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Ever read.... and an observation

Have you read "In Search of Excellence" by Tom Peters et al.

One of the most inspiring books I have read.  Obviously a management classic now.

Alos, the "Ask Joel Spolsky" a question title at the top of the forum page appears as though it is the link to the add a new topic. 

If you see what I mean, I want to add a new topic, ask you a question, I then see "Ask Joel Spolsky a question" as a link... and click it.  I find myself back at the blog page and doh have to return to the forum and scroll down to the 'add a topic' button.  Its confusing.


Sunday, February 22, 2004

I did read it, a long time ago, and found it to be pretty mumbo-jumbo-ish. And the data was faked. Two years after the book appeared, a third of the companies which were profiled were in desperate financial condition. In 1984 Business Week famously skewered the book in a cover story called "Oops!"

Generally I have found that business books about big corporations are completely irrelevant to small startups and entrepreneurs. Studying what Motorola does to "synergize cross functional relationships" is just unlikely to make any difference to my little fruit stand here.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Sunday, February 22, 2004

No lessons can be learned from big business?  What about lessons for ISVs from Microsoft? 

I bought Peopleware based on your recommendation and the book seems to be all about studies in large corporations.  Are these lessons worthless because IBM or the DoD happened to do them?

Monday, February 23, 2004

In general, the advice of business gurus should be taken with a huge grain of salt.  See this article from "Fortune" magazine:

It's cached on the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive), so give it a few moments to load.

Here's an excerpt:




By Alan Farnham, Fortune, October 1996 Issue

Oh, sure: It would be easy to make fun of gurus.
So let's get started.

Their claim to sympathy looks thin.  In recent years their advice has loosed a plague of fads -- upsizings, right-sizings, downsizings -- precipitating layoffs in the tens of thousands.  ('I don't know that I'd say layoffs,' muses Michael Hammer, reengineering's chief proponent.  'I'd say 'dislocations.'  I never envisioned reengineering would be about layoffs.')  Meantime, gurus themselves have never looked happier or better fed.  Their pelts are sleek.

Says Ur-guru Tom Peters of the fees he and his peers command:  'It's humorous, absurd.  All of us sort of slide in behind whoever is the hero du jour -- a Colin Powell or a Thatcher, who can get $75,000 a speech.  You pray for a war, so Schwarzkopf will boost the market up 15%.'

Gurus do not, strictly speaking, have homes.  They have estates.  In Tuscany.  Or in Vermont or Pebble Beach or in all three.  When creativity guru Edward de Bono convenes seminars, he has hosted them on his private island off Venice.  Gurus decant their own wine.

Alex Chernavsky
Monday, February 23, 2004

If you ever get a chance to see Tom Peters speak in person [on your company's dime, ;-)], I say GO.

Why?  Entertainment.

He's one of the best public speakers I've ever seen.  He may be full of sh*t, but he's really entertaining.  If you tried to emulate his style in your own presentations, people would think you're a lunatic.  But you can pickup a lot of tidbits to be a better and more interesting public speaker.

Peters and the other gurus don't really market content.  They market optimism, daring, and belief.  It's never really worked for me, but I've always wondered if some people have a temporary productivity boost afterwards.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Watch the movie, "Elmer Gantry," to see a similar effect :)

Monday, February 23, 2004

Andrew, the lessons in Peopleware are lessons about how to run a development team "in the small." That's useful.

The lessons in most genre business books are lessons about how gigantic company X did huge strategy Y, which isn't true anyway, it's somebody's stupid interpretation. Oooh, Dell got ahead by "putting the customer first" or some such pablum.  Useless, wrong, random, and irrelevant to the small business.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

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