. To many, this may sound too obvious to mention. If you are promoted to a new position, why would you want to continue doing your old job as well as the new one? Isn’t one job enough?

Unfortunately, in many cases it’s just not that discrete. Often the promotion is a “working promotion.” You’ve been promoted to Senior DBA, to Development Team Lead, to Manager of the Administration Team, or to Director of Operations. The promotion comes with a new title, an increase in pay, and some new responsibilities. However, you find that in addition to your new duties, you are still accountable for many of the same tasks you had before your promotion.

To be successful in your new role, you will need to approach it with the same fervor and dedication that led to your promotion. You won’t be able to do that if effectively if you are spending a significant amount of your time doing your old job. Something has to give and it had better be the old job.

“But, It’s Not My Job”

To be clear, I’m not advocating that you tell your boss “It’s not my job anymore.” when he asks you about something that was your direct responsibility prior to the promotion. They don’t want to hear that. And besides, unless your promotion has moved you to a completely new department, that task still falls under your purview. And it’ll remain your responsibility until you’re told specifically otherwise or your replacement can be found.

So, in order to stop doing your old job, you’ll need to identify people who can successfully step into the role you once occupied, or at least take on many of the responsibilities. This can be done through a series of progressively larger and more impacting steps: assign immediate tasks, delegate small projects, and create a growth plan for your team.

Assign Immediate Tasks

Many of us have daily, weekly, or even monthly tasks that require our time and attention. There are backups to verify, meetings to attend, status reports to create, numbers to run, and logs to review, to name but a few. None of these are particularly urgent. Many are not high profile. But all need to be done.

In your prior role, you probably handled each of these at part of your job. Those responsibilities were commiserate with your level. In your new role, however, many of those activities will drain one of the most precious resources you have: your time. If you can safely offload those discrete yet repetitive tasks to one or your team members, you’ll potential free several hours per week.

Delegate Small Projects

The next step is to begin delegating some of the projects for which you are responsible. Start small and work your way up. Don’t begin with a large, complex project with multiple moving parts requiring input from numerous colleagues. Start with a small, fairly self-contained project that can be accomplished without  much outside input. Expect to work closely with the team member to whom you’ve delegated the project.

Initially, delegating will not free up your time. On the contrary, it will likely consume more of your time in the short-term than if you just did it yourself. But the payoff is just around the corner, just a few months down the road. As you get better at delegating and your team learns how to run with the delegated projects, you’ll be able to do more and more. Delegation is a force multiplier once you pay the initial start up costs in time.

Create a Growth Plan for Your Team

The best people have a knack for bringing out the best in other people. They somehow get others to perform and exceed even their own expectations. You want those kind of people on your team. And if you want them on your team, you can bet that your boss wants them on his team, too.

One way to bring out the best in other people is to consciously and intentionally create a growth plan for each of them. Talk with them. Learn their aspirations. Discover their likes and dislikes. Create a plan to help  them grow professionally, technically, and interpersonally. In short, you’d eventually like for them to easily step into your shoes once you get promoted again.

Ifs, Ands, and Buts

But isn’t all this risky? Won’t one of your team members take your job? Or won’t they get promoted out from under you?

Fostering an environment where you can be more effective while growing your people is not “risky.” In fact, a good argument can be made for just the opposite. Not growing your team is risky. Creating an environment where personal growth is not evident, where the same old routine is done day in and day out, is far riskier to you than growing your team. The best people won’t want to stay in that environment. You’ll be left with the mediocre.

One of the best compliments you can be paid as a manager is to have one of your team members promoted to a new position. It’s speaks well of the environment you’ve created. And when that happens again and again, senior management will recognize your role in producing highly effective people.

And when you get promoted, you’re next transition will be easier because you’ll have already cultivated your replacement.

“So I Got Promoted, Now What?”

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” That’s the premise of Dr. Laurence Peter in his 1969 book, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong My first thought when I read a statement like that is: I wonder if Dr. Peter worked in a hierarchy and if so would his premise still apply?

Nevertheless. I think we’ve all seen instances where someone who is very good with technology is promoted and flounders. Horribly. And the worse they do, the more stress they feel. And they flounder even more. So what happens? The don’t make changes in their daily work required by the new position.

This is the first in an nine-part series on how to do your job better once you’ve been promoted. Hopefully the next eight posts in the series will help you to be aware of the new dynamics required by your new role so you adjust and excel.

Stop Doing Your Old Job

At first blush, this may sound too obvious to be worth mentioning. But there’s a reason it’s first on the list. This is far more prevalent than you may think.  If you don’t address this shortly after your promotion, it can set you up for failure down the road. [more…]

Employ the Same Successful Tactics

In your prior role, you approached your job, your responsibilities, and your preparation in a certain way, one that eventually led to your promotion. And while you don’t want to simply repeat the “what” you were doing before, you can most definitely leverage the “how” that got you the promotion. [more…]

Get to Know Your Peers

Far too often, IT professionals believe, mistakenly in my opinion, that they are paid to be good with technology. To be sure, that’s a part of it. In some jobs it may even be the majority of it. However, none us work in a vacuum and it’s important to know your colleagues before you need them. [more…]

Get a Trusted System

In your prior role, your may have had little difficulty managing your  workload and tasks. But now things are more complex. You are responsible for for work that you assign or delegate to others. You had better find a good system for managing that work.

Manage Your Email

Email is a great way to communicate, however when you receive scores or even hundreds of emails every day, it can quickly become unwieldy and detrimental to your productivity. A considerable portion of your day, or even night, can be consumed by email. You’ve got to find a good technique for managing your email inbox.

Manage Your Calendar

This could just as easily be called “Protect Your Time”. The collaborative world of shared calendars can be great for people who’s job it is to coordinate and plan meetings. However, for those of us who must attend meetings as well as doing work, shared calendars can be quite a disruption our days. You must take steps to ensure you have time to work.

Start Having Weekly One-on-Ones

As a new supervisor, team lead, manager, director, or even executive team member, it’s critical to build a trust with your team that can weather the storms that are sure to come. A great way to do this is to conduct a weekly, one-half hour, one-on-one meeting with each of member.

Recognize the Tendency to Revert

When push comes to shove and the pressure really begins to mount, many new managers tend revert back to their comfort zone, to their strengths, to what made them successful in their prior role. But that only makes matters worse. Being aware of this can help you to avoid it.


  • What were some of the unforeseen challenges that you faced after your last promotion?
  • How did you cope with the new challenges?

My Productivity Tools


Ever felt like you’re in a game of electric football? Like you’re one of the players jiggling up and down slightly but never really going anywhere. I have days like that.

One of my goals for this year is to have fewer of those days by making better use of my time, by becoming more productive.

I’ve been a quasi-practitioner of David Allen’s Getting Things Done
Getting Things Done for many years now. I found it to be good in theory but I struggled to put a good process in place to make it happen. Instead I tinkered with my system (something that Allen warns against by the way) trying to find a new tool, a new technique, a new anything to make me more productive with less stress.

Earlier this year, it all began to fall in place. I discovered that my GTD problems were less system-based and more of a discipline issue. I was missing two key components: the concept of context and the discipline to routinely have a Weekly Review. I discovered this while trying out a new GTD tool – OmniFocus.

So I thought I’d share with you my current, and hopefully my lasting, system for Getting Things Done in hopes that you’ll benefit from it. Or maybe you’ll share with me some things you’ve found helpful since I’m always on the look out for something better.

One requirement for me is portability. Whatever software or system I use must be available to me when I need it. For me that usually means desktop or web application that has a mobile counterpart for my iPhone.


One of tenets of GTD is that must have a trusted system for collecting, evaluating, and managing the barrage of requests that come to you throughout the day from many different fronts. Lots of people try to handle this through their email inbox. That didn’t work for me; I tried.

Now I use my email inbox just like my snail-mailbox; things arrive and I take them out. I don’t allow things to accumulate in there for too long. Every email that comes in gets processed (evaluate and either acted up immediately, placed into a to-do item to be handled later, deleted, or filed for future reference).

This doesn’t happen everyday. In fact it usually builds up to 30 or so emails before I make some time to go through them all. Ideally I’d leave the office each evening with InboxZero. I’m still working to get there.


Omnifocus is the heart of my GTD system. I use it to keep track of my to-do lists for my clients. I can easily view the tasks by project, context, and due date. I can also flag the tasks that I plan to work on each week.

OmniFocus has “Perspectives” that narrow the long list of to-do’s to a more manageable list. One of the built-in perspectives even helps with the Weekly Review, the Achilles Heal of most GTD practitioners.


Every GTD system needs repository in which to file information that you may need later. I’ve found EverNote to really good at this. I keep meeting notes, design documents, project planning information, etc in there for future reference. It’s got great search capabilities and can index most anything – documents, pictures, hand-written notes, etc.


In consulting there are a lot of fairly mundane tasks that must be done – searching the internet for potential training materials to use upcoming class, finding the best hotel and flight bookings, locating funny or clever pictures to use in blog postings, making a trip folder, etc. All of these are required, yet not billable. And they take precious time away from the more important activities.

One way to increase productivity is to focus on the things that only you can do and delegate or outsource the tasks that someone else can do. I learned this from Stephen Wynkoop (Twitter) when he tech-edited my consulting book. It was great advice.

TimeSvr helps me to do that. TimeSvr is not so much an application as it is a service. I can outsource some of my more mundane tasks, allowing me to focus on the ones that only I can do. I’ve written about TimeSvr before so I won’t repeat it here.

Other Productivity Software

Over the years I’ve used other software and techniques in my never ending quest to be more productive, more effective in the way I spend my time.

What about you?

  • What software applications do you use to be more productive?
  • What techniques have you found useful?
  • Is the quest for productivity any easier than that of the Holy Grail?