Wed, 02 Apr 2008

Insights on Management

A few years ago I Tivo'd a series I found on PBS presented by Tom O'Malia from the Marshall school of Business at USC called Entrepreneurship: Building the Dream (outdated course description here).

One segment of the show focused on the differences between entrepreneurs and managers, and it drew contrasts between the two, such as reactive vs. proactive, intuition vs. data driven, unstructured work vs. defined tasks/duties, etc.

As a former entrepreneur, and full time manager, I took issue with some of what was presented, as I pride myself on an entrepreneurial approach to my management, and thus see the benefit in a balance between the predictability demands from management with the "keep it simple" approach of entrepreneurship.

One of the elements contrasted was of resources-- managers tend to manage constrained resources to minimize risk, typically to what ultimately comes down to a budgetary limit, whereas entrepreneurs marshal resources using whatever means they can to achieve a goal. This got me thinking about what I think is one of my core beliefs about technology management.

I often relate this story to prospective interviewers at our company: Every day I have to juggle limited resources. Limited time. Limited human resources. Limited systems.

But, I suggest, imagine where you were in your career five, ten, even twenty years ago. Imagine that this previous version of you is here right now interviewing for this job. Who is the better candidate to hire? The one who is relatively inexperienced or the "now" version of you?

Clearly you are substantially more capable today than you were twenty years ago, and you probably make one to two orders of magnitude more money (and offer the same in value to your employer) than you did since your first job. And when we compare this against the other resources at our disposal... do you have 240-2400 hours a day? Do you have the luxury to marshal 10-100 times the human resources to get your projects done?

And this leads to one of my mottoes in management: "The only unlimited resource in management is that of human potential."

I am truly committed to the development of those on my team because I know that any investment I make in training, career advancement or mentoring will pay me back in spades.

It's sort of like a Moore's law of human resources... perhaps properly nurtured human capacity doesn't double every two years, but by my estimation, it's not too far off.

Khan Klatt

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