It's Not a Tech Problem, Stupid

April 09, 2016

I enjoy helping people and solving complex problems. However, it's disheartening to encounter issues that fall outside the scope of a programmer's ability to solve them. If you lack an engineering background, you may believe that your challenges are technological in nature—that a website, an app, or a machine learning server might be the solution. But in reality, these are rarely the root causes. Here are what I consider to be your seven most critical issues:

2016 04 09

  1. You're Not Delivering on Your Promises: What is the goal of your product? What problem are you trying to solve? Do you understand your customers' needs? How does your product stand out in the market? Do you have control over the delivery process? If not, you might be wasting time and resources building something that nobody wants.

  2. You're Risk-Averse: You fear making significant changes because something might break. Whether it's messy CSS files, deprecated browsers, or spaghetti code that no one wants to touch, these issues demand attention. It's crucial to clean up your tech debt so you can move forward.

  3. You Lack Creativity: Minor aesthetic problems, such as misaligned text or an off-center box, might seem easy to fix but can still detract from the overall design. Consider trusting your designer to make bold visual choices, or hire a user experience specialist to conduct A/B testing. You might also need to invest in high-quality content for SEO.

  4. You Form Superficial and Dishonest Relationships: Your lack of open communication obscures progress and roadblocks. You might be misleading investors with over-promises, creating an illusion that everything is fine. This lack of transparency will ultimately hurt everyone involved.

  5. You Foster Rivalry Within Your Team: Do you know why your team is unhappy? Is there an excessive workload causing burnout? Do they enjoy their work? Is there trust in the system? If the work environment is neither pleasant nor stimulating, it might be time to reconsider your leadership.

  6. You're Less Productive Than You Think: Do you notice a drop in productivity? Unfocused meetings without clear outcomes and trying to multitask without setting priorities not only waste your time but also the time of those around you.

  7. You're Not Humble: You prioritize being right over doing what's right. Because of your seniority and experience, you believe your viewpoint must be correct. Your ego clouds your judgment and prevents you from making objective decisions.

It's easy to identify flaws in software, but it's much harder to spot them in corporate culture. Addressing these fundamental issues should be your first step.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn