Archive for August, 2007

Implicit Always

A few weeks back I had a realization about the way I (and i think many people) communicate. When you are communicating some anecdote, you need to be careful about the way you phrase it. For example, if i say to a friend, “Chicago is an awesome city, but it isn’t a walkable city.” Now, from the context of this sentence, you know that i am stating an opinion; however, if you held the other viewpoint, you might be tempted to disprove my statement with a counter-argument such as, “Thats not true, i walked from A to B” two weeks ago.

The problem with this exchange is two-fold

  1. I stated an opinion as if it were fact. I have started calling this the ‘implicit always’. If you do not qualify your statements, by default they are interpreted as ALWAYS being true
  2. The responder (interpreting my statement as an “always” statement) offered a single concrete counter example. His intent is to disprove my statement, but in fact, due to my prior mis-qualification, his argument does not prove anything at all. In fact, the two statements are totally orthogonal.

After i noticed this, i find this pattern of conversation popping up quite often. People begin to engage in conversation that is operating at two completely different levels. Often the two people do not understand why they are disagreeing. In my opinion, it is often (but not always! :) ) due to the implicit always.

From now on, i am on the lookout for the implicit always, and hopefully i can reduce the number of these silly disagreements.

Onboarding New Employees

Being a new employee is really hard. Not only are you unfamiliar with the job, but you don’t know the people, the location, the lingo… Recently, my brother started his first job and some of his experiences have reminded me of when i started. Now that i am 2 years into my job, i’ve been trying to analyze what worked well and what didn’t.

From this reflection, i’ve come to a couple conclusions:

  1. NEVER give a new employee a task that includes reading documentation. It seems like a normal and logical thing to do, but you have to realize that documents (especially technical ones) are really only digest-able in context. As a new employee you have no such context and therefore reading docs is basically a useless exercise
  2. ALWAYS reserve large amounts of time to spend with your new employee. Block it off on your calendar. You probably need to block of time for at least the first week if not longer. On the first day you should plan to do nothing besides talking to the new employee. If you feel this investment isn’t worth it, then you might want to reevaluate why are you getting a new employee
  3. CREATE small tasks that are easily attainable for your new employee to tackle RIGHT AWAY. Getting things done, makes people feel good. If you can get your new employee used to getting things done, it sets a positive context for how they will work when more challenging tasks come along.

Do not underestimate how difficult it is to do these three things well. It takes a lot of time and energy; however, as a manager, time spend on your employees is time well spent.

Email Contact Manager

About a week and half ago my Unstructured Time team launched our first beta version of Email Contact Manager (ECM). ECM is an application that makes the process of emailing customer much easier for users of QuickBooks software.

It’s really exciting to go through a product launch, no matter how small. I hope to have many product launches like ECM in the future.

Here’s the link: