Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Clueless Manager

My reaction: 
When asked in our Facebook poll last week to identify the source of their greatest IT frustration, two out of three respondents picked the answer "Oblivious, clueless, or disengaged management."

If it's true that we laugh hardest at familiar folly, then maybe the Pointy-Haired Boss (PHB) character in Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strip is so uproariously funny because, apparently, 66% of all IT professionals work for him?

For those who don't follow Dilbert, a PHB is a "mind bogglingly stupid boss lacking foresight, technical knowledge, leadership skills, morality and/or tact." (From the Urban Dictionary)

Nobody consciously sets out to become a Pointy-Haired Boss, but, in the creative perception of their colleagues and subordinates, all-too-many IT managers seem to unconsciously shout "Look at Me! I'm a PHB!"

How is it that, when an IT manager or leader says engaging, positive, and affirming things like:

    “How’s it going?”
    “What do you think?”

    “How can we help?”
    “Nice work.”

Their employees and team members hear instead:

    “You can be replaced.”
    “You’re going nowhere.”
    “Your opinion is worthless.”
    “You can’t do anything right.”
    “You’ll never be good enough.”

Pointy-Haired Bosses declare themselves as such not by what they explicitly say, but by their subtle behavioral traits, which "speak" far louder than mere words. These are examples of quiet ways to loudly proclaim "Look at me! I'm a PHB!"

- Interrupting face-to-face meetings to take cell phone calls
- Disciplining employees in front of others
- Leaving meetings abruptly because “something came up”
- Arriving late for scheduled appointments or meetings
- Micromanaging the "how" of tasks assigned to subordinates
- Announcing top-level reorganizations without explaining their significance to the people in lower-level positions


(This entire Dilbert montage is funny, but you'll find the best example clip of this post's point 1 minute in.)


"We're Clueless!" is never explicitly pronounced; it's implied by our behavior. "Clueless" is perceived, and, in this and all matters of human behavior, perception is truth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Understanding "Don't" Diligence

My reaction: 

Due Diligence: the performance of an act with a certain standard of care. Expressed in other words, "covering all the bases" in the thorough pursuit of a (usually professional) goal.

Don't Diligence:  Concealing passive-aggressive, obstructionist behavior behind a plausible-looking veneer of Due Diligence. In other words, protracting the completion of a finite task by inserting an infinite number of requisite sub-tasks within it. Deliverables dealt the Death by a thousand cuts. Projects shot stone dead with Zeno's Arrow.


"Can God make a rock so heavy that she can't lift it?" I don't know about God*, but thousands of lesser beings in Information Technology manage this paradoxical miracle every day.

* "Damn it, Jim. I'm a psychologist, not a theologian."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Does Ego Drive Information System Design?

My reaction: 
What role does human ego play in the design and implementation of Enterprise IT solutions?

Are IT systems as over-complicated (and over-budget and over-due and...) as they often are because their designers seek self-glorification in them? Or perhaps because their implementers are so threatened by the risks they represent that they insert an overabundance of redundant and superfluous "t's" and "i's" just so they can cross and dot them in the name of (perpetual) due diligence?"

You'll find a complete description of the problem, its many hidden costs, some hints at its cause, and some suggestion for dealing with it, in the article Radically Simple IT, from the Harvard Business Review:


The psychological and behavioral causes of IT problems often escape IT managers and leaders, who are "wired" to look only for rational explanations and solutions.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Subtle Violence

My reaction: 
When you communicate in a work setting, with a subordinate or a colleague, do you coerce the response that you want to hear?

Or, do you listen for new ideas, even if that means someone else might get credit for them?
Take ten minutes to watch -- and listen to -- Marshall Rosenberg in this video.


Coercive Communication is Violent Communication. Listening presupposes an openness to change and a willingness to accept.