Want email updates from me?
Want more unvarnished truth?
Looking for something? Look here!
What I'm saying now
What you're saying...
I think tag clouds are pretty, and not to be taken overly seriously
111 Chop House 75 on Liberty Wharf 9/11 A Broth of a Boy ABCs Abiouness accountability activities alcohol Allora Ristorante Analysis Angry Hams ANSI/TIA 942 Anthony's Pier 4 Apple Application Armsby Abbey Arsenal Arturo's Ristorante Ashland AT&T Audio Automation baby Baby Monitor babysitting Back To School Bad News Bangkok Thai Bar Bay State Common baystateparent BBQ BCP BeeZers Before I die I want to... behavior Big Bang Bike Bill of Rights Bistro Black Box BlackBerry Boston Boston Marathon boundaries Boyston BPO brand Breakfast Bridge Bring Your Own Technology Budget Burlington Burn Burrito buyer BYOD Cabling Cambridge Camp Campaign career Casey's Diner Castle casual cCabling Cell Phone Central Square Change Management Cheers Chef Sun ChengDu Chet's Diner Children Chinese Christmas Christmas Families Holiday CIO Cloud coddle collage College College Acceptance co-lo Co-Location Co-Location Tier Power Cooling Comfort Food Control Country Country Kettle Crisis customer dad Dad Phrases damage daredevil Data Center Data Center Design Davios Day Care Dead Death declaration Del Frisco's Design Desktop Video dinner Disaster Recovery Divorce Do Epic Shit dodgeball Downtown Crossing DR driving Droid Easter Economic Kids Edaville Education Elbow Night Elevator Employee Engagement Erin Etiquette Evaluation events Exchange Expiration Dates Facebook Failing family Fatherhood Favorite things Flash Flemings Fogo de Chão Food Hits and Misses Format Foundry on Elm Foxborough Frameworks fraternity Fraud French Fried Clams friends fun Fusion Generations germs Girl Scouts girls Global Go/No Go GPS Grafton Grandchild Grandpa Harry's hazing Healthcare Healthy Choices while Dining Out Help Desk Hisa Japanese Cuisine Historic holiday Home hope Horizons hose Hot Dog Hurricane IIT Assessment incident Indecision Indian Infrastructure Inn Innovation Internet Inventory Management iPhone IT IT Assessment IT Satisfaction Italian Jack Daniels Jakes Restaurant Janet Japanese Jazz Joey's Bar and Grill JP's Khatta Mitha kickball kids Laid off Lakes Region Lala Java Leadership Learning legacy Legal Harborside Les Zygomates L'Espalier Liberty Wharf lights out Linguine's loss Love Lucky's Cafe M&M Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade mai tai Managed Application Services Managed Services managers Mandarin Manners Mark Fidrych marriage Mary Chung mass save Maxwell-Silverman Mediterranean meetings Memorial Day memory Mendon Mergers Mexican MiFi Migration Ming III miss MIT MIT CIO Symposium Mobility Moes Hot Dog Truck MOM money Mother Moving on Name neanderthal neighborhood Network New York Marathon newborn Northborough Not Your Average Joe's Nuovo Nursing On-Call Operations Operators Oregon Club Organization Pancakes Pandemic Parental Control Parenting Patch Peeves People Perserverance UMASS growth Play Plug and Run Predictable Pride Problem Process Production program Project Management propane PTA. PTO PUE QR Quick Response Rant Real Estate Realtor Recognition Red Rock Resiliency Respect restaurant Restaurant Guy RFP ribs Ritual Root Cause Analysis Sam Adams Sandy Sapporo savings School Sea Dog Brewing Company Sea Dog Steak and Ale Seafood Seaport Security Sel de la Terra Service Service Desk Service Indicator Light sharing SHIRO Shit Pump Shriners SHTF Simplification Skunk Works Skype Sleep sleepovers Sloan Smith & Wollensky soccer Son SOP sorority spanking Squarespace staffing Starbucks Status Reporting Steak Steve Jobs Storage Strategy stress Summer Sushi swimming Tacos Acalpulco teacher Technology Teen Telephony Temperature Strip Tenka terrorist Testing Texas BBQ Company Text Thai Thanksgiving in IT The Mooring Thomas Thought Leader Three Gorges III TIA 942 Timesheets Toby Keith Toddlers traditions Transition treehouse turnover TV Twitter unspoken moments Valentine's Day Value Vendor Venezuelan Verizon Vermont Video Vietnamese voice VoIP Watertown Wedding Westborough Korean Restaurant Westborough MA. StormCam WiFI Wi-Fi Wilbraham Wine Worcester work work life balance working Yama Zakura Zem Han Zitis

Entries in Black Box (1)

Monday
Jun252012

Management of a Black Box

Engineers often look at the concept of a Black Box as being when you know the inputs & outputs, and not the inner workings.  Electrical components can be looked at as Black Boxes.

By contrast, a White Box is used to describe when the inner workings are known.

I’ve worked in environments where the concept of a black box can be brought to bear.  For example, if a data center is located in an evacuated building (think fire alarm or unknown white powder) you need to manage not overtly knowing the contents of what’s inside, i.e.  if the systems are responding, then they must have power.

A fire alarm evacuation of a data center often results in a fire department response.  If no smoke was smelled in advance (human smell is better than a smoke detector) and the servers are still responding…you can deduce there is no fire (the fire department would shut the power off in a real fire.)  You’ll probably be back in the space in 30 minutes.

In this context, knowing the inside workings of the black box are not needed for successful use.  When is this not the case?

When in eighth grade, we did an experiment using a black cardboard box and wood skewers to determine contents (see photo).  In this case, the skewers were used to prod the inside of the black box, with the intent of discovering the contents.  This was analogous to using particle acceleration and gauging the results.

When applied to business, some departments operate as black boxes.  When you are using a black box as a service, all you need to know are the inputs and outputs…the internal workings are gauged against a Service Level Objective (SLO).  SLOs are used to measure performance and are agreed to “up front” to avoid disputes later.

When managing a function, having the function operating on a closed basis can be very frustrating.  This can happen when the functional manager is not open and forthcoming. As such, executives are forced to manage based on inputs/outputs & other metrics.

For example, if you are responsible for a remote call center and the onsite manager is not forthcoming, you can “see” inputs (call volumes, call types, blocked/dropped calls) and outputs (trouble tickets, resolutions, etc.)  What you can’t directly see are the inner workings (efficiency, waste, employee satisfaction, etc.)  What often happens is there will be symptoms of issues developing (as measured at the input or output) or other outputs indicating issue (such as an increase in turnover.)

Managing an organizational black box often leads to trying to influence rather than lead.  Sometimes there will be success, and other times it will be frustrating.

I’m an advocate for transparency.  With clarity, great improvements can be made.

When managing a function where the manager isn’t opening their world, we’re left to measuring as we did in 8th grade – poking and prodding to determine the inner workings.  If a manager isn’t forthcoming, it is often indicative of deeper issues within the black box. 

Work with the functional manager to build trust and get the box open or replace the manager.  Life is too short to play games in a managerial context.