Friday, September 13, 2013

Online Books I

I'm being somewhat lazy with this, but I thought I'd list out a few online books I have read or at least partly read in the last few months.

The first is a interesting look into the world of Word Perfect.  While there are a large number of issues I have with the author's philosophy, I did appreciate his candor and it gave me some insight into management.

In part of the book, the author was speaking of his training efforts he was giving to managers who were both internal to the company and external.  From the picture the author paints, and from his point of view, he was the sole responsible 'owner' of the three running the company.  Often he seems to indicate he felt like he was not teaching but rather allowing things to go all ways without enough order.  His goal and one of his ideals or guiding principles was to teach people how to act and they would then do the right thing.  From my personal feelings, he seemed very "Type A" personality.

At the time in the book that this excerpt was taken, the company was explosively growing and Word Perfect was quickly becoming number one in the field.  Here is what he told his managers:
WordPerfect Corporation was not a platform for personal achievement, a career ladder to other opportunities, or a challenging opportunity for personal improvement. The company did not put the needs of the individual ahead of its own. The company was not concerned about an employee's personal feelings, except as they related to the company's well-being.

WordPerfect Corporation was not intended to be a social club for the unproductive. While other companies might condone many personal or social activities at the office, ours did not. Things like celebrating birthdays, throwing baby showers, collecting for gifts, selling Tupperware or Avon, managing sports tournaments, running betting pools, calling home to keep a romance alive or hand out chores to the children, gossiping or flirting with co-workers, getting a haircut, going to a medical or dental appointment, running to the cafeteria for a snack, coming in a little late or leaving a little early, taking Friday afternoon off, and griping about working conditions were all inappropriate when done on company time. Even though these activities were condoned by many businesses across the country, we felt there was no time for them at WordPerfect Corporation.

WordPerfect Corporation was also not an arena for political games. A good old boy network method of trading favors inside the company to get things done was frowned upon. Kissing up, back stabbing, and seeking for power and position were inappropriate. Making decisions by compromise, the politician's favorite tool, was not acceptable.

Finally, WordPerfect Corporation was not a "New Age" company. We were neither employee-owned nor a democracy. We were not primarily interested in focusing all our attention on either the employee or the customer. We did not feel it appropriate to check an employee's body fat or prescribe a diet or exercise program. We were not trying to stay in step with current business philosophies.
Now to be fair (in pulling this quote out of the air), he had never run a particularly big company before and he did get advice from the only place he knew to get advice from, his father.  It is a really interesting account and worth a glance at the very least.  This is not because I feel his advice to be particularly good, but because often people develop their management ideas on their own rather than gaining the knowledge by working their way up.

Since most companies grow from a small number of people, by a owner/manager who might know how to run a small company or might have a great product, but have not necessarily studied management, I felt I gained some insight on where their ideas of management come from.  In this case, religion, a large heap of work ethic and a father who had a great deal of influence seem to be largest factors.  I'm not saying there isn't value in those things, just that when you say, "What were they thinking?" sometimes the answer is not all that complicated.  This also means that sometimes when you argue about things using logic, sometimes you will fail to convince someone to change as their ideas come from fundamental bed-rock concepts in their life.  In those cases, you probably can't get them to change and the answers are:

A. Accept it.
B. Attempt to get that person removed.
C. Change companies.

In Word Perfect it sounded like the other two owners elected B.  For better or worse, Word Perfect declined, was sold and is now barely surviving.  I'm not so sure it is related to that choice, but who knows, maybe that sort of culture shock was too much at a delicate time.

On a very different topic, I thought I would talk about a technological 'ebook' I read (parts of) recently.  While I do 'know' JavaScript, I'm not an expert.  I write automation that is usually in Java or C#.  So when I have to go into the 'lower levels' of a browser and use JavaScript, I do find it handy to be able to look up the particular details of how it works.

Sometimes Google or Stack Overflow work well, but other times I need a more general look, and for those cases I have found Eloquent JavaScript to be of value to me.  I don't really have any useful quotes to pull from this book as I think each person will find different parts useful based upon their own level of knowledge in both JavaScript and programming in general.  If you need to study up on JavaScript and don't want to wait (or pay) for a book, this is a decent choice.  If you are interested in a paper variety then this isn't for you.

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