I used to be a really good programmer. My code controlled telephone switching systems, high energy physics research, concept vehicles, and the makers and coaters used to manufacture 3M tape. I was equally good at writing Fortran or assembly language, and I could specify and build a minicomputer control system as fast as anyone.

After a dozen or so years of programming, I followed one of my systems to a manufacturing plant and took the leap into IT management. I learned about materials control and unit costs and production databases. Then the quality-is-free and just-intime movements hit our plant, and I learned how a few simple ideas and empowered people could change everything.

A few years later I landed in new product development, leading ...

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