Skedsheet Blog

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Lesson #1: Don’t have process without thought.

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I’m examining some of the lessons I’ve learned from working at other companies – trying to figure out how experience matters when you’re running your own business.

 Digital Equipment Corporation – I started as an engineer at this behemoth when it was already in it’s decline; down from a high of 100,000 employees to 60,000.  Huge, and mired in it’s own weight.

I remember the moment I knew I was going to quit: I was making a change to a test program being used to qualify a new chip.  The process was to have a formal review – so far so good.  But the process grew because various managers wanted to grow their turf – for me to get my program approved, I had to get 7 signatures, from within Digital_Equipment_Corporation_1987_logoseveral departments. 

Of course, outside of my own manager and another engineer in my department, nobody really understood the technical details, so there was a document describing the intent of the change. After two days of walking the document around to various desks, one of the managers told me he wouldn’t approve the program because my document had spelling mistakes. 

The outcome was that I had to rewrite the document, and start the approval process again.  And I wrote my resume at the same time.  The company lost an eager engineer, because had a system that valued the process over any contribution.  Long-term, losing sight of the goal is probably what killed that company.  They were so excited about the process they forgot they were in it to make great products… and ultimately money.


Written by Harry Hollander

April 30, 2009 at 6:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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