The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Noted with minimal comment

This passage from Almost Perfect, Pete Peterson's autobiography of his days at WordPerfect Corp., inspired me to get out of bed, walk to my computer, and post a blog entry:

We on the Board had no one to blame for the delays but ourselves. The project directors we had chosen were inexperienced managers, and they made the mistakes inexperienced managers make. They were prone to overly optimistic forecasts and had trouble chewing people out when they missed their deadlines. Another of our mistakes was that we waited too long to add new programmers to the project....

And here is the context of that passage, which Peterson, without irony or self-awareness, set up only two paragraphs earlier:

I was not entirely honest in making the admission [that our release date had slipped]. Rather than go with a realistic date or a vague date or no date at all, I announced a hoped-for second quarter release, which was the most optimistic date from our most optimistic developer.

Yes, the Board had no one to blame...but they blamed the managers and developers. Yes, the managers had trouble chewing people out...for missing deadlines the programmers thought impossible and never agreed to. Yes, the programmers came up with a range of estimates...which turned out to include the actual ship date. And of course, if you want to foster openness and communication, the best way to do that has to include, without exception, ignoring the people doing the work, exhorting their managers to chew them out, and setting wildly unrealistic requirements in the first place.

WordPerfect Corporation had the best word processor on the planet in 1990, but somehow could never grow beyond themselves. Almost Perfect should serve as a cautionary tale to every entrepreneur, everywhere, to get out of the way of their own creations, lest they hang on and watch their babies die.

The third way, of which I heartily approve, is to eschew growth entirely. If done honestly and with full acceptance of the consequences, an entrepreneur can live a long and happy life running a business out of his living room. But having decided to grow beyond that point, the entrepreneur must necessarily give up total control of his organization in exchange for partial control over something orders of magnitude larger. One can be king, or one can be rich, but one can almost never have both.

Comments are closed