Thought provoking, a little breath taking, and bitingly true... from Jeff Ello via Coputerworld. Give this some attention.
The unspoken truth about managing geeks
Yep - good article. I did think his comment about IT folks not being anti-bureaucracy, but anti-stupidity, to be a little disingenuous. If most bureaucracies have shown themselves to be stupid, then the distinction becomes a trifle moot (could through in a QED here). However, I do think the distinction is exactly what makes Dilbert work for so many people in so many organizations.
In the sense that bureaucracy is the structure and set of regulations in place to control activity, there is nothing inherently "stupid" about it. Bureaucracy is simply one necessary component of managing large organizations. Many organizations do this quite well.
However, when either the bureaucratic structure or a particular member of it becomes instead the vehicle whereby action is obstructed -- usually through insistence on unnecessary procedures and red tape -- we find ourselves deep in Dilbert Land.
As Jeff says, Arbitrary or micro-management, illogical decisions, inconsistent policies, the creation of unnecessary work and exclusionary practices will elicit a quiet, subversive, almost vicious attitude from otherwise excellent IT staff.
I suggest this response is not limited strictly to IT staff ;~) In addition, I suggest this response is not directed at any and all elements of or bureaucracy (as structure) in general but instead to specific illogical... inconsistent... and exclusionary practices.
Structure itself, and the need for it, is neither stupid nor illogical and Jeff is speaking directly to this point.
William W. (Woody) Williams
Project Management Consultant
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In that sense, yes, you are correct. However (not to be pedantic, I was honestly curious, since my definition of the B word is different), there are, in fact, three definitions for bureaucracy. Yours is #2 in wwwebsters, mine is #3. I would say that we are now down to opinions. If we go with your definition, bureaucracy is structure, and stupidity arises from illogical behavior. My definition is that bureaucracy and structure are different, though related, things - one being a poorly controlled version of the other. I think that either way, the end result is what the original article pointed out - if you are a strongly logical, deductive personality, you are more likely to react as described.
On the other hand, I know many IT folks who "get over" the whiny stage and move on to their own reality, doing their best to ignore the inconsistent rules.
At a technology council meeting last week, I encountered an opinion that basically went, "we shouldn't allow people from other types of industries or technologies into this group, otherwise it will lose its focus" (on IT). The particular individual actually fit a few steroetypes (older, grey and bushy haired, academic).
I spent a few minutes yesterday morning typing a memo to the heads of the group...[excerpt]: While IT can be looked at as the backbone of many technology clusters, it is not in itself, the driving force behind the growth and prosperity of the region. For whatever the concern might be that including a wide range of industries and companies that are users of IT but not generators of IT products or services, there is a strong argument that the Council runs the risk of losing its relevance if it does not.
However, in my opinion, building a wall around the tech counsel by interpreting its mission to be IT-centric to the exclusion of business types and technologies that require or consume IT products, will ultimately become self-limiting. IT is not the center of the technology universe, but it is interconnected to that universe.
I haven't had a response yet.
Very thought provoking comment...
As you stated (put in my own words): Most of what we call "IT" takes place within an IT department of a larger organization. In other words, the industry or sector isn't IT or technology... It's energy, health care, manufacturing, retail, and the like. As Jeff states in the linked article, Most IT pros support an organization that is not involved with IT.
Jeff also makes some interesting comments relating to how IT is "managed" based on what IT is "about."
What executives often fail to recognize is that every decision made that impacts IT is a technical decision. Not just some of the decisions, and not just the details of the decision, but every decision, bar none.
With IT, you cannot separate the technical aspects from the business aspects. They are one and the same, each constrained by the other and both constrained by creativity.
I'm not sure what the mission and goals of the particular "tech council" mentioned may be but the first paragraph of Jeff's comments above is the predominate reasoning or rationale behind the opinion you encountered in the meeting. It may, or may not be valid depending on context and where, within the goals of the council it falls, but it is certainly valid in terms of IT management, mission, and goals in general.
If the mission of the council is to promote local high-tech product development (technology products as in AMD, Google or the like), then it is already "self limiting" and aimed at only a small fraction of "IT" as well as a small fraction of "business."
In this case there is an even tighter alignment of IT and business -- they are, indeed, inseparable. As a result, many community resources (people from the IT community as well as people from the business community) who do not come from a technology product development background, are less valuable to such a group and may well prove to become ultimately more fractious within the group than unifying.
There are "common" areas, however. Across a broad spectrum of enterprises, HR, Marketing, Advertising, Finance and Accounting, and many other areas are points of commonality. IT as a department falls within the list as well, even within high-tech companies. There are common needs in every organization.
However, those things may be "common" only in the sense that red is red -- overlooking the almost infinite variety of shading and the fact, for some, "this looks more purple than red." For IT-centric organizations, as Jeff says, everything is and will always be "technical" in a way that other organizations neither understand nor need.
IT is not just "products" although there are a lot of them around and it's easy to see the universe this way. Jeff touches on this point saying, IT's job at the most fundamental level is to build, maintain and improve frameworks within which to accomplish tasks. You may not view a Web server as a framework to accomplish tasks, but it does automate the processes of advertising, sales, informing and entertaining, all of which would otherwise be done in other ways. IT groups literally teach and reteach the world how to work. That's the job.
IT is about how we accomplish work. Most "products" enable people who are clerks, CPAs, astronomers, pharmaceutical researchers, graphic designers, firmware architects and more to "accomplish tasks" in an automated and rapidly changeable (open to improvement) manner. In a sense, IT is no different than water powered mills, steam engines, the internal combustion engine, or other technologies developed for work (and play) in the past -- it's about how we get things done.
Tools. Technology. Work. And sometimes play ;~)
If the council is "technology," then keeping things technical is certainly required and, as you say, technology is about more than IT. If, on the other hand, the council is "IT," then the opinion encountered may well be the best course.
Interesting response to my memo: "the purpose of the Tech Council is to have people who are involved in technology-based organizations work together to help the rest of the Chamber members learn about technology and how to use it to improve their businesses." Further, since the membership of the broader Chamber is small businesses who consume IT services and products, then while not seekign to exclude any other tech company, the focus appears to indeed be IT (as self-limiting as I seem to see it being).
However, for our purposes here, my premise is that IT is a backbone or conduit to many other businesses, technical and non-technical. Then, I get into a close tangent on CI/KR and on interdependencies...but that's an entirely different story.
In a way, the Council seems to be intent on using apples to improve oranges ;~)
Hard to argue with embedded positions.
Also, please forgive the mis-typed word, "seeking" above.
I find it interesting that in today's world we so often equate "technology" with "IT". I'm showing my geezerhood here, but I grew up thinking that the cars that raced in the Indianapolis 500, the newest fighter aircraft, and diesel-electric railroad engines all represented the latest in technology. When I was issued a patent for a new type of bath drain, I thought I was advancing technology. Can someone tell me how we arrived at a point where only technology that's focused on bits and bytes is still technology? What seismic shift did I miss?
Ends and means, to a large degree.
Both science and technology are larger fields than IT although IT would be nowhere without either. IT is founded upon science and technology and IT is "how" we do science and technology; an interesting piece of circular logic. IT, in this sense, is the means - data, information services, connectivity, calculation ability, and the like. IT as the new drafting table, so to speak.
IT in a different sense encompasses hardware, firmware, cables, wireless, circuit boards, and a host of other products. Some of those products are seen as "technology" in their own right but they are not all of the technology universe.
I don't think you've missed any "drift" at all. It's just that people very rarely these days sit down to a drafting table to design or pull out a pad of paper and a pencil to perform intricate calculations. IT is, for most of us, an "enabling" technology that underpins just about everything we do and, therefore, is inextricably bound in most peoples' minds with the technology produced.
I usually think and speak of the distinction between "IT as a department" and "IT as a creator of new technology" to clarify. This is admittedly somewhat over simplified but serves to get the point across.
Almost every organization from the smallest Mom and Pop to the largest international conglomerate has "IT as a department" to some degree. This is an "enabler" group (in house, outsourced, or vendor provided) and isn't a producer of new "technology" in the sense of fighter planes, Indy racers, or quantum computers. IT as a department enables work flow, for example. For many of these organizations, there is no IT component in their delivered product or service.
Some organizations are true "technology" companies in the sense that they actually create new fighters, automotive engines, or space shuttles. They rely on IT (as a department) to provide the enabling technology for design, production, and business operations just as other organizations do. However, some (not all) may have "creative" or "production" IT units as well. Some (not all) of these organizations include IT components in their delivered product.
Another subset of true "technology" organizations are producer/creators of new IT technology. "New" technology like quantum computing, memristors, and the like. For these organizations their delivered product is IT technology. They also utilize IT as a department.
No, IT isn't everything... it's just "in" or "behind" most things. It's easy to confuse the means with the ends in this case... Especially when, sometimes, a meaningful distinction between the means and ends can't be made and people, typically, fail to make any distinction whatsoever.
Sorry, but I'm not buying it. (Too broke, anyway.)
I can see the water getting muddy at a place like Dell, or the smaller "technology" companies around Austin that are focused on products or services that are driven in one way or another by computer technology. To many people associated with these companies computers and related kit ARE technology.
Somehow, though, it's spread through society to where today the ... what? ... not technology? ... that drives modern metallurgy or plastics compounding or food packaging or whatever can't fit into the definition of "technology". Yes, of course companies engaged in such activities have IT departments, but what's relevant to this discussion is that when a plastics company is hiring for the IT department their ads are classified as "technology jobs", while ads for polymer chemists are not. When I was a pup polymer chemistry was still technology, but today it somehow is not included. Anything called "acrylonitrile butadiene styrene" ought to qualify as a technology product, even if Joe Public knows it as ABS. :-)
Actually, not selling anything here. I do understand your position and agree. Just doing some explaining about how people come up with the idea that it's all bits and bytes and nothing else.
Thought I was clear about that but obviously not ;~)
I can't think of anything other than the invention of the mass produced printed word that has become so obsequious and driven so much revolutionary change to every corner of our business, social, and personal lives than computer tech. In the course of which it has supplanted, in many people's minds, all other uses of the word technology. Uber tech, I suppose.
Not saying that's right; just that it is.
Sometimes people just used or use "technology" when they meant or mean "computer technology" - a naive but reprehensible form of shorthand. There are consequences.
Time for a new word?
I agree on all counts. It's just been rather weird. I know if you live long enough you get to see the language change, but corrupting the meaning of the word "technology" isn't one I expected. Perhaps it is time for a new word, but such things typically happen organically and are difficult to force. In the mean time (and these are mean times), I guess us polymer engineers are no longer in the technology business.
Out of a job (description)
Hum, IT pros are just like any other professional, intelligent group of people who happen to have a unique skill set. They are NOT gods, or aliens, or geeks, but people, with real problems and that are NOT above having to deal with those problems head on. In medicine, it is call malpractice, in the IT world I do not know what to call it. Anyone who has power (and yes, IT pro do control information, which is power), can act "inappropriately" at times. Still, most IT pros I have dealt with seem to be great team players, well adjusted, and actually pretty funny. A few are, well not, but in any corporate environment, those people need to be dealt with on a one-on-one basis.
Control of Information?
Did I miss something? Aren't we talking about Jeff Ello's article (lined above)?
The stereotypes Jeff mentioned were egocentric, antisocial, managerially and business-challenged, victim-prone, bullheaded and credit-whoring
We were, but "shift happens."
The thread is so long with so many "indents" and levels, I can't determine to which post jeteye is responding. It may be the one by bryantg near the beginning or simply a response to the original.
At least he's not responding 13 hours short of a month after the original post.
Flogging deceased equines
Apparently great consideration is required ;~)
William W. (Woody) Williams
Senior Project Management RenewData PMO (Consultant)
| Blog | Twitter |
Lots of keen observation in that article.
'It's All About Respect'
When the "j.ello" text is parsed for 'recommendations and suggestions', it's clear that many --perhaps most-- of the entities for which the author has worked were (and maybe still are) run by techno-phobes: people who fear technologies that they do not understand, and therefore distrust I/T people.
Consequently, I/T is treated as a cost of doing business, not a business asset investment. The organizations which fail to leverage value from I/T, or monetize I/T investments by re-organizing their business models to yield productivity and operational efficiency improvements (because they only view I/T as an overhead expense, not a strategic asset) are the ones that are in trouble.
I say 'don't worry too much': the organizations which are missing the mark when it comes to I/T or I/S are going to be wiped out in the current recession. Financing will be available for entities which have a coherent business strategy that affirmatively leverages I/T and I/S assets for growth and cash flow generation. If I/T is treated as just an overhead expense or operational cost of doing business, then the risks (to investors) of failure or loss are simply too great to make any financing worthwhile. Those entities' managements are obsolete and need to be retired.
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