Barnacles, strategists, consultants and coaches at the office

Disclaimer: The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself.

When people tell me they have strategy consultants, ITIL, SCRUM, KABAN, … coaches, architects and these are well embedded in their organization to ensure operational and long term success I always try to envision this. No matter how hard I try to see “marketing brochure” mental picture and the connotation of professionalism and success this is supposed to inspire, I never succeed.

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In reality this is the mental picture I get: barnacles!

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Barnacles, strategists, consultants and coaches at the office inspire me to get a chisel and high pressure cleaner to get rid of these. Barnacles slow us down, reduce efficiency and lead to structural damage.

Most organizations are failing due to their obsession with failing. That’s why ITIL is considered a success. All evidence to the contrary I must add. I have never found an IT professional who had seen any benefits to the success of IT come from ITIL.

ITIL is considered a success by people who are trying to manage IT but who do not understand IT. That’s business analysts, project managers, architect and way to often way too many IT managers. I’m not picking on ITIL per se. Take any methodology in the hands of scared, clueless people and they cling to them like a ship wrecked person to a life preserver. It’s a tool to be used where and when needed. Walking around in one at the office is pretty silly.

ITIL caters to their fears and their childish need to avoid failure. You might say that’s a result, but I think we can at least agree this is not a success or progress, which is the type of result your looking for a business. Still, why do so many waste so much time on processes of control that will not be sustainable in the reality of the field? It soothes fears, if feeds the need to be seen as in charge and having things under control. They think it makes them perceived as being in charge. Basically they’re acting. Like kids, pretending to be what they are not and will never be. It’s a sad day when I have to quote from Corinthians but desperate times call for desperate measures.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Clearly too many people have missed some essential and significant steps or got stuck in them in professional life. Clever consultants and coaches cash in on delivering the instruments to anticipate problems, avoid problems, detect problems, manage change to avoid problems and last but not least provide framework to proactively deal with anything up to and including nuclear warfare. In my reality these people are more on par with racketeers, con men, liars and priest of false religions. As in real life they can make big money and gain a lot of influence and power, but only if you allow them to. However, does not make them right.

Failure is not an option. It is, for all practical purposes, guaranteed and free of charge. What you need is smart people, who understand the context, have a great situational awareness and possess the ability to think and act fast. This is not the same as wasting time and money in endless meetings, task forces and procedures. It’s always what you never considered that will get you in the end. Solve the problems you have fast, effective and decisively to the best of your abilities and in alignment with the environment. If you can do that, you have just made progress on route to success! The results are fast, measurable and simple enough as they are noticeable without a microscope.

There is way too much waste in governance leading to the exact opposite of what one is, supposedly, trying to achieve which is a better and more successful business. In fact, these activities in cost and head count outnumber people delivering tangible results by 3 to 1 and in some cases even more. They appoint blame and steal success as in reality the main purpose is to avoid being blamed themselves and to look good in order to get ahead.

Meanwhile your organization keeps failing as you keep adding overhead, head count and expenses. What you need to do is let your good and best employees excel at what they do best: achieve progress and move along. You need to steer that effort and ability towards the company goals and stimulate your employees.

Move fast, navigate through the unpredictable waters and learn how to deal with the fallout effectively. Whatever you do, don’t think that more governance is the way forward or is real work versus actual progress through results. Face it, you are probably not a nuclear power plant or highly regulated medical institution. You’re most likely a SME trying to thrive with limited budgets, resources and time. So not wasting any of it is paramount. Get rid of the crud, mend your sails and chop the barnacles of your ship’s hull. You can achieve more with men of steel on wooden ships than vice versa. The latter tend to stay and rust in safe harbors. In the end this does not mean you’re reckless!

Is the cloud failing or are you?

The cloud is not failing. That’s the good news. Now for the bad.

Many people complain about the mess their cloud usage has become and how cloud sales people did not tell them to read the small print. As a business, whether for profit or a non profit you need people in charge with a reasonably amount of intelligence and a drive to push the organization forward, not just themselves.  You can not take the easy way out, pocket your pay check and let the “details and annoying technicalities” to your employees. Basically you’re saying “screw you” to them so don’t be surprised when that works both ways. If your cloud projects are failing is due to the same reason your other IT projects were failing. You’re doing it wrong.

In a world of political correctness, this is going to sound harsh. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that you as a business, a manager, a “leader” are failing. You are failing and you’re incapable of dealing with that fact. Because it hurts your sensitivities. Well you are hurting your employees, your customers, your future.

Way to many cloud (private/hybrid/public) projects are done as “self service” or minimal effort projects. There is no design. There is no expertise, experience, knowledge, context or a deeper understanding of the systems, their interactions, capabilities and needs. In this commodity world it just has to work. Nothing just works. Deal with it. If you don’t put value on the above that’s how things end up.

Cloud project in many environments look way too much like a classic house where they bolted on new fashioned extensions without a clue about how to do what they were doing. By doing so they ruined the roof, the wiring, the isolation, the functionality and livability. It’s leaking, it’s rotting the house and fungi rule the realm.

You did not get what you paid for but you get exactly what you value: nothing.

It’s not that you don’t spend ridiculous amounts of money. You outsourced all your in house capabilities and expertise and on top of that you’re are paying 3 to 5 times too much for services and “consultants” that have been on your payroll for decade. You don’t even even have the capabilities in house to realize the above anymore. If you do they probably have gone into hiding. You buy over priced shit on a daily basis and are told it’s great and what the industries best practices dictate.

The fallacy that IT, which is the cloud and nothing but the cloud for many today, is nothing but a commodity that has to work out of the box at the cheapest possible price is making you fail. But how could that be?  After all it’s just computers in the cloud so you don’t even have to hook up the power and a cable any more. No? These almost absurd simplifications that are in play here are totally pushing aside knowledge, experience, skills, a continuous educational effort. The end result, excellent service to your business and / or customers, dies a thousand small deaths in collateral damage.

You’re deploying cloud solutions without planning, coordination, design, governance, responsibilities, skills and what not. You’ve lost control over your (cloud)  IT. You’ve lost control over the data, the access, the backups, disaster recovery, the accounts of the service subscription, everything. These are the essential parts of a functional, maintainable, cost effective and supportable IT environment. This will bite you hard, deep and will perhaps bleed you to death.

This is not the cloud failure. It’s you. If you go about “old school” on premises IT the same way the failures are there as well. So you hate the solutions you pay way too much for, you hate the lousy service and the lack results. You get shafted every day.

The easy fix you come up with is just more of the same. More consulting, more work and responsibility avoiding, more meetings, task forces, more multi year over sized super projects that are doomed to fail because there a more than enough people to take your money form idiots.

How is this possible? Because I way too many places criticism has been banned and died. Meanwhile in that political correct always peaceful and quiet environment real damage is done to people as talent, motivation, money and value is destroyed along with a better future. No one in those places has any skin in the game as you risk more by doing your job than by watching the place go to hell. Good luck!

To any one else: there are real experts out there that can really help you. All you have to do is value results, your business and your clients.

Meet Dick – Contest Winner

We’re 2015, time to meet Dick – contest winner of bad technology choices.Way too many purchasing decisions still seem to be made solely on check box ticking. That and a Gartner Magic Quadrant that is. Despite truckloads of management, strategy consultants, coaches, management self improvement books for clueless managers & a ton of professional coaches for whatever function you can think in the corporate world of over the past decades. It did not help. What do you expect from that crowd.

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Never mind that in most SME’s the choice of technology is best made looking at their specific needs and for a period or 3 to 7 years ( the interval depends on how that business operates). That means current technology with an eye on vNext. Do that to the best of your ability and you’ll have served your business or customers very well.

But the ever lasting check box ticking game during the sales process is still strong. This is the easiest and laziest way of making decisions. When you don’t care about the outcome, why not. After all the harder you work the less you get paid I guess. Add to that the benefit of great CYA. This means we won’t see an end to this practice soon. After all:

  • All check boxes were green, it was the best possible decision.
  • The industry press stated (by regurgitating the original article or report) that the solution we bought is poised to success in this segment over the next 10 years.
  • Other buy it so it must be good

Dick, listen to me. We focus on the success of our own company in the next decade. If some tech company X goes down or doesn’t make it to the fortune 500 its tech just gets replaced and we’re done with it. Heck if they don’t deliver we’ll sew them (or cheaper, they just don’t’ get paid) and replace the solution sooner. That long green check box list will than be evidence in court to prove the deliberate ill intended of your “guidance”. Stupidity is rarely an excuse.

So, seeing this happen, on whatever side of the table, doesn’t to anything to reduce my generally poor impression of the intellectual prowess of the human species. Let’s face it, this practice has the intellectual maturity and relevance of a bunch of a dick-measuring contest. So every now and then when discussions tend to turn that way I’m tempted to suggest everyone whips them out and throws them on the table to be measured with a yard stick.

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We can then declare who’s won the Mr. Dick contest and be done with it. Anything to get  the discussion back to what really matters like what suits the real needs the best. You’ll have enough money draining drama around technology projects to avoid anyway, don’t add to it. Check Box ticking solution selection is nothing but sad, lazy stupidity. The only thing that is measured and weighed is the professionalism of the ones engaging in it. Guess what, it has been found lacking. Measuring is important, but knowing what to measure is key.

Don’t tell me “It depends”! But it does!

Ah yes, the consultant’s answer. If you’ve been in working long enough you will have had it happen to you that opening an answer with “It depends” gets you an angry look, eyes being rolled in frustration and a short tempered “don’t give me that consultant crap” sneer. The injustice. First of all I’m not to blame for people hiring lousy “consultants” that hide their lack of skills behind that phrase. Sure you might have been conditioned into thinking it’s code for “I have no clue but I’ll bill you by the hour anyway” but that’s not my problem. Secondly I’m most probably not consulting for those people. There’s no point being a consigliere if they don’t want to listen, let alone if they won’t spend the time needed to explain their needs so I can listen. Most probably they can’t distinguish between valuable advice and expensive advice anyway. People who can’t see the difference are not observing very well as the distinction is crystal clear.

I’m always a bit disappointed when it happens. You’ll have to grow up an live with the fact that a lot of things are a bit more complex. If you don’t have the time to explain yourself or the intention to listen to someone you have asked to provide the best possible answer you have two options:

1. Do whatever you want to do (you have already decided)

2. Ask me to decide for you. In the absence of a clear cut answer I’ll just flip a coin for you and call it. As least that’s cheap and efficient.

When I tell you “it depends” I will gather as much information from you as I can.  I will also explain my answers and go into (great) detail as to the why, where, what and when of this. This can take some time and it can/will require effort due to complexities. It’s not code for “I don’t know” of “go away”. In my experience people who hate the “It depends” answer are the ones who don’t really want it. They quit at that opening sentence. Do engage and you might get the best possible advise from it in regards to your particular situation. With that in hand you can investigate further and work to the best possible solution for your needs in your environment.

Got it? Good.