Terrible performance yet no change

A colleague once called it dying from the “ism”s: nepotism, seniority-ism, boy’s club-ism, best friend-ism and the like. I know you have seen it before. Organizations sometimes suffer from this cancer – undiagnosed in their self-diagnosis (outsiders can see it and call it fairly easily).

In amazement, I have watched a local not-for-profit organization suffer from these ills. At first I thought it was this strange lack-of-profit model and its inherent motivation (or lack thereof) that defined this organizations challenge. Until this weekend, when a CFO friend explained that the “Midas Rule” – He who has the gold makes the rule - can apply to all organizations large and small, with and without profit goals.

I have watched as 2 guys have operated above the law and rule on decisions as long as it satisfies their own agenda as opposed to that which is best for the organization.  I have watched as these two rationalized and justified each and every decision against each and every question or challenge to their decisions.  I have watched them systematically eliminate anyone that would dare challenge their decision with the most innocent of reasoning shielding their true agenda – to rule; because it defines them; because without the ability to rule, they themselves become irrelevant.

Proper approaches, industry best practices and industry standards do not require a moral defense.  Transparent models and exposed business practices do not need spin and rationalization.  Fairness does not have any use for secrets and closed door shady deals.

Luckily, I have nothing to lose or gain in this equation. I am simply watching from the sidelines.  But an entire community is losing and losing badly.  When logic does not apply and reality is ignored and politics rein the organization and in this case the community it serves, is the one that suffers.  And suffer for years.  You see, a community does not have quarterly objectives to serve as traffic signals to where it is versus where it should be.  A community does not cater to monthly profit projections as a warning sign of reckless leadership and boardroom ADHD.  A community is not forced to publish an annual report such that its shareholders – its citizens – can reward great performance or opt for change.  So it fails to notice as it slowly diminishes into a ghost town and a “remember what used to be there” town.

Did I mention, the very purpose of this, organization (for lack of a better word), is to cater to the needs of about one thousand kids every year?

Your children.

The ism’s … are a cancer.

1 Year 10 Times

A question was posed to me that this “consultese” was overused and lacked meaning.  I was asked what it really meant; and what was the true, demonstrable and quantifiable impact on the delivery of technology to the hands of the business.

I live for this!  Ok, I rather enjoy when posed with a seemingly indefensible position – a strategic approach indeed but mired in flaws as the question in and of itself wreaks of defensiveness and an inferiority complex.  But what I enjoy is this – this question forces me to be exact, specific and avoid the shortcut – the quick answer.

The industry vertical:  An app is an app is an app – or is it?  There are many business scenarios to be learned from a multitude of industries.  Working in the healthcare industry for 10 years writing stored proc after stored proc may or may not be as rich as writing in healthcare and in retail and in financial and manufacturing.  There is a little something to be learned from actually performing in these varying industries is there not?

The SDLC horizontal:  Be it waterfall or RAD or Agile or Lean or SCRUM (I know, I know – just trying to be buzzword compliant) there is a different set of related competencies at use in the varying phases of the SDLC.  Can we not learn a little more about the depth of our industry if we spend some time learning and developing our capabilities in the scope phase or honing our skills in the requirements development arena (come on – what developer has not complained about requirements or the lack thereof)?  Do we not enjoy the frequent and in-depth bashing of architects “not responsible for staying around and coding their lofty ideas”?  Would we not learn a new appreciation from performing that role or would we “finally be the only one to do it correctly”?  And clearly, beyond the development role, would we not understand the thoroughness of requirements traceability and could we not enhance the richness of our expertise by being the one responsible for those test scenarios?  And who could forget the actual operationalization of the elegant code we wrote – would we not see things differently if we were the one responsible for turning it on and actually operating the P&L on a day-to-day basis with the actual tools just written by another competent developer?

The technological dimension: Where have I spent my one year?  Have I spent it in the UI versus the DB or the services layer versus the infrastructural layer?  Maybe I spent 1 of those years in the reporting area deploying the hard and fast parameter-driven reporting platform with a little BI embedding in the application itself.  OR maybe I spent 10 years in the ETL layer bouncing translation files from app to app and from consumer to consumer and from subscriber to subscriber. 

The business functional galaxy:  If you know not a credit from a debit or the purpose of a clearing account how can you design and develop accounting solutions?  Knowing the different drivers behind sales confidence and commission models may or may not enhance the ability to design and code lead management automation. 

For me, I would prefer to cram as much in-depth richness and experience into ten years as I can.  The more depth the more contributory value I can create and deliver to the organization.  And in a results driven economy, delivered value is priced at a premium.

Preferable Differences …

I would not want to imagine a company with more than one of me.  That would be  – annoying.  I was reminded yesterday of the many different differences between us all.  And it is these very differences that make it all work.  Could you imagine a world full of extroverts?  No introverts to balance us out – that would be insane. 

There is more at play here than a simple tolerance of differences.  I am referring to more of a celebration of differences; an understanding that these differences are the “secret sauce” that should be embraced and celebrated.  I would even go so far as to suggest the appropriate affection of these differences could make or break a project or even a company. 

The next time you are faced with a guy that simply does not possess your appreciation for logic or the next time you are around a finance guy who does not share your passion – thank your lucky stars and trust the fact that these differences are the oil in the engine.