We’re surrounded by the big bang.

If we spend time thinking about such things, most of us, most of the time, think of the big bang as a colossal explosion that flung energy and matter into the universe.

But that isn’t it at all. If it was, the big bang wouldn’t surround us. We’d see a source.

No, the big bang was space itself getting bigger — from a dimensionless singularity to the universe’s observable edge being 46 billion light years away from us. The universe’s edge is also 46 billion light years away from any other location in it, including locations 46 billion light years away from us. That’s hard to envision even for astrophysicists who can handle the math.

Our observable universe is 7,697,739,257,437,640,000,000,000,000 bigger than the earth by volume, more or less.

For that matter, the universe is approximately 558,658,277,253,032,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times bigger than the human brain (assuming I’ve done my sums right). Steve Jobs once famously said we’re here to make a dent in it. Given the size differential that doesn’t seem likely. In fact, it’s quite remarkable we even understand as much about the universe as we do, even though only a few of us understand even a tiny fraction of what we collectively understand.

This collective we numbers 7.7 billion human beings living on this earth. Even allowing for overlapping expertise, it’s unlikely you or I understand even a thousandth of what we know, assuming, that is, we could figure out a way to assemble it all in one cognitive place.

The numbers are humbling. We’re told there are no irreplaceable people. Given how many potential replacements are available should you or I step aside, the math would seem to support this proposition.

And yet …

In round numbers, with the exception of identical twins each of us is genetically unique, and including identical twins each human being on earth has lived through a unique combination of experiences.

We are, each and every one of us, different from each and every other one of us.

We’re told nobody is irreplaceable. This is wrong, even if we look through the narrowest possible lens — departing employees whose work still needs to get done.

I’ve spoken with executives and managers who are losing experienced employees to retirement. They can, they tell me, hire replacements. The departing employees help the new ones acquire the skills necessary to perform the tasks they’re responsible for, to the extent the new employees’ raw skills aren’t already equal or superior. They “transfer knowledge” to provide context; and introduce the newbies to the most important people they’ll need to know.

But all the skills acquisition and knowledge transfer in the world doesn’t bring equivalent judgment to bear in difficult situations. Nor does it give the inbound employees a fine-tuned ability to apply their imaginations to create innovative solutions that will work within the specific context they understand from long experience.

The new employees will bring their own judgment, and their own imaginations. Their judgment and imaginations will operate within the context of where they came from, not from where they are now. Their knowledge and imaginations will be different, which means their results won’t be the same as those of their predecessors.

Skills are teachable. Knowledge is transferrable. Judgment and a deep understanding of context are neither.

Each human being who works with or for you is unique. Robots are not, which is what makes them desirable alternatives to human workers on assembly lines: Because they’re identical, they’re predictable.

The best leaders and managers only want robots in assembly line sorts of work. They help the men and women they work with develop their judgment and encourage them to be imaginative in addressing their daily challenges.

They figure out what each unique and irreplaceable employee does best — what unique contributions they can make with the right opportunities — and turn them loose.

None of us will ever make a dent in the universe, and very few of us will even make much of a dent on the earth. We can, however, make the tiny patch over which we have some influence better for those we share it with.

We’re each unique and irreplaceable, especially among the irreplaceable people we choose to surround ourselves with. On the other hand, with billions of fellow humans on hand the world can probably get along without each of us if it needs to.

Somehow, I find both formulations reassuring.

# # #

Have a superior solstice, happy Chanukwansamas, peppy perihelion. Or, enjoy whichever other seasonal expression of good cheer you prefer. Just do something to make yourself smile.

I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off, but I’m confident you’ll manage to keep your own joints running just fine without me.

See you in 2019!

We need some help.

“We” is Dave Kaiser, my co-author, and myself. The help we need: Figuring out the best title for our upcoming book.

The book starts with a premise more familiar to members of the KJR community than to the management world at large. The premise: There’s no such thing as an IT project — it’s always about business change or what’s the point?

We use this premise to launch what we think covers the ground of what it takes to achieve intentional business change. We don’t dive to great depths. We’ve tried to write a handbook, not a tome, for three reasons: (1) a tome would be inestimably dreary to read; (2) a tome would be even more inestimably dreary to write; (3) in any event, neither of us, separately or in combination, is remotely qualified to write about this at the tome level.

Nor, we suspect, is anyone else.

Until now, when titling a book, the challenges haven’t been conceptual. My book about IT leadership is Leading IT. When I wrote about the principles to follow in order to run a modern IT organization, Keep the Joint Running — a tie-back to this, my weekly column, seemed reasonable, as it was where I introduced most of the ideas incorporated into the book.

Naming my 54-page project management book was even easier. It presents the bare bones and only the bare bones of the discipline, so Bare Bones Project Management jumped directly from the Introduction to the folder name without any conscious effort at all.

Even The Moral Hazard of Lime Daiquiris, the worst-selling novel Dave and I co-authored (it is, by the way, an outstanding Chanukwansamas gift for everyone on your list who’s (1) a reader; (2) has questionable taste; and (3) wants to read something nobody else they know has read) made some sort of sense, as the trouble all started with two guys ordering lime daiquiris with the hope of achieving a morally questionable outcome, although not as morally grave as it turned out to be.

But now we find ourselves in a quandary. We like There’s no such thing as an IT project: Achieving intentional business change, but especially when separated from its subtitle, the main message is negative.

On the other hand, we find Achieving intentional business change to be, while accurate, a phrase that promises dullness.

It also leaves out the handbook part, which we think is important — we’re trying to identify what matters, all with enough substance to point readers in the right direction but not so much substance that they get stuck in one section for so long they forget what they read in the three preceding sections.

So, we thought, maybe it should be There’s no such thing as an IT project: A business change handbook. Or, if we do lead on a positive note, A business change handbook: Why there’s no such thing as an IT project.

Don’t really like that one? Neither do we.

And so, as we’ve read that crowdsourcing is supposed to achieve brilliant results without our having to work all that hard … how about it?

What’s that you say? You need to know what the book actually covers? Alright — it covers the management culture change needed for intentional business change to happen; redefining the business/IT relationship so everyone focuses on the change instead of who’s to blame for nothing important happening; how to fix Agile so it delivers business change instead of software; how IT and business operations fits into the whole picture; replacing IT governance with business change governance; IT regaining its place of leadership in defining business strategy; and a very brief look at the seven disciplines organizations must master in making intentional change happen.

Please leave your suggestions as Comments, to facilitate the whole crowdsourcing thing — presumably it’s only crowdsourcing if everyone who looks sees all the other ideas already posted.

We do reserve the right to ignore all of you, especially if our publisher disagrees — we do need to acknowledge their expertise in such matters, not to mention recognizing the critical role the fine art of sucking-up plays in our working relationship with our editor.

But if you do submit the winning entry, what you’ll get in return is us telling everyone we know what a wonderful and creative person you are.

Who else would make you a promise like that?