Controlled by our work tools – How tools can control our work (and raise costs)

By 23/11/2022 No Comments


I hope you are safe and well.

It’s been busy here at Lambert HQ. I’ve been working my way through a period of simplification. Life was getting too complicated and complex. I was losing control of control itself.

Note : This email was first published on The Manager – Sign up to receive these straight to your inbox

So, I’ve moved my newsletters together on Substack. I’ve switched back-end hosting to a cheaper and simpler solution (cheaper and faster!!), as well as moved my domains to a single provider. I’ve cancelled service subscriptions, moved my data to a trusted single backup and cut down on social media sites. It was getting overwhelming, so I’ve cut down the amount of things vying for my attention.

I’ve taken a break from LinkedIn – my account is now in hibernation in case you can’t find me on there. I was spending too long on the site, was struggling to find much of value to read (lots of humble brags) and recently, some of the hateful comments cut deep. I don’t think, at this moment in my life, I have the mental fortitude to be bothered with it – the gains of LinkedIn certainly didn’t/don’t outweigh the mental load the platform brings me. Do you ever feel that?

So, I’m hibernating LinkedIn for a while to focus on getting more good work done. More videos, more newsletters, more podcasts and more books. Life is short and I’d rather focus on content and work that has longevity rather than dealing with haters on LinkedIn.

I’m still on Instagram though 🙂 Despite the reputation the platform has, there’s a lot less negativity and trolling from my experience.


Controlled by our work tools

In every single workplace I have ever worked, there have been bitter battles between people around tooling. Get on social media to see the flame wars between tool-heads. Launch a new initiative at work and you’ll see people get excited about bringing in new tools to manage it all.

We love our tools. Analogue, digital, hosted, self-hosted, mobile ready yada yada yada.

The problem is, the tooling is there to support shipping value and overcoming problems.

In one organisation there were two technical leaders. Strong minded, technically savvy, devoid of any commercial awareness (as in, doing the right things for the business). One wanted Azure Cloud, one wanted Amazon AWS as cloud platforms. One said Azure was better, the other said Azure sucked.

In four consecutive meetings this topic dominated the leadership conversation. At the end of each meeting, the two tool-heads were sent away by the executive team to do more research, more proof-of-concept, more investigation….

I, as a peer to these people, raised the point that both of these platforms broadly do the same thing and we need to simply pick the one that solves our problems within our cost-frame and stick with it. Everyone agreed.

That was until it came time to choose one. Even after our boss chose one, AWS in this instance, the discussion didn’t go away. The Azure fan continued to use Azure even though a decision had been made not to.

I see the same thing in the agile camp. Kanbanize is the best (and it is good), even though people can still ship value using Jira. ADO is better than all. Not really.

I’ve done a post and video on this before called Containers and Rules. Our tools, especially when it comes to managing work, are nothing more than containers of tasks/items/work and some rules on how that work flows.

The golden process I always apply when seeking new tools is to elicit some requirements (as in – what problem are we trying to solve?), do a proof of concept, look at the long-term commercial cost frame and then pick ONE tool that covers most of the high priority requirements.

Here’s the thing:

  1. You will likely never find a tool that covers everything you want the tool to do
  2. You will likely never find a tool that satisfies everyone’s preferences
  3. You will likely never find a tool that sits perfectly within the cost frame you have

But you can:

  1. Choose ONE tool that does most of it well – even if people don’t “prefer” this tool – as long as due care and attention and research has been done – it should solve the problem(s) and help people ship value
  2. Choose ONE tool so that you don’t have to hire more people (a businesses’ major cost) to plug all of the sporadic tools together to get any intelligence from them (or for the tools to even talk to each other).
  3. Choose from a supplier who is flexible, actively developing the tool and is more concerned about a growing a relationship with you than just a pay-cheque
  4. Deal with the naysayers in a positive and collegiate, but firm manner.Move forward with actually shipping VALUE, not tools.

Yet, many managers and leaders get this very wrong indeed. And in some larger companies there are literally hundreds of people being paid to do nothing more than pull data from one tool into another just to get visibility on what is actually happening in the business.

We all have preferences for tooling. We all have tools we like, tools we dislike and tools that we feel aren’t right. But, with due diligence done and a decision made, let’s not pass the burden of non-delivery to a tool. I’ve never seen a tool be the main problem with shipping value ever. It’s rarely the tool – it’s the people.

BTS – Making this week’s video

This week I shipped a new video called Signs of Life. It is a video based on a true story about Leroy, who found himself unemployed after creating a series of rumours that took on a life of their own.

I had grand plans for this video. I storyboarded it and aimed to shoot the film at the SEETEST conference in Bulgaria. I was hoping the organisers would star in it and it would be a much longer, richer film.

It didn’t work out that way, as everyone was super busy and frankly, we were enjoying the conference.

So, I grabbed my camera on the final morning and shot some footage of me just walking around. I wanted an old phone to be the “manager’s phone” in the video but I had to make do with a hotel phone. I simply shot what I could.

On returning home I hoped to do a talking-head of me telling the story, or a voice-over. Then I re-watched some old Harold Lloyd videos that popped up on my Insta feed and thought – why not make it a silent movie? And so I did.

Creativity is all about having an idea and turning it into something (I did a 30 day free guide to Creativity here if you’re interested).

If I was making a feature film I would have held on to my cinematic vision, but I wasn’t, I was making a YouTube video. I wanted to get something shipped that I was proud of and also happy would add to my body of work, rather than let this idea languish in my head and on storyboards.

That’s the thing with creativity; we sometimes have grander ideas than reality lets us bring to life. I’m good with that. It’s taken a while to get to this point but I like the idea of things becoming what they become through the creative process.

And luckily, I’ve been shooting film for long enough that I managed to get some usable footage. Let me know what you think.

Interesting Links

Until next week!

Have a great day.