• Uncertainty, Mental Shortcuts, and Errors in Technology Decisions

    If you are a technology leader, you know you make decisions, big or small, all the time. You also know that each decision carries some risk. Risks arise from several sources. One of the most common sources of risk in technology decisions is uncertainty, due to lack of information. Behavioral phychologists and economists have spent decades researching how humans make decisions under uncertainty. It turns out that humans use a few mental shortcuts to make estimates of uncertain quantities. These shortcuts often lead to systematic errors and incorrect decisions. Sadly, we are largely unaware we are using them. In this article I will elaborate on how uncertainty creates risk, mental shortcuts for estimating uncertain values, the kinds of errors the shortcuts create, and how to identify and stop the mental shortcuts. I hope this will help you reduce risks and increase the quality of your decisions, with only a little effort.

  • Avoiding the Pitfalls of Performance Metrics

    The intended audience for this article is a leader who wants to measure and improve the performance of people, and is considering quantitative metrics, targets and goals to do so. Quantitative metrics are powerful tools. But when applied to human work, they can easily cause lasting and deep damage. This article’s purpose is to help the reader be able to identify and avoid their pitfalls, and deploy them usefully.

  • What Great CTOs do Beyond Technology

    This article is aimed at new technical leaders of large or growing organization, who are looking to expand their leadership and functional skills beyond a mastery of technology. I have been working with organizations to help them adopt cloud computing for a little more than 7 years now. I was reflecting on what my team and I had achieved in 2020. I observed a few things that were surprising. Over the year we had proposed to our customers several initiatives to reduce the cost of operations, improve security and reliability, and use data and machine learning to improve customer satisfaction. While a few initiatives were taken up by our customers and we worked with them to implement them, several did not. The reasons for an initiative to fail or succeed had very often little to do with technology. In this article I want to explore what I learnt from the technical leaders of successful organizations and initiatives, about things that don’t have anything to do with technology.

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