jump to navigation

Fixing Little Things January 8, 2010

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.

I like to tinker with computers. I especially like to make sure that my computer is running as efficiently as possible.  This can be a challenge, given that more and more background tasks drain away precious cycles from the work that I want to do.

Recently, I noticed that my laptop was consuming 30-40% of its CPU while idling, instead of the normal 5-6%.  I can tolerate losing a bit of capacity to background activity, but 30% is intolerable.  After some analysis, I discovered (surprise!) that some obscure Windows process was cycling every second, doing something.  But what?

It turns out that I had recently installed an updated sound driver.  That driver enabled “enhanced features” like bass boost and surround sound that can be turned on and off on the fly.  The driver was checking, once each second, to see if I had suddenly enabled an enhanced feature.  Once I disabled all the enhanced features, the driver settled down and my machine returned to idling at 5% or so.  Once again, man triumphs over machine.

In some cases, we get so accustomed to dealing with these things that we just accept them as part of our world.  I put up with that driver issue for a while before I finally decided to dig in and fix it.  Some people would have just assumed that having your machine run at 30% utilization is normal, and not bothered with it at all. Many of us are just too busy to find and fix these little things, even though we know they are negatively affecting us.

Much as this errant driver consumed a disproportionate amount of time on my machine, it is the little things in our world that do the same thing to our personal and professional lives. Few of us have giant, gaping problems that overwhelm us on a regular basis.  Instead, we have a number of seemingly small items that ultimately limit our ability to succeed.

How many of these little things in our lives consume more of our time than they are worth?  What aspects of our personal lives are less of a help than a hindrance?  Similarly, are there little things in our business that absorb too much time and effort?  Is there a process that needs tweaking, or a policy to be updated?

It is only natural to look for the big problems and tackle them.  It may be more productive, however, to ferret out the tiny things that actually have a bigger impact.  What little thing will you find and fix today?

[tweetmeme source=”EffectiveCIO” alias=”http://j.mp/cio149″ only_single=false]


1. Beverly Brown - January 8, 2010

The advantage of being a tech guy is you know how to diagnose and fix an errant driver. Pity poor non-technical folks like me, who watch the hourglass on the monitor and can only shriek, “What is it DOING??” Arrgh! But the metaphor in this post resonates with me, as I review my previous year and set goals for 2010. I have resolved to focus on what’s important, and not be suckered by what’s urgent. I don’t want to reach 2011 having only been successful at unimportant things that were urgent.

2. Tom Catalini - January 8, 2010

Little things mean a lot. We examine as many of these things as we can each year – even if we’ve looked at them in the recent past. There’s always opportunity to do something differently, better, cheaper – or to decide that it’s time to stop doing it altogether.

These are things that don’t make headlines, often aren’t sexy or cutting edge. Still, they have a real, tangible and lasting impact. It’s always worth doing.


3. Reigneer Nabong - January 8, 2010

Happy New Year, Chuck!

It’s always the little things that are often ignored and become bigger to the point where (sometimes) they can no longer be resolved. I’ve always been told not to let small problems get bigger. It’s like having a little “grinding” noise in your engine that can become a blown head gasket if you don’t get it checked. Which reminds me that I’m due for an oil change. 🙂

Have a great weekend!

4. Jim Demitriou - January 8, 2010

As usual, you’re spot on, and I couldn’t agree more … the aggregation of many little things leads to a lot. As a former colleague and mentor used to tell me, “Watch the nickels and dimes, and the dollars watch themselves”.

It takes a bit of skill to not only recognize the problem, but also to do root cause analysis. And all too often people fail to see the forest for the trees, because the daily activity has simply become business as usual. Helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at something, and just ask “why” until you get to the core of the problem.

That all said, you might be surprised just how target rich of an environment you have to improve things 🙂

5. Lech - January 10, 2010

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

A slightly different point of view to spice up the discussion…

One cynical opinion stays in my head for some time – “The idea is to find yourself a problem and then feel happy after having fixed it.” To give you an example – I’ve used to spend a lot of time working with Linux. While plenty of good can be said about this system, sometimes all you do as a user is… secure, update, compile, improve, tweak etc. Like with an old car. At the same time “real life” just passes you by…

In general, when we devote our time to something, I guess it’s good to have in mind that “things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

6. Problem Solving 101 « adapt, adopt & invent cio - November 24, 2011

[…] Adopt from The Effective CIO blog: […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: