IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

Kate's wedding dress and why we always will agree with those in power

The most noticeable comment on TV from the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William was for me the question whether "Kate got it right with her wedding dress". Of course everyone will agree that the dress is stunning, especially on the day. As commentator on TV you are not going to spoil the party by criticising the wedding dress.

In my opinion most wedding dresses are all the same and most I don't like anyway. I don't even think that how the make-up and hair is done for these formal occasions make a woman the most beautiful, but I have lost these arguments many times. Even with men. I prefer a more natural look. Though for a wedding dress, I think Kate definitely got it right. Go Kate!

However, my opinion about this is not relevant. What I observe is that everyone will always consider the bride stunning and beautiful, definitely in case of a royal wedding. People need the fairytale story and will colour reality in according to their needs. Some don't like the royal family and will protest against the money spent.

A similar process happens when senior management in an organisation come with an initiative and gather the troops to go left or right. Or implement a new system for that matter. If the person in power brings this initiative as fantastic and important, most people will follow that perception and copy the excitement about the initiative. You don't criticise and definitely not in public. We all will happily preach that it is the right thing to do.

But sometimes we actually think that they got it wrong or that they have the wrong leader for the initiative or selected the wrong software or whatever. Are you going to express your concerns when your managers and colleagues are so enthusiastic about the initiative? You could, but it is risky. What are you going to achieve with criticism when everyone else seems to have a different opinion? (But do they?)

Before you start criticising the wedding dress or the project, you need to question yourself if matters that much. Sometime yes. Wrong insights with your leaders and of the masses can in specific cases lead to loss of life. We have seen that with the many disasters lately in the many countries. There were always people that foresaw problems but were not heard (not including those people who always see problems and always are against anything).

On the other hand it is by far always that dramatic. In many cases management just needs to assure that the organisation moves from A to B and it is not always the biggest deal to have it done in the most efficient way. I don't always take the shortest route when driving through Sydney. Quite often I just take the easiest way or just they way that I am most familiar with.

What is technically more efficient does not need to mean that it is more efficient from business management perspective. What makes technical sense does not always make business sense. But when does it become important to see if you can steer the organisation in a different direction? This is not always clear.

But I would say enjoy the wedding and the royals.

The problems that become visible when people leave

When people leave, it is always painful but there is also a good side to it.

Not only do you lose a lot of knowledge, you also have a disruption to your services and you need to spend time on recruitment for a replacement. The good side is that it brings many practical problems to the surface that this person has been solving without the rest of the team and the manager being too aware of. Though I pride myself that all my systems normally run without interruption, reality is that there are always little glitches that are effectively dealt with by my team. 'Effectively' in the sense that the rest of the team is not always aware of it and that the respective person resolves the issue when it occurs. These type of issues are interruptions and should be resolved with a permanent solution instead of the repeated workaround that the team member or the team is actually hiding for the outside world.

When staff leave these issues become very visible and can become very painful if no handover took place or the person 'forgot' to pass the relevant information on.

It is not always that they leave the problem because they are lazy or incompetent. Sometimes the effort for the permanent solution does not weigh up against the acumulated effort for the repeated workaround.

Though I think it is good that these issues surface and do get resolved. The ongoing interruption remains an interruption no matter how small it is. Systems must be robust and should not rely on a knowledgeable person to keep them running. I have heard of cases where these ongoing manual fixes were maintained but became disastrous when the respective staff left.

When somebody is about to leave the team or already has left, it is a good moment for a stock take of outstanding work and of imperfect solutions to fix it all up.

Regardless of the above described situation, I find it always interesting to see how much people do that you just take for granted. When you sit down with a staff member and make a detailed list of what they do, you realize how much you depend on the unique knowledge and skills of the person.