The Juggling Koan

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • What do I do when I have more work than I can handle?
  • How do I get other people to help with my workload?
  • What is the answer to the Juggling Koan?

Mark recently blogged with our first ever management koan, "What Would An Effective Manager Do?" It was clearly a big hit - we got 45 responses within 2-3 days.

Clearly, many of you wanted to know what the answer is, and that's great - the burning desire to get better is at the heart of all good managers. Maybe we should say "many of US" wanted to know, since even Mike posted a comment wondering about the answer! (Mark thinks that was just him being nice to everyone, putting everyone out of the misery of waiting.)

So, this is a first for us, a show driven completely by a blog post and its response. In fact, we had to juggle a lot to slide it into the lineup, and it's certainly unusual for us to record a show and put it right up on the site.

And what's the show about? Well, don't you want to know what an effective manager would do? We're going to learn the right way of thinking on this issue, and then we're going to review every unique blog comment and provide insight as to what works and what doesn't.

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Excellent podcast. Thank you for the

Excellent podcast.
Thank you for the direct feedback to my comment!
Point taken: Delegate.

Feedback as requested: I did not

Feedback as requested: I did not initially like the posing of a question and then having us try to answer it. The reason I like Manager Tools so much is that I can trust the information that I get from Mike and Mark. After listening to the podcast, you guys did a great job of handling the responses and making sure that we knew what was good and bad about each answer. I think more of these posts would be good, but not at the sacrifice of your regularly scheduled podcasts.

Is it time for multiple casts in a week? It sounds like you have more then enough material. I know I have the appetite for more?

Great job as always! When the two of you put so much thought into these podcasts we listeners know that you truly believe in them. It is so much easier to take was you say and put it into practice when we know how strongly you believe in these ideas.

Mike and Mark, Thanks for this

Mike and Mark,

Thanks for this podcast. I think the approach worked really well and I would like to see the experiment repeated in the future.

Going through the posts individually made it feel like a mini one on one coaching session. I'm sure people will have gotten value out of that.

One lesson I took away from the podcast is about communication. Your answer was powerful because you didn't hedge your bets. No "if this" or "but that", just the core answer. Simple, direct and powerful. Just the way an answer to a koan should be.

Thanks guys.


Thanks so far, gents. Steven - NO,

Thanks so far, gents.

Steven - NO, no CHANCE of more than weekly podcasts now, unless you count 5 a month (!) It might happen sometime in the future. Frankly, it will depend upon the success of subscriptions. We have to pay for this hobby, and me traveling for the next 20 years is not the way to do that.

And, I like the idea. It's like, I want a Ferrari... but I don't have one.



Hi mark, I can't listen to this till

Hi mark,

I can't listen to this till my internet connection at home gets reconnected on Wednesday, and I can't tell you how frustrated I am about that! However, just wanted to let you know that this, and the performance measurement brainstorm were the best fun and I hope we can do it again soon. I hope too that everyone who contributed hops over the forums where we have this kind of fun everyday! Thank you for setting them up and starting the fun.


I LOVED this podcast. Something about

I LOVED this podcast. Something about the format of posing a real-world problem and responding to members' answers really resonated with me.

I could never imagine myself spending

I could never imagine myself spending hours to go through all the posts, collate them, analysed them and then incorporate it in your answer/analysis. Fantastic effort! - which also explains why you are more successful than others.


I wonder if a source of the 'push back'

I wonder if a source of the 'push back' response upon recieving the 6th ball has to do with Project Management training that tech types are likely to have recieved. Early in Project Management training I was taught that to be able to effectively manage a project I need control at least of one three things; scope, budget, or schedule (sometimes quality is added). Could it be, that especially for tech types, some of the 'project management' concepts need to be dropped when operating as a manager?

Mark and Mike--excellent podcast today,

Mark and Mike--excellent podcast today, on the heels of the well-constructed koan post. And thanks for going above and beyond the call in putting this cast together so quickly. We all recognize that took some juggling on your own parts. I have been a manager more than twenty years, and I love that I am still learning from you two. Jim

All- Thanks for the kind


Thanks for the kind words.

Jcnick - yes, I think you're right. And... it's funny to hear that folks are telling PMs to "control" scope, budget or schedule. PMs NEVER control ANY of those things. Perhaps a senior PM is asked to provide guidance to the planning, but that doesn't mean there's ANY control. The customer always controls all of those.

This conflict - and it's a function of organizational power - is inevitable.

Sure, influence what you can... but don't start there. Start with "gladly accept, think about what to delegate and how, and THEN consider talking about those three.


Mike and Mark, Great cast. I

Mike and Mark,

Great cast. I enjoyed listening.

Thanks for reviewing my response.


ps -- an example of a small ball overcome by bigger balls --

Thanks guys. Being an IT PM, I am so

Thanks guys.
Being an IT PM, I am so used to pushing back citing scope creep and lack of time as a standard excuse. (but kept wondering why I am not being given additonal responsibilites).This has shifted my paradigm.

I like this challenge - repsonse format and the critique of responses.
I would visit this site once a week just to get the podcast and rarely browse forums.

Since this koan was put forth, I started visiting the site daily and keenly read all the posts.

You have my vote for this format and thank you guys for spreading the wisdom.


Good stuff! I fall in to the classic

Good stuff! I fall in to the classic "IT Manager" that Mike and Mark spoke about (push back, ready to cite all the things we are already too busy to do, etc.) This is (or was) very difficult for me to gladly accept a new ball.

Now that I recognize it as a compliment, a challenge to rise to, and a chance to shine, why wouldn't I be thankful for the opportunity to produce positive results for the company?

Sure, I will come back later with a plan of how I will get the sixth ball done and what impact it will have, but those are answers, not questions I'm asking the boss to solve. Again, this is a big paradigm shift for me after only a year in the first level manager chair.

I sure am glad to have Manager Tools in my toolkit!

First off I’m one of many who

First off I’m one of many who are guilty of reading but never posting. I’ll try to change that behavior. Really liked the question and answer format for this cast. Would be great on a quarterly or bi-monthly basis.

I work in the IT space and constantly hear about the “Iron Triangle” of scope, time and resources. If you frame projects a little differently and think of them as a pyramid with your team’s businesses processes (could they be more efficient and effective??) as the base then scope, time and resources as sides of the pyramid you suddenly see a lot of potential for increasing your team’s capacity without dropping features, adding resources or pushing out timelines.

I really enjoyed this podcast. I

I really enjoyed this podcast. I wouldn't want to see it replace the current format, but perhaps one every other month would be good. A specific problem, individual ideas and the response/review of those answers. It gives a practical application of problem solving and critical thinking skills we don't often get with a safety net.

As I find myself saying often, thank you, Mark and Mike!

I really liked the podcast. I like the

I really liked the podcast. I like the idea of posing a question and getting a response. Hearing the two of you talk gives me an idea of how you think through an issue. I look forward to hearing more of these. Larry

Jut got a chance to listen to the cast.

Jut got a chance to listen to the cast. A lot of very good points, ones that I will endeavor to remember the next time someone offers to pass something down to me.

One thing I would like you to consider in future casts or in the blog when assessing the responses of others: many of us don't work in Manager Tools savvy companies. Maybe most managers understand what their directs are already working on, but not all do. There is, after all, a reason manager tools is so interesting to many of us...because it shines a light on a new path out of the deep dark woods we have found ourselves in.

My first boss (not at my current company) came right out and told me that her plan was to keep giving me more to do until I looked stressed. Another told me they were going to keep piling it on until I pushed back. There was an expectation that they would get pushback as soon as even the smallest balls started hitting the floor. It almost seems to me that there is an expectation of pushback ingrained in the management culture.

So, while your suggestions sound like absolutely the right thing to do when your manager is reasonable, I think we need to acknowledge that there are bad managers out there and that enthusiastically accepting everything they deem to pass down may be a recipe for disaster.

Just my two cents.

Mike & Mark - awesome 'cast! I missed

Mike & Mark - awesome 'cast! I missed not having nine-and-a-half steps to follow (I jest) but it was a great break in the norm. I really enjoyed how it tied Mark's blog post, the comments and the 'cast into one nice package. More of these 'casts spread amongst your "regular" shows would be awesome!

Mike/Mark, yes, as IT managers we are

yes, as IT managers we are pretty 'unique'. In fact when you wrote 'your boss throw another ball ...' I read 'your customer added 10 new features to the project we have just agreed upon in term of features and timing'.

In that second extent, as we are VERY good at gathering requirements and estimating (it's our job) and as we don't have any slack, they best way I know to cope with 'a new ball' is to have the customer in the team (trust!) and work on context and priority management.


PierG- Ahh, it's a challenging life


Ahh, it's a challenging life we lead as managers! While there are some differences in the IT space - and there are differences in the types of balls one gets handed - there is still, in many cases, plenty of opportunity to grow the team rather than push the ball.


Loved the podcast. As a manager from

Loved the podcast. As a manager from the IT side I caught myself saying "but, but..." quite a few times during the cast. Then I sat back and thought about this a bit.

IT projects are inherently risky - if they weren't we wouldn't be in a job. Running an IT project (either directly or indirectly through a direct report) always contains risk. The risk can bite you sharply in the backside and cause lots of extra hours or, worse, public slippage. Thus all (good) IT managers know one way or another that the current even paced "we're only working 50 hours a week" tranquility can be ruined any day/hour now. IT managers therefore build in an inherent safety padding when committing their folk - you want to do more, but know that each of in-flight projects could bite, and more projects mean more chances of multiple bites at the same time and hence having to report slip.

And hence the "protective" approach to taking on more work. Obviously IT projects are not unique in having risk (saw a great TV program on digging the tunnels in the Swiss Alps where a roof collapse lost them 6 months of progress and millions of dollars to recover!) but they are usually pushing the envelop on many fronts and IT projects have now become so complex that sometimes a trivial mistake can cost months to find and track down.

But are all balls created equal? Are they new projects or are they other tasks such as investigating a competitor, completing an employee assessment round, or even being the support contact for the next quarter? I believe that new project balls need a different approach to new task balls. And perhaps "IT managers" tend to react to every type of ball using the same "project defensive" approach. I know that I used to.


Mike and Mark: I think the format

Mike and Mark: I think the format worked GREAT. A very good podcast. And Mark, you mused toward the end that maybe it was a bit repetitive - yes, maybe a bit. But only a bit (and I'm a high "D")...

I'm not a manager, and I work in IT. I

I'm not a manager, and I work in IT. I enjoy listening to these podcasts, but I'd really like Mike and Mark to focus a little bit on the IT side of things. Some of the more recent 'casts have gotten me rather angry. I recognize this is a podcast for managers, not "grunts", so perhaps I'm not really the target audience.

This particular episode has gotten me very angry because the manager in question just turns around and delegates his/her own work down to their subordinates, with nothing said about what the subordinates can say or do. We at the bottom have no subordinates to send balls to, we get them dumped on us. The attitude I hear for the manager is, "Do it, because it's the right thing to do. If you can't say 'Yes', then maybe you shouldn't be in this job." Is that what we workers are supposed to do to? Just grin and bear it?

I like this podcast a lot because most of the time what Mike and Mark suggest doing is exactly what I'd like my management chain to do (and what I'd try to do if I ever became a manager). This one, though, I am very, very concerned about.

Mike and Mark: Thanks so much for

Mike and Mark:

Thanks so much for this cast - and especially including the topic/title at the beginning of the cast.

The title at the beginning will make it much easier to find what I want to listen to both on the iPod Shuffle and in the car.

Thanks again.

I like the format for this podcast.

I like the format for this podcast. The question and content was very interesting, and fun to listen to.

It is something I deal with everyday from an IT Mangaer's perspective. But, I have never really fallen into the camp that resorts to "what do you want to fall off the plate" discussion with my boss or customers. Which is one reason I think I've been successful at what I do.

I've always considered bigger balls to be compliments and growth opportunities. That being said, there are a lot of challenges and this podcast has good suggestions for them.

I've dealt with them via delegation and team member repriorization (dropping little balls at the end of the pyramid scheme) methods.

Keep up the great work.

Both good and bad feelings about this

Both good and bad feelings about this weeks show.
The first part was better. By the time you got half way through the comment review, I was tuning out.
Even though I didn't post a reply, I did enjoy the challenge and checked back for the answer a few times.

Hi, Guys. I was amused by your

Hi, Guys.

I was amused by your response to my solution to the "Kobayashi Maru." The podcast was good fun.

I realize it would have been a huge segue and unreasonable given what you were doing. Your podcast was for the manager receiving the 6th ball.

But let's talk about the manager who is giving the 6th ball and pretend we are that guy for a second. Rather than "Bye!" when the employee pulls a Kobayashi Maru (you were joking, right? :), how about this? If the manager given the 6th ball is a dud and he leaves, then that's great for retention and we jump up and enthusiastically shake his hand and offer to go get him a cardboard box and provide references.

If the manager leaving is a star, then we now might want to sit back and figure out where we went wrong in dumping down the 6th ball.

I think this is very relevant to this topic because the solution was delegation. Since we will solve our reception of delegation by performing delegating, we should probably be very, very mindful of how we go about that task by following the 9 steps for delegating MT provides here, and also by doing something MT doesn't talk about much at all: using the science of management to ensure we have an accurate view of our team's capacity to accept work and deliver.

There is always a danger, anytime we delegate, that we in the high D and high I category will move without enough information, without doing our homework, jump to conclusions, and pat ourselves on the backs for challenging our folks while in reality what we are doing is dropping the straw on the camel's back and destroying someone's ability to succeed by setting him up for failure while throwing around the pretty lingo "This task should challenge your business acumen while providing substantial return on investment by capitalizing on your strengths and leveraging the correct resource."

It sounds good, but inside our employee is thinking, "You schmuck. That job offer I just got was well timed."

Then out walks a 10 year company veteran who is the SME for half of our applications, or the account manager who brought in half of our business, or the firm partner who takes a quarter of our accounts with him.

Just as we ask with feedback "Can I give you some?" - before we deal out our delegation to folks we can do a quick temperature check on our targets when they are potentially loaded to the gills.

For this reason, I'd add to the MT advice we all received which was excellent, as always, that we also work to do our Drucker Work. State objectives at the beginning of the year, establish metrics that are numeric and objective where at all possible, and then record what we delegate and weight each task or project very carefully such that we have an accurate "instrument panel" of each person's availability in upcoming months. We should know by viewing a spreadsheet or some other dashboard at any time whether or not our folks are near or at the red line in terms of capability to deliver.

I am currently pushing my folks to perform more than they ever have before - and myself. We're stretching like crazy. And that's a good thing. But I am counterbalancing that behavior with others:

* O3's with "How are things going overall?" for retention temperature checks

* Being willing to take honest feedback (as long as they remark on my behavior not characterizations or conclusions) whenever offered and not respond to it for 24 hours while I sleep on it. If they don't know they can feedback right back at me, then I feel I'm going to be trying to read with one eye shut.

* Monitoring assignments given to each person (Projects, special assignments), work hours, forecasted capacity, and other numbers to see where I really have these folks.

* Being fully willing to undo my decisions when I see what are normally top performers indicating too much pain or during follow-ups finding things left undone as they refuse to admit they are falling apart.

While learning to properly handle a boss, also remember that we are someone's boss, and as MT fans, we have the secrets we need to be better than the boss who only wants to hear "No problem" when handing down big, shiny, explosive bombs.

So, I'd add to this podcast that when delegating down to the next level, we might add a step: review retention temperature from O3 notes, and also review dashboard/spreadsheet of capacity for each team member to ensure we aren't about to make an enthusiastic yet ill-informed mistake and over-challenge a top performer that we'll need later to do the tasks he has already been assigned.

Again, thanks for the magnificent work you do for all of us Mike and Mark. Every month, I feel like I've doubled by management abilities from synthesizing all of this together. I'm almost caught up on every podcast. Just six to go. :)

Egad, that turned out to be long. Darn.

Egad, that turned out to be long. Darn. No chance any of the D's will read that. It may as well have seven attachments.

US41- Long's fine with me. GREAT


Long's fine with me. GREAT POST! Some thoughts:

My apologies if my comment about bye was a little too much. Yes, we were joking. Mike and I have a sense of humor.

Sometimes we dig into a problem from one perspective to cast in relief an important, and often missed or poorly understood, portion of it. The Juggling Koan teaches us delegation, and why a professional must know it, and use it.

And, one on ones, coaching and feedback, and relationship building through frequent communication, done regularly - not even well, just REGULARLY - provide a great deal of immunization against the kind of loss you're talking about.

If you lose people because you delegate, having not known their workload, that's NOT a delegation problem, 90% of the time. That's a communication problem. And it IS the manager's fault, but not delegating doesn't solve it.

And hey, no complaining that you go through a "post-catch-up-not-enough-Manager-Tools-often-enough" funk. It's gone through the forums!

Thanks for taking the time. Again, great post. Glad you're thinking about managing.


Tim- Regarding your earlier post


Regarding your earlier post about non-MT managers:

Of course you're right. Sometimes we struggle with the fact that we can't teach every situation every time. There's ALWAYS someone (and boy do they send us emails to tell us how wrong we are) that can make a case that their situation is different. We can't argue with them, but that doesn't make the point valid.

You're right... we need a cast on how to push back.


J.O.- Funny how so many folks feel


Funny how so many folks feel that our casts are skewed toward IT. Ah, well.

Sorry you disagree with us. The definition of conflict is two human beings in the same county. When one of them starts talking with a big megaphone (podcast), it's sure to be irritating periodically, I suppose.

Stick with us. We're right most of the time, and it beats heck out of reading books that don't tell you what to do anyway.


CanLearn/Jim- Thanks for letting us


Thanks for letting us know. We really appreciate feedback.


Mike and Mark, Good for you for

Mike and Mark,

Good for you for trying something different with the podcast. Its fantastic that you carry on experimenting with the medium.

However I'm going to buck the general trend on here and say I thought this was the least effective cast I've heard from you guys.

Usually, I am on the edge of my seat with your casts, listening attentively, laughing along and and feeling like I wished so much I was in the same room so I could ask questions! You guys really know how to keep listeners engaged - even if my mind wanders off (often on the way home at the end of the day!), I find myself pausing and rewinding so I can hear every gem.

However, my reaction to this cast was different - I listened attentively to the first 10 or so minutes, but then it got repetitive (he said/ I said) and I got bored, tuned out and didn't even finish the cast.

It may be that if I had followed the posts etc beforehand that I would have found it more interesting/useful. However, that's not been the case with any of the other casts. I suspect this format may only be of interest to a narrower audience than usual.

Still, as this is my first post here (it would be in the negative wouldn't it...sigh), I want to take the opportunity to say a very big thank you for having the courage, putting in the thought and obviously working damn hard to produce the most amazing management training resource. You guys are an inspiration.

A huge thanks,


Paul- Oh well...sigh. ;-) We did


Oh well...sigh. ;-) We did ask! Thank you for taking your time, and we hope to hear more, both gems and those that need polishing.


Hello Mike and Mark, thanks a lot for

Hello Mike and Mark,
thanks a lot for your really interesting and helpfull work! What is really amazing for me is that you give all your experience for free. I have great respect that you invest your time for all the podcasts and the forum.

Sometimes I have to struggle a bit through all the posts because I'm not native english speaker. But it's worth doing it!

There is a question which I couldn't answer with my dictionary: I couldn't find a translation for "juggling koan". Please tell me, what is a koan?


Mark said: >>> If you lose people

Mark said:

>>> If you lose people because you delegate, having not known their workload, that’s NOT a delegation problem, 90% of the time. That’s a communication problem. And it IS the manager’s fault, but not delegating doesn’t solve it.

Thanks, Mark, that's kind of what I was hoping to hear as a counterbalance -- I wish it had been on the podcast too. I understand that delegation is a necessary part of any manager's toolkit, yet it sounded to me as though you were just saying, "Delegation is the solution whenever your manager gives you another ball".

Maybe you guys should do an "IT Manager Tools" podcast that focuses specifically on IT issues?

Judith- A "koan" is usually a story,


A "koan" is usually a story, or a dialogue, usually leading to a question to be pondered. It is from Zen Buddhism, and they are designed to help students understand things that cannot be achieved from rational or logical thought.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about them is that they have "right" answers. They are not just some mystical question.. they are, in a sense, a test. Most people don't get that there is a right answer for them.

One of the more well known of these is, "if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Usually, people are puzzled by the question - which a Buddhist Monk would consider good, as that lack of "understanding" would lead to enlightenment.

However, in the case of the "tree falling koan", most people are puzzled because they think the question is 'dumb'...because 'of course a tree makes noise when it falls.' And often people can be quite technical in their explanations, including sound waves and the like.

But, the answer is in fact, in the Zen way, NO, it doesn't make a sound...because sound is actually perception, and if there is no one there to perceive it, there can be no perception... and thus no sound.

So, our juggling question was designed to show the value of delegation, which we know that many people are not attuned to. Thus, I made it a koan, to encourage, perhaps, creative and/or non-linear thinking.


Whoa, I'm a little unsettled by this

Whoa, I'm a little unsettled by this podcast. I don't disagree with your remedy, I think it would do the IT organizations around the world a better service if folks were more willing to step up to the plate. The message is clear: Automatically accept the task, delegate, recalculate internally, provide status during O3s.

Perhaps it would be beneficial if you could dedicate a podcast to managing in high-risk environments where resources are fixed and risk has to be mitigated. The IT industry has spent a lot of time analyzing this type of environment and reach some interesting conclusions. I'd like to hear both Mark and Mike's perspective, particularly Mike's given his background.

Noah- Good thoughts. I'm sure


Good thoughts. I'm sure Mike's lack of commenting suggests he would agree with me... he does read all the posts, and we don't just talk about my opinions. But we'll see.

I'd be particularly interested in his discussion of his reduction of trouble tickets from over 600 to less than 10 in one year... there must have been some serious changes in what was done and how it was done (the results of delegation)...


Mike and Mark- That was a great

Mike and Mark-

That was a great show. I enjoyed the Koan nature of the original post and it was a nice change of pace.

I was interested in some of the very good thoughts on why IT managers like to push back. I've been in a couple and it always seems to be there. But my opinion is a little different and this is just my opinion. We (IT orgs) don't get everything done. We never, ever have all the requirements till we are done. There is risk with one or many tasks and I’m not sure how one more changes that. And that fudge factor always gets eaten up. I don’t want to start a debate on specific development methodologies, but there have been some recent ones that assume the above and proscribe a process to combat or harness the disruption of change.

But as far as push back, I think IT orgs are full of high-C types. I’m one (I admit it). And I just hate it when someone comes along and messes with my plans. That is the reason I think there is such a consistent element of push back.

So, with that off my chest, your podcast hit me like a bag of rocks from heaven. I’m one of those push back guys. I went into work today and when a project manager came to me with a problem out of scope, I gave a very quiet “Ooh-rah” and accepted it. I then delegated it and actually increased the ball size a little, by giving design decisions to the developer. Happy PM, happy Dev, happy me as I didn’t have a scuffle to start my day


PS One other thought crossed my mind while writing. I’m certain there are time management books that tell you to say ‘No’ to new tasks, just can’t think of the names.

Ashamed. That is how I feel after

Ashamed. That is how I feel after listening to this cast. Ashamed for getting what should have been so easy an answer so very wrong. And you know what makes it so bad? Late last week I got my annual review (my first at this company) and what was listed as one of my two greatest strengths? "Willingness to take on new work and to pro-actively seek new work out." And yet, I suggested possible push back on my manager about the impact of taking on the new ball.

I will admit, I grew up in the IT world (and still spend most of my time dealing with IT-centric projects) and everything you said about the traits of IT managers applies to me. And yet, there I was putting out a post talking about pushing back on my manager about the new ball with the thought in my little pea brain that I needed to "protect my team" from being asked to do more than they could handle in a quality manner. I find it easy to take on new tasks for myself but difficult to let what I feel is "too much" stuff slide down to my team. Clearly I need more work on the mental discipline of delegation.

Thank you, Master Horstman and Master Auzenne for so gently reminding me of that which I already knew but lost site of. It isn't about process, it's about results at all times and in all ways. Grasshopper is grateful for the lesson. *bowing*

Oh yeah, I forgot the feedback about

Oh yeah, I forgot the feedback about the cast itself.

I think it was an OUTSTANDING cast and something that should be repeated. Not often to be sure, but as an occasional treat. No more than once a quarter, and perhaps even just once or twice a year. While MT is a very valuable resource as it is and delivers amazing value in it's current format, the sense of community that this cast created was very uplifting and formed a pleasing and welcome change from the norm. And it is only by being tested that we are sure we have learned.

But please, don't tell my school aged children I just asked to periodically be given a test. They think I'm loopy enough as it is!

Good morning guys. I had a chance to

Good morning guys.
I had a chance to listen to the podcast on the way home last night. (yes, I have a long drive, and even longer since oklahoma city is now the frozen tundra). I thought this was a great cast. It was a nice change of pace. Responding to many of the responses was a great idea. What I noticed about your responses, was they were actually thought out. You had specific comments about each of the posts from your members. I think that will help members stay on track.
Keep up the great work. I appreciate you guys taking the time to help managers such as myself with the growth process.

Hi guys, I had not yet heard the

Hi guys,

I had not yet heard the latest podcast on "the sixth ball" when I got the opportunity to get responsibilty over twice as big a region as a currently have. Frankly, my first though was "hmm, interesting" but for the wrong reason ($$$). I met with one of my buddies yesterday night and mentioned the oppty to him, after which he asked me if I'd heard you latest cast (we're both fans of y'all).

Gosh - Of course you're right. About the fact that one should accept this new task, about making it work by delegating all the smaller balls that one is dealing with every day and also about the reason for doing so: growing the company will lead to a bigger pie... I called by boss this morning to say that I was glad to accept the new challenge - didn't call it a 'ball' though :-)

Thanks for opening my eyes and for all the great podcasts so far and still to come. Keep up the great work.

Mark & Mike, I thought about the

Mark & Mike,

I thought about the podcast since my last post. The statement that stood out in my mind is your comment on delivering "bad marketing." To me, this is a quality issue and as a manager, it's my job to manage the quality of output with a given set of directs and resources. This can be managed via manager tools. An example is when Mike reduce the bug database from 600 to 1, he didn't set out to make system X better, he set out to fix the IT organization's service to the business.

In the context of this podcast and this discussion, I think most IT folks are making the point that you can't negotiate capabilities. Unlike "bad marketing," capabilities either exist or don't. If work is getting delegated that doesn't take in the capability gap then it's "...a communication problem. And it IS the manager’s fault...." To your point, capability communication should not be echoed every time a task is delegated.

Noah- I see your point - well made.


I see your point - well made. Here's another way of looking at it:

Of COURSE capabilities can be negotiated, and it happens all the time. And capabilities don't simply "exist", anymore than my "ability to run" exists. With training, I "still have" my ability to run/capability it still exists - but now that capability is larger.

Professional capabilities do exist, but they also are elastic and can be made more so by effective, creative, motivational, professional management.

Every IT person I know has 3-4 special projects they're working on under the radar, some of which managers know about, and some of which are moonlighting for money or just for a friend in another department. Every developer steals time - creatively, I think - for other stuff. There's always slack in the system.

Part of IT's bad reputation - completely unnecessary in my opinion, but true nonetheless - is this "inelastic labor market argument."

Our point is that great managers don't START by negotiating. They start by accepting, because they work in the context of a business, and the business serves customers (who rarely care about the difficulties). Then they examine, and work on the elastic parts of the org , and then they go through delegation, and then go back if need be and talk about impacts.

It's not a perception of lack of IT capabilities that creates the reputation (we think what you do is magic)'s the "presumptive gall" (a marketing friend's phrase) to negotiate with someone on the other side of whom is standing a customer who pays everyone's salaries. Nobody else tells the customer no... why should IT get to have all the fun? ;-)

And, we're not suggesting you cave. We know there is not infinite elasticity. We're okay with reasoned dialog after you accept the ball. But push back before you accept is perceived as reflexive, and indicative of an inelastic (read: undeveloped, and undevelopable) team... not good for the manager.

Thanks for helping me see your point more clearly.


My long-time friend called me stressed

My long-time friend called me stressed out on the way home from work.

She said, "I just got handed a new big ball, I guess management has figured out I'm a do-er. But I've got so many other things going on right now..."

I caught the first five minutes of The Koan on the way to work that day, and reccommended strongly that she listen to the podcast. She downloaded it. She said she'll check it out on the plane on the way to her next little ball assignment.

I am a one week member and an avid listener.

I enjoyed spreading the word about MT to a long time friend.

The only problem is, she works for the competitition.

I guess I'd rather see a close friend succeed.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

- poncho_57

Poncho- That's the spirit. It'll


That's the spirit. It'll come back to you. Karma and gravity.


Guys, Thanks for that show. (All


Thanks for that show. (All the shows, really) I liked the format, and finally registered so I wouldn't miss the next opportunity. If you plan another similar excercise in the future, please announce the relevent post on a podcast, so those of us who are not farmiliar to the boards can have a chance to chime in.


Great Podcast guys. It gave me a new

Great Podcast guys. It gave me a new perspective of getting new projects when I'm already overloaded. Not to mention I now have a new appreciation for my boss. I used to shake my head and think that he needed to turn down some projects given to him. He gets lots of stuff handed to him that really belong to someone else, but he gets them done and others don't.