Thursday, July 31, 2008

Response to "11 Behaviors Most Disliked by IT Leaders" by Simon Stapleton.

My Comments:

1) On procrastination: People who don't want to make any decision except for 100% certainty decisions are afraid. Afraid of what, you ask? Afraid of being criticized by their supervisors.

2) People BS to cover their perceived inadequacies. They want to look good. Again, out of fear their true nature will seem lacking.

3) Too much detail: They want to preempt the uncomfortable questions by higher ups. Higher ups have a way of asking questions that often make the underling feel belittled/threatened.

4) On over-use of process: it's classic CYA. If the shit hits the fan, then you can point to the process and say: "But, I followed the process".

5) Coffee-machine diplomacy, or, what I like to call "back-door shenanigans" are a symptom that open meetings and discussions do not foster openness and frankness from the rank and file.

6) Irrational Management: Nobody can be an expert. Granted. But in many companies, "I don't know" is the wrong answer. So better an answer that doesn't make sense than no answer. People would rather be known as hard-asses than ignorants.

7) Defensiveness. Being defensive comes from fear. Fear of not being accepted, valued, and recognized.

8) Victim Mentality. Sometimes, just sometimes, people might accurately see themselves as victims of a system that is designed to grind them down and spit them out. The only way out of that is to foster very open communications and to have great management skills. An anecdote: my 2007 performance review was abysmal. I blamed poor management of the resource I provide. Management disagreed. But wait: here's an interesting fact: in 2007 I had (count'em) 8 different managers. Did I play the Victim card or did I point out a real problem?

9) Email-itis. Again, fueled by fear. Much email is of the CYA sort. Also, it's easier to bring someone up to speed when there's an email trail. As far as bcc: that's either CYA or politics/gossip. As far as mass-email, that's disseminating information. A management function. If people are doing it in email, that means management is not doing it well.

10) Blackberry ignorance. Doing anything in a meeting besides being involved is detrimental. Perhaps, though, the meeting is rambling endlessly and the people who want to get work done have to do it in spite of the meeting. My recommendation: post a clear meeting agenda ahead of time and invite people on a voluntary basis. If they don't want to come to meetings, this says a lot about the value of the meetings.

11) Merit-whores: People do it because it works. it works at getting raises, promotions, visibility. It works because companies don't have a good systems or valuing individual contributions.

My take: the IT leaders are the ones who cause most of these problems. I would suggest they read about the Victim Mentality (point 8 in the post), as well as pick up The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation ( - less than $5 used).

Simon, overall, quite interesting information.

This is also posted at 11 Behaviors Most Disliked by IT Leaders.


Mark McClure said...

Hi Chris - followed your link from Simon's blog!

I think IT employee procrastination is indeed a learned behaviour and probably unconsciously encouraged in those corp cultures where "failure" is seen to be "career limiting".

Naturally, risk management has a role to play in making sure that the implied risk of an employee decision or action doesn't "bet the bank" (topical, I know ;-)

I'll check out the Toyota book - thx for the reminder.

And I also just had a quick re-read of Ricardo Semler's "Maverick" (page 172) where he's batting around the idea of relevant employees vetting and selecting their managers... the military nature of corps is beyond a joke IMO and has infected some of them beyond redemption, such that (economic) swag and plunder is all that keeps them together.

I think Semler's ideas have 'real' merit but he's probably about 50 years ahead of his time...

Christopher said...

Ah, interesting. I'll definitely check out the Maverick book. Thanks.