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Fun observations…

by | Nov 5, 2020 | Cake, Fun, observe

This little card from Intel was roiling large portions of IBM, which I had Fun observing.  This nearly 100-year-old company had been able to dance through multiple changes adroitly. Now with so many competitors in so many different fields, the byzantine leadership structure pitted productive parts of the company against each other, much more than external threats.  Success was much more satisfying with other divisions than actual competitors. One lab in Texas which had struggled for many years to even be profitable suddenly seized on the mission of bring “sanity to Unix” – and rewrote it to include additional “features”… classic IBM – missing the most important point…

… it was the SAME on many platforms, meaning programs and programmers could move to different places and be productive.  The idea of portability got IBM the monopoly position they were in, and now it was about to do it in. The Federal Market had started mandating Unix- real Unix – on bids, and I was a big fan although inside the company, that made me a target.  If I was going to have success with the card, I needed it to run Unix – real Unix.  So, ur little team now expanded to include those that were trying to save IBM’s reputation with one of it’s largest customers. Using Mainframes for years, Intel had new design software the ONLY ran on Unix, and unless we could get it there, they were throwing IBM out.  And – their executive sponsor was OUR Vice-Chairman – so there was some heft behind his request.

With a platinum album behind them, like most bands, they hit the road to promote it and stage concerts around the world.  You might think that with all of the Fun of their songs, their concerts would also be amazing – and they were.  And by the end of the tour, their leader McCrea had to cancel the next phase from “Exhaustion and fatigue” – clearly not Fun.  It also caused others to leave the band,  and for him to have to let them go,  and rebuild for the next leg up of music.  I observe often that leaders think they are “set” with talent until suddenly they are faced with a critical departure… only then do they think about the need for constantly observing talent and keeping them ready for openings down the road…

Interestingly, the only part of the company that picked the challenge up was the Palo Alto Scientific Center.  Near Intel, sure, but more importantly these Centers were in the gap between Research and Product, and one of the last bastions of creativity that wasn’t being controlled by Headquarters.  A group of 6 guys, and a vendor in Los Angeles, did it… actually got Unix to run native on a mainframe.  My boss in FSD had a great relationship with them, and they in fact became close friends and mentors, and started work on the port to our little card.  Being small and constantly under siege, we always found time for Fun, and compared to the actual “product teams”, we were actually more productive, which was not necessarily helpful… as you will see tomorrow…

You don’t see Fun on many lists… unless I am involved 😉  When we form Teams, we always start with Ground Rules – the lowest cost, highest return activity we do.  At the end, I always have to add this one, and pay attention to it throughout meetings:  Have FUN!!!  In writing … upfront for all the Meetings, mostly a reminder to me. Many of us are seriously questioning our own stance about “work”… and my plea is to find a way to include Fun in it.  It’s there.. IF you observe it, but you have to look hard.  We focus so much on the serious nature of our activities – ask this question “Is that actually the way for Me that is most productive?” Brain science is starting to realize a different answer…   What if we were simply to ….Let Me Go?

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