Archive for category Passion for Learning and Improvement

Do You Embrace Constructive Feedback?

Direction for Improvement

Direction for Improvement



Do You Embrace Constructive Feedback?

I’ve read a number of articles recently that profess that constructive feedback fails to improve people’s performance the vast majority of time.  And others even say that all constructive feedback is destructive and an oxymoron.  Really?  I could not disagree more.

Consider this quote from a past article by Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ. Employees need a lot more feedback about their performance. According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 51% of employees don’t know whether their performance is where it should be. That’s pretty shocking, so I’ll say it again: We asked 3,611 workers across 291 companies to respond to a series of survey questions, including the question “I know whether my job performance is where it should be.” The results? 51% Disagreed while only 21% Agreed (27% were in the middle).

Successful people not only want constructive feedback on their performance, they embrace it.  They know constructive feedback will help them repeat good performance, identify areas for improvement, and help them grow and reach their career goals.  When your performance consistently improves, so does your future.

Now don’t get me wrong. Constructive feedback can be delivered poorly and have the opposite impact than was intended.  When this happens usually the person giving the feedback tries to ease into areas for improvement by sugarcoating the feedback or starting with a positive feedback that finishes with a “but” and an area for improvement.  That’s why I always encourage people to do an honest self-assessment before any formal feedback session.  Then concentrate only on positive items or areas for improvement that were significantly different from your self-assessment.

All of us should embrace constructive feedback.  And if you are responsible for giving constructive feedback, learn how to properly deliver feedback and give it frequently.

Update May 18:  Even Bill Gates agrees –



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Habits For a Successful Career – Habit #4

Passion for Learning

Passion for Learning


Habits for a Successful Career

Habit #4 – Develop a Passion for Learning

After enduring four or more years of college, most people are ecstatic to get out in the ‘real world’ – and stop studying.  Does this sound familiar?  If so, you are in for a HUGE surprise.  A successful career requires people to recognize that learning is a journey, not a destination.  A passion for learning is a prerequisite for Habit #2 – Be Proactive and Adapt to Change and Habit #3 – Build Trust and Credibility.  Continue improving/mastering knowledge and skills in a variety of areas including:


  • Current Events
  • Technology
  • Selling and Negotiation
  • Business/Industry
  • Project Management
  • Management
  • Communication
  • Leadership


Update your goals annually with at least two areas for focused, continued learning and education.  In addition, teaching others is a part of the learning experience.

Current update for Habit #4:  Great article on “The Best Investment You Can Make” -



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Seven Habits of a Successful Career

Successful Career Moves

Successful Career Moves


Time is nearing for another group of bright, young people to graduate from college.  Many are interviewing for their first job that begins a career.  They are prepared having spent about four years taking over forty classes in a variety of areas of knowledge.  Thousands are eager and ready to go.

But wait.  After years of schooling and a degree(s) in their chosen area, most of the ‘habits’ these new graduates need for a successful career were not emphasized nor taught in their curriculum. They were taught ‘subjects’.  People’s ‘attitudes’ and ‘behaviors’ are the biggest differentiator in a successful career.  People need to embrace and develop these Habits sooner than later.




The Seven Habits for a Successful Career include:

1)   Define Success/Goals and Priorities

First and foremost define what success is for YOU – career, professional and personal.  Too many people have their definition of success defined or overly influenced by family, friends, etc.  Second, layout a path to achieve your success by setting 2, 5 and 7 year goals.  Lastly, prioritize these goals and events.  Repeat this exercise at least every 2 years and/or after a significant life event.

2)   Be Proactive and Adapt to Change

Proactive people learn to anticipate future events and take initiative in shaping the results.  They understand that change can create problems, but focus on opportunities change creates.  During difficult times, they look for the good in people and events, and know proactive people can be counted on.

3)   Build Trust and Credibility

Trust and credibility is like oil.  It’s the ‘stuff’ that makes relationships with people work.  Consider this. “With high trust, success comes faster, better and at a lower cost” says David Neeleman, Founder of JetBlue.  Trust is not just a touchy, feely concept.  It (interpersonal trust) is an attitude or state of mind that has been cultivated between people.  Consider this definition of trust from the Covey’s:

TRUST = One’s Character + One’s Competency

4)   Embrace a Passion for Learning

After enduring four or more years of college, most are ecstatic to get out in the ‘real world’ – and quit studying.  But if a successful career is one of your goals, then recognize that learning is a journey, not a destination.  Success requires continued knowledge and skills improvement in areas like current events, technology, selling, business, management, communication, leadership, etc.

5)   Put Some Gratitude in Your Attitude

Successful people are consistently enthusiastic and energetic, and their attitude is contagious.  Others want to work with people with this attitude. No matter how much success a person may attain: (1) never take yourself too seriously; (2) be a team player; (3) have fun; and (4) celebrate other’s successes.  Cultivate others that have put some gratitude in their attitude as team members, colleagues, mentors, coaches, etc.

6)   Understand the ‘Business’

Most people’s careers are associated with business ventures – small, medium, or large.  No matter what position/career a person holds, successful people have at least a good breadth and depth of knowledge about their business.  Learn and continue expanding knowledge in the business including: the industry, business model, products and customers, processes, technology, economics, financials, etc.

7)   Develop Your ‘People’ Skills’

People skills are very important regardless of where a person is in their career.  But later in a career if a goal is to be an executive/leader, accomplished people skills are mandatory.  Continually learn and improve an array of communication skills including: listening, listening, listening, writing, speaking, presenting and selling.   In addition, successful careers are usually associated with people that have built strong relationships and networks.  Lastly, cultivate people that will be your coach and mentor, and return this help by coaching and mentoring others.


If a person becomes accomplished in these Seven Habits, and masters some, their goals will be in reach, and can be successful in any career.  And remember  . . .

We are what we repeatedly do!

Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a Habit!


Update:  See discussion on 4Q’s of Successful People which compliment these 7 Habits.



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IT Organization Success

Keys to IT Success



 Keys to IT Organization Success

No secret, for decades many IT organizations have struggled to be successful – probably more so than any other.  When is the last time you saw a dozen articles on the struggling accounting, marketing or human resources organizations?

Martha Heller in a 2010 CIO Magazine article discusses IT struggles and suggests a few ‘paradoxes’ in IT organizations that may be barriers to a successful IT organization.

  • The Business wants IT to be strategic, but force them to spend most of their time on operational issues.
  • IT needs to be stewards of risk mitigation and cost containment, yet expected to innovate.
  • IT is seen as that of an enabler, yet is also expected to be a business driver.
  • IT can make or break a company, but its leaders are infrequently members of C-level executive groups.
  • IT is one of the most pervasive, critical functions, yet must prove its value constantly.
  • Many IT successes are invisible, yet its few mistakes are highly visible.
  • IT project teams are accountable for project success, even if the Business has ownership.
  • IT staff loves new technology, but must embrace/understand the Business to be successful.
  • Many IT teams/people are uncomfortable dealing with people, but to succeed must build relationships, influence others, and resolve conflicts.
  • IT infrastructure is a consistent, long-term investment, but the Business thinks in quarters.

And here are a few more paradoxes I have experienced:

  • The Business wholly adopted  ‘BPI’, but IT has poor processes and rarely has budget for improvement.
  • C-level executives believe IT costs too much and fails to provide comparable value, but have limited knowledge of IT project or operational successes.
  • C-level executives expect IT to deliver new, strategic capabilities to their Business unit, yet most of the project identification, priorities and governance is driven by Business users and managers.
  • IT needs/must align its goals/objectives to the Business, yet the Business units goals/objectives are not always aligned with each other.

Any of these barriers hinder IT leaders and organizations from being valued and successful.  They can be mitigated and/or knocked down, but requires a relevant, achievable Strategy, competent People, and consistent, repeatable Processes.  In addition it also takes the IT leaders and staff to embrace/develop these 7 Habits of Excellence.

  • Build  Trust and Credibility
  • Develop  a Proactive Culture
  • Understand  the Company, Business Model, and Industry
  • Align  with Company’s Goals and Objectives
  • Lead  People  -  Manage Things
  • Adapt  to Change
  • Embrace  a Passion for Learning and Improvement


Developing these 7 Habits of Excellence will mitigate or eliminate barriers and result in these IT organization benefits:

  • Faster Throughput (projects and processes)
  • Less Costly (unit costs)
  • Better  Quality (products, software, systems and processes)
  • More Agility  (change)
  • More Capacity  (w/o more resources)
  • Better Risk Management
  • Better Place to Work

What IT paradoxes is your group facing??

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Was Your Project a Success Or . . .

Project Balance Scorecard

Project Success

Just started or completed a project? How will you know if it was a success – met or exceeded expectations? Or how will you know if it was not a success – didn’t meet expectations or failed? Which stakeholders’ expectations are important? What can be improved to insure more success next time?

Did you know that most software development (SD) organizations do not have a process or commitment in place to even try to measure a project’s success, failure or areas for improvement? These are usually CMM Level 1 organizations, Chaotic. CMM Level 2 SD organizations, Repeatable, typically has a process that measures a projects success, or lack of, whether it was “On Schedule” and/or “On Budget”, but this measurement falls short of answering the questions above.

So what process and commitment is needed to answer all of the questions above. Many CMM Level 3-5 SD organizations have implemented Project Balanced Scorecards (PBSC) as the process and tool to give a ‘balanced’ view of project success, or not, and areas for improvement.

A good PBSC follows the guidelines of the Balanced Scorecard Institute and based on The Balanced Scorecard from Kaplan and Norton. The PBSC starts with identifying all key stakeholders for a project including:

1) Business stakeholders
2) IT Service Delivery, operations, stakeholders
3) Customers
4) Employees, project team

These stakeholders determine a project’s level of success and areas for improvement. Next is to develop criteria for each stakeholder’s focus on the project’s success. Major criteria categories and criteria might be:

1) Financial Focus – Business financial stakeholders

2) Service Delivery Focus – Operations and support stakeholders

3) Customer Focus – Business and external customer stakeholders

4) Employee Focus – Project team stakeholders

The above criteria contain quantitative and qualitative areas of focus to determine a project’s success – a balanced view.

For an example of a Project Balanced Scorecard, check out our web site at Palomino Consulting Group – Products

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Over Provisioning of IT Assets

Money Tree

Money Tree

Do you know IT’s typical utilization of hardware (workstations, servers, storage, and network), software, and facilities in “lights on” operations and maintenance is ridiculously low!!  Millions of servers run at less than 12% of capacity.  Storage is utilized at less than 30% of capacity.  What a HUGE waste of money.  Why do IT organizations run such low utilization?  Mostly to CYA – Scope 2, Buy 3.  Other parts of the business avoid these costs.  For example: 

1)    Would a COO spend $30 million on about a 100K square foot distribution center if during the life of that facility they would use only 15-30% of the total floor space?

2)    Would an airline CEO buy a $20-30 million passenger jet if the average load factor during its life was going to be 15% and at peak occasionally 40%?

3)    Would any executive hire 5 new, permanent employees to do a total of 40 hours of work per week instead of just one person?

NO, if they plan on having a job – or a company!  Yet this mass under utilization – or over provisioning – of IT assets has occurred for at least 2 decades and is not getting much better.  Plus most CIOs do not know the utilization of their IT physical assets, including me for most of my career. 

Let’s look at a real life example based on total cost of ownership (TCO) for a server.  A CIO that buys a mid-level enterprise server for around $50K in acquisition costs will pay a 3 year TCO of over $250K, assuming the acquisition cost is 20% of the TCO.  These TCO ratios can vary but are backed up by published research from several IT research groups.  But the “relative” TCO of that server is over $800K, if it is utilized at only 15% of its capacity.  Now multiply this actual or relative TCO by the “hundreds” or “thousands” of servers a large company has in its data center(s).  These costs are not soft costs.

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