Tuesday, 22 June 2004

No Sir! We would not take the rap

Experiences at work
If you have been a follower of events on my blogs you would realise that my experiences in my soon to be concluded job have produced insight about the workings of management and staff that militates against due process and needed progress.
You will find in an example below a typical email I addressed to all concerned about an inordinate rush to implement a half-baked idea in order to gain kudos that would fade as the problems and cracks begin to show up just soon after it has been declared a success.
I would hope that my 15 years experience in IT would count for something, though I find it interesting also when my younger boss speaks in that kind of time frame, you’ll think he finished university at 13 - but then nothing is impossible.
The Background
As we had done many times before, the team I belong in has been a battering ram to impose, conquer and implement grand schemes of IT prowess. Some have been glaringly successful and others have just been nominally OK.
My boss is not a believer in collaboration; rather, all other existing implementations where we have been called to introduce change are discounted for what we can offer. The main thinking is, if we are not the ones implementing the idea, we are irrelevant and others would be called upon to do the job.
That, one would think is understandable for new projects, but surely, duplicating a process to see who gets there first or better in the same organisation is just wanton wastefulness but the stuff of internal political sophistry, presumably.
In this instance, we were to roll out a desktop platform with the attendant back-end infrastructure to co-exist with an already working setup, but without proper co-operation with the staff in that remote location.
When the boss sent the project team to consult with us about this, he also briefed them against me, saying they would encounter difficulty with me and they should railroad whatever I had to say.
Interesting situation, well, I ask difficult questions and I want sensible answers, I was employed to THINK - that is give expert advice - the day I stop thinking is the day my job is done.
The email below was written in December 2003 and the reply from my boss soon after, his promise to answer properly, the issues I raised was never fulfilled.
The email
Subject: The Project - Some truth explored.
Gentlemen,
After reading all the notes from Austria IT personnel and seeing the urgency to deliver impressed on us over the last few days; there may be one thing not accounted for in all the proceedings and possibly the one that could be at variance to all the political machinery brought into force to execute this project.
Everybody who has a technical interest in the project is doing everything to protect and highlight the quality of our profession judgment, expertise and standard of service we are accustomed to giving our customers.
It is the reason why we would test every facet before we sanction any action as delivered and the same reason they would want detailed insight into every process before they go ahead.
These interests would sometimes run counter to the management purpose because they represent realities closer to the ground than is available in executive overviews or project profiles, difficult to articulate but essential to resolve in order to fulfil all requirements.
This strata of the project is what project managers are supposed to have the responsibility of understanding, recognising and diffusing; serving properly as the communication channels and arbiters of the truth of the situation.
Where this is lacking, we (the technical interests in NL and AT) are called upon by our sides to manufacture excuses or half-truths that put a spin on reality and create the opportunity to be able to blame the other party.
You will all appreciate that we all want to deliver what works and if we are to take lessons we have learnt from the previous deployment; none of this is a turn-key deployment - too many parts are linked together to offer this solution.
Once it goes live we will encounter issues that can only be discovered in THAT live situation. {The problems I had to resolve yesterday evening regarding Office XP and the Anti-Virus are case in point.}
This is why even when everything worked in Region 1 and we cloned the scenarios to all the other 4 regions; they all presented different challenges and we would encounter some challenges with Austria no doubt.
Unfortunately, we have had no opportunity to fully document those challenges since we are still within the deployment phases of the present and have now picked up Austria.
What has not been articulated in this note simply presents food for thought regarding the way we have adopted high-visibility projects.
Regards.
The Reply
I will reply in detailed when ever more time is available, but can state I don't support several of the statements made.
Best regards
The Boss
The Analysis
I have planted thoughts of concern in the minds of about 8 people who received my email and what we get is a lame rebuttal, but carry on regardless of what was said.
Well, hardly 6 hours after my email was read, the outrageously ambitious but unachievable time table for the rollout was first moved back a week, then another 4 weeks within 2 days.
What I find amazing is the inability to marry desire with reality on the part of management, such that having a pilot for any project our team embarks on is considered a luxury.
In the end, we started getting information that this roll out was not as successful as it should be, but this is one time where after all we have done, and continue to do in a conscientious and professional manner.
The blame lies squarely at the feet of the boss for the way he politically mismanaged the issues that could have been better received and accepted if we were allowed to cooperate and collaborate with teams that provide support in the areas where we are introducing change.
Once again, No Sir! Technical solutions cannot make up for failed political and management issues.

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