The wonderful thing about tech is that, if it’s successful, your users won’t even think about it. They won’t see or think about the work you put in, the countless decisions you made along the road, or your stellar design and engineering talent. Like “Googling” a question, or “Snapchatting” a friend, your product will be less a noun than it is a verb, a common and taken-for-granted part of their lives.
Still, it’s uncanny to take a look back and realize how things could have been different. One prime example: Bill Gates of Microsoft has admitted that the infamous Control-Alt-Delete – the complicated three-stroke keyboard command famous to beleaguered computer rebooters the world over – was essentially the result of a problem with an employee.
“It was a mistake,” Gates told the crowd at a Harvard fundraiser. “We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t wanna give us our single button.”
Now, there are two sides to this story. David Bradley, who invented the command, has claimed that it was intentionally made complicated and hard to trigger, so that users didn’t accidentally hit the “reboot” button while typing. The command may be complicated and unpopular, but imagine how much grief might have ensued, over the years, if there were a big red “shut down and destroy all unsaved work” button standing inconveniently close to the space bar.
Still, one of the central imperatives of leadership is to stay on top of your company’s processes: To communicate your own needs and vision so clearly that your employees will naturally want to execute it for you. It’s worth taking a few moments to look for your company’s “Ctrl+Alt+Delete:” The big, clunky area of inefficiency or underperformance that could be taken out of the picture if everyone was on the same page.
After all, you don’t want to be at a fundraiser in thirty years explaining why you couldn’t get someone to comply with your request for a button.
Image credit: CC by frankieleon