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This practice can easily be abused or/and cause unintented consequences. For example, once employees know this is a short cut for promotion, they will focus a lot of their energy and attention to find 'the void' and try to fill it, or act like they can fill it, thus neglecting the real work that need to be done.

In fact, this could be a cultural issue where everybody tries to act like taking a lead (usually by blanket emails including the management team that say "XXX has been launched!! Contrats Y!!"), however you will find behind the backdrop, things are just half-baked or down right totally fake, because real execution is boring and not getting attention. So once an excitement dies down, people will scramble to find another 'void' to fill. You may argue the manager can check the work, but in a big cooperation, the middle managers are most vulnerable, and thus they care much more about their own asses than to ensure their staff get real work done.

In other words, this tactic is only applicable when the company is small, say, less than 20 people, and the boss knows everybody and the projects well.

I completely agree. Leaving a gap and waiting for someone to fill it is practically the opposite of management.

> ..once employees know this is a short cut for promotion, they will focus a lot of their energy and attention to find 'the void' and try to fill it, or act like they can fill it, thus neglecting the real work that need to be done.

This in particular is really dangerous because it can poison an organisation's culture. For example, imagine Ben decides to focus on managing upwards in an effort to get Adam to promote him. Meanwhile, he neglects his duties, forcing his team-mates to pick up the slack. They start getting annoyed at Ben because he's not pulling his weight.

It's not uncommon, in my experience (and I'm aware that I'm at risk of stereo-typing here), for good, smart, conscientious people in technical roles to focus first on doing the job that they've been assigned and trust that management will recognise and reward them for doing so (and, conversely, punish anyone who slacks off), and that one of those rewards is that they will be considered for any opportunity for promotion that arises. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.

If Adam promotes Ben, his old team-mates are going to be really pissed off. From their perspective, Ben's bad behaviour has been rewarded, instead of rectified. Meanwhile, the extra work they've been putting in to make up for that bad behaviour has been completely ignored.

The end result is an unhappy team, They'll resent both Ben and Adam, their productivity will probably drop (because whey the hell should they work their asses off when they're clearly not going to be rewarded for it?), and may well start looking elsewhere for work.

In that scenario, Adam has not done a good job as a manager, and he's definitely not a good leader.

There's nothing wrong with identifying a gap and opening a dialogue about how it can be filled (including asking if anyone's interested in filling it) but if someone moves to plug a gap, that generally means that they're going to leave a gap somewhere else. A good manager needs to make sure that they understand the implications of shifting people around, and explicitly recognise the indirect contribution that Ben's old team-mates are making to fill the gap.

Organisations are about teams, not individuals. It's astounding how many managers fail to grasp that.

Organisations are about politics and status. As a sideline, sometimes useful work gets done.

>In that scenario, Adam has not done a good job as a manager, and he's definitely not a good leader.

One difference between good and bad management is that good managers understand politics, they understand people, and most of all they understand the consequences of different political options. (I mean effective and ineffective, not good vs evil.)

Effective managers don't - ever - rule by formula, campfire or sports coach platitudes, or read-it-in-a-book business mythology.

So if you're dealing with someone who does any of the above as a first choice, they're unlikely to be making rational choices, or to have any deep understanding of the team(s) they're managing.

Evil managers can have a good understanding of consequences but their choices will be designed to increase their own income and status at the expense of their team/company. So they can appear to be doing stupid counterproductive things, but in fact they'll likely be promoted because they're gaming the system. They're a horror to work for, because they'll exploit their team as a resource and discard it without looking back. (I've seen people boast about this. It's not hypothetical.)

Good managers have an interest in developing the talent in their team as well as shipping good things and getting themselves promoted. But they won't be doing it with platitudes like "Leave space for people to act like managers" and then punishing anyone who actually does. They'll be more politically adept than that.

The big problem for employees is that politics and culture are invisible. I've seen plenty of management books, but I can't remember seeing a useful book that explains the practical differences between exploitation/support and good/bad good/evil management. Simple metrics like hours worked are a start, but a bigger picture with standard examples of management practices and styles, and supportive/unhealthy team cultures would be very useful.

I see this all the time, and I call it "organizational priority inversion."

Not only is the real execution/critical work boring, but management often doesn't really understand it or how to measure the effectiveness and contributions of people that are spending their time on it, so they make a blanket assumption that everyone is performing at a satisfactory level ("we only hire the best") and turn to other metrics that are simpler to understand and measure. It's much easier to count how many "organizational initiatives" Bob helped to launch, how many informational lunchtime talks he gave and the number of important meetings he made an influential remark at than it is to judge how much wasted time and aggravation his poor designs and implementations generated, and as a result, the work that Bob was actually hired to do (quickly dismissed as his "day job" by his manager during performance reviews) becomes the worst use of his time. As Bob realizes this, his reputation improves even more because he spends less time on his work - obviously someone putting his thumbprint on so many initiatives and decisions must be a key player, and it would be a waste to have such a person spending his time "in the trenches."

In an organization that conflates influence with effectiveness, it doesn't matter what you're influencing others to do, only that you do it often and well.


If you watch some of those "Unscripted" shows where everyone is being judged for their leadership, what do you find? Everyone acting like a full-on sociopathic Type A personality, fighting over who steers the car while nobody builds the car.

It's great entertainment, and perhaps it works for selecting leaders in small doses on completely made-up projects like selling bottles of water with the Cult-of-Personality leader's face on the label.

But it's a terrible way to actually run your core business.

You're highlighting this taken extreme levels where people are able to chop between what they are doing, which what Enron used to do to pretty disastrous effects. This reads much more about people remaining in their teams, on their projects but not being micromanaged. It should tie nicely into Scrum retrospectives (as an example) where people bring things up versus just staying silent.

It's a really good example that leadership is something that everyone has an opportunity to exercise, not just management, and that in most companies leadership is very rarely exercised merely a job title.

Scrum retrospectives will no doubt help to address voids in work flow, product, or technology. However this seldom make one as manager.

In fact, very likely once good programmers done all the work, some jokers (within the team or otherwise) will jump out and grab the credits by sending out emails, then the joker is promoted.

This is the initial stage of what I described in my previous post. Again, you need technical strong managers to see through the mist, but sadly, these managers are rare (at least in my industry).

I had a really relevant experience in my ex-company. It was a small company doing video analytics and monitoring. It did well in initial stage and the pantry was stocked with real bean coffee maker, beers, sodas, and pastries. Then its business went down hill, and the beer was removed (beers are expensive in Singapore), then cheap beans were used, then no bean coffee but 3-in-1 instant coffees. Guess what was the ultimate items they scrimped on? Toilet paper. You read it right and I am not kidding. They swapped 3-ply to 2-ply and that was when I called it quit. The company went bankrupt after 1.5 years.

The lesson here is not about how much 'gift' it was taken from employees, it is more on the changing wind in the air that employees need to watch out for. If a company is so desperate to cut snacks, usually it means it has much bigger shit at the backyard that employees may or may not be aware of.


* Guess what was the ultimate items they scrimped on? Toilet paper. You read it right and I am not kidding. They swapped 3-ply to 2-ply and that was when I called it quit.*

...I wasn't aware that 3-ply was even a thing. That said, my lack of attention to brand names means I've discovered quite a range of quality in the local 2-ply offerings here.


Actually I wasn't aware the difference either until the admin (she was my friend as well) complained about there was nothing left to 'optimize'...

I must clarify i called it quit not because of the lack of 3-ply paper for my backside, but I felt it was really an issue for a company trying to save on such thing. My reasoning was right.


I had to supply my own soap in their toilets during the legal 3-month notice period at Atos, France. I'm sorry, they deserve to be named.


Well when someone is pinching pennies that badly - changing toilet paper of all things - it means that they've run out of other ideas to cut costs or increase revenue.


Hey, since you mention being in Singapore, and poor employment options - I happen have a small, established, mainly online lifestyle business based in Singapore that I'm looking for a new partner / owner to work with as I've moved onto other things.

If you, or anyone else based in Singapore with some HN-type (web, entrepreneurial, etc) skills and interests wanted to discuss further, drop me an introductory email - kovanroad@gmail.com.


Thanks. I will send an email to you.


What a shitty situation to be in.


I would treat anything from Baidu with a grain of salt, mainly Baidu is not the most technical competent company, even among Chinese companies. There are other researches on ghost cities using methods like at night counting the number of units with lights on and do this for consequtive n nights, or measure the total power consumption over a period of time.


What makes you say Baidu is not technically competent? Andrew Ng's work alone seems to be on the cutting edge of machine learning and voice/image recognition.

While Andrew Ng's work gets a lot of press, there appears to be other interesting work coming out of Baidu in O2O, search, wiki, image,video, self driving cars etc.

They also appear to be a well run business as evidenced by rapid revenue and earnings growth for over a decade.

I'm biased as a BIDU shareholder, but that is precisely why I'm interested in your critism.


Simple. Did you actually use Baidu? I do, on a regular basis.

Let me elaborate

Andrew Ng no doubt is a famous researcher, but I am talking about a common user's experience, and no, I don't see anything that reminds of machine learning while using Baidu services.

To give you an example, search for 'Windows 7' in Baidu.

Here is the screen capture of the results I got (http://imgur.com/nNBSo3g), basically there is no mention of Microsoft's site. I do see the first is the link for people download this software for free. Ok, where is the machine learning? There could be a few reasons explaining this behavior, but I don't wish to go into those. To say the least: if it is not technical issue, it is ethical. Both are very important to shareholders.

As a control, I searched for the same on Google, and the first 2 results are from wikipedia, while the rest are from microsoft.com, mixed with news results from news sites, which are very to the point.

Another example, Baidu's SDK has opened up security holes up to 100 million Android devices (http://www.engadget.com/2015/11/02/bunk-baidu-sdk-puts-backd...), and unfortunately, this isn't the first incident in 2015. As far as I can recall, there are at least 3-4 similar issues, unintentionally or intentionally caused by technical incompetency.

Disclosure: I worked in China for some time and now still got business connection with it. I am not an armchair warrior to bash China.


It seems unfair to jump from "it's a shoddy product" and "they introduced a security hole" to "they're not technically competent."

A lot of American and European companies have done, and consistently do, the same things. It seems like there's some hypercriticism due to underlying suspicions of intentionality – however well-founded those suspicions may be.


No doubt there are good people in Baidu. This happens everywhere, including the now defuncting Nokia, however those people are not put in good use.

To turn the question around: what makes you think they are technical competent? Can you provide 2 examples instead?


1. I searched for "cars" on Baidu. I got search results with cars.

2. I searched for "cats" on Baidu. I got... the musical, a pop group... okay, maybe you're right.


Maybe that is intended:

"China's replacement for Windows is an XP ripoff"



This would be an especially good reason not to trust Baidu; if they are an arm of a totalitarian state.


Without massive support from the Chinese government they would get crushed. That's not the environment that breeds competence.


Huh? The Chinese govt is known for not allowing foreign web companies lots of freedom to compete but there are certainly domestic search engines to compete with. Baidu has about 71% share of the search market in China.


They exist primarily because competition was pushed out by the government.


Amazon's arguments are flimsy at best, and it renews the focus back to this piece of news which most people have not talked about. Staying quiet or saying something more humble would dull the backlash a lot.


I think you are not comparing apple-to-apple. Sure, SV pays good money, but the rent is also much higher. In Texas the pay may be lower, so is the rent.

I have a friend who works as full-time freelancer in a small town in Malaysia (Taiping, if you are really curious) and she helps local businesses to do IT projects. For example, she built a custom room management system for a small hotel. She used to work in Motorola Penang, and the freelancer job gives her much more freedom and time, and interestingly, her income is way better than what she got in Mot, even she just serves such a small town with population of around 245K (2010 data)


View it another way: shaving seems to be a pain for many people, to the point people are willing to throw millions at a dubious (sorry if this word isn't the best adjective) claim of shaving with laser.

What if one could invent a working bladeless razor? It is a blue ocean waiting to be delved in.

Just thinking out loud.


Thought the same. Yes its fake... but taking a step back their ability to 'raise' here indicates that the world is filled with people (and I am one of them) that are not happy with the status quo of shaving technology.


Anything that heats a hair to the point it burns off, no matter what the heat source is, will give out a bad smell. Good luck if one has thick beard, and no, I am not convinced this will work cleanly.


I am a product manager in the financial sector and generally I agree with this list. What I want to add is "A good PM knows how to balance competing requests from stakeholders and know when to say no". You can't please everybody.


My view is a project is only a success if all stakeholders are happy at the end. To succeed, you therefore need to: 1. Know who all the stakeholders are 2. Know what they expect 3. Come up with a plan to satisfy 2 4. As you go along, and you see reality differs from 3, you must either change 2 or change 3, or a bit of both.

A PM's job is expectation management. Delivering on expectation will most of the time include having to change the expectation to match the reality at the end of the project. It's usually easier to change expectations earlier rather than later, and also by not saying "no", but rather by saying "let's rather do this".


Would like to point out a caveat listed in that page, as follows. Don't convert all your photos in your drive (yet).

"WARNING: FLIF is a work in progress. The format is not finalized yet. Any small or large change in the algorithm will most likely mean that FLIF files encoded with an older version will no longer be correctly decoded by a newer version. Keep this in mind. "


Just in case you wonder how to pronounce the Chinese word 'fuerdai', it sounds like 'foo-earl-die', which literally means 'rich second generation'


Uhhh... I think Foo Arr Die is a more accurate pronunciation, no?


No, it has 'er' instead of 'ar' sound. In fact, 'err' is a better word than 'earl'


You two probably speak with different accents. In Beijing accent, Foo Arr Die sounds pretty accurate. Arr like a pirate would say it.


In Standard Mandarin pronunciation, er is definitely pronounced like "arr". If you don't believe me, listen to the pronunciation given by Google Translate.


There might be some regional accents which pronounce it more like "err", but "arr" is the standard pronunciation.


I agree the google translate link above pronounces this character very close to 'Arr', however do note the Pinyin (Chinese phonetic system), 'Er' starts with 'E'.

Just for the sake of discussion, here is character that starts with 'A'. See if you feel the difference.




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