The Klingon Guide to I.T. Management

My mate the DBA, whom I think writes wonderfully, coined the idea of "The Klingon Guide To Management" - not everyone might be pulling in the same direction within an organisation, not all agendas and rules may be stated and overt and those you thought were your friends may be elsewise.

I only recently came across Prof Fred Brooks latest book, "The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist" (Brooks first described The Mythical Man-Month, "adding more people to a late project only makes it later", when he wrote on the lessons he'd learned being in charge of developing OS/360 for IBM in the early 1960's). He still has useful new insights on Project Management and other Computing/I.T. topics.

Chapter 4 of The Design of Design is titled "Requirements, Sin and Contracts". He lays out nicely the human frailties (even 'sins') that make Real World Project Management much more difficult that the Ideal World assumed in the Rational Theories of Project Management.

  • Clients can be greedy, unreasonable, capricious and not pay or play fairly.
  • The Architect and Designer may have different agendas to each other and not always act in the best interests of the Client when acting as 'agents'.
  • Builders often don't have the commitment to quality, budget and schedule that the Client, Architect and Designer expect or desire.
  • "All Players are honest and truthful and communication amongst them is excellent". Or: Egos never get in the way.
My DBA mate when told this, countered with: "You know what's wrong with ITIL, don't you?"
Q: "What?"
A: .... I can't remember what he said, I was doubled over with laughter, it was so good and so true.

It was along the lines of "Everyone is competent, on the same page, helpful and cares about results".
Nope! Not within a Bulls Roar. Not seen by either of us in any Real-world organisation of more than two people.

It's a nightmare in most I.T. Ops organisations:
  • Big Ego's and on-going vicious internecine wars ("Office Politics") are the norm.
  • Finding Competent or Engaged staff is unusual, finding both in the one person is exceptional.
  • For all those of you who've rung a Help Desk, you understand "Help" has a special meaning within the I.T. Reality Distortion Field, or "It's not Help as we know it, Jim".
  • Recalcitrant Clients, Programmers and Users and Clueless Project Managers are to be expected.
  • Denial and Avoidance and  Blaming, Placating, Appeasing are the normal emotional responses of Management. The more Senior the Manager, usually the more extreme the disconnect with Reality.
  • Project Managers often get "performance bonuses" to motivate them in achieving features, budget and schedule. What you get instead is bullying, intimidation, threats and lies directed at staff and vendors and "snow jobs" for those up the chain. Getting those "bonuses" take precedence over all other Stakeholder Requirements... Which doesn't improve the result for the Client or Organisation.
The People Side of I.T. Ops and Projects overwhelms the Technical. The only saving grace is that I.T. people are usually very poor at Office Politics, so in spite of them, things occasionally happen.

There is a real need for The Klingon Guide to Management, especially in I.T.
I'll keep my fingers crossed for it to be written.

"My enemy's enemy is my friend". Nope! They're both your enemy, destroy them both with all means available! Ahhh, if only I'd known that when a youngster.

An addendum: Another good friend volunteered two things about problems in IT Ops:

  • Are they competent, diligent, helpful and prepared to listen/debate (vs arrogance)?
  • Do they recognise and understand the problem? Are their responses considered and supported?
    • Not acknowledging problems, being defensive, blocking or deflecting ("we didn't change anything. What did you do?") are classic responses we've seen in IT Ops when asking others to repair services under their control.
    • Is the solution or facility they offer or want backed by need or evidence? Very often what gets done comes down to a battle of wills. Confidently asserting you position is what makes you right, not facts and evidence. Evidence based repair and remediation is the exception, not rule.
      • One client I advised chose to ignore my written report and purchase a $1MM "special" package from a vendor - a less than 50% List Price "End of Fin Year" deal. Salesmen do deals to make their quotas, not meet client needs... My recommendation was for a $300,000 system, which they bought within a year for another project.

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