CXO

How redefining success becomes a habit...

Have you ever had one of those

conversations where you wanted to take someone by the ears, turn them

around, point them at the smoking wreckage they call an

infrastructure, and say “LOOK, for crying out loud?” Have you

ever done it, had them look you dead in the eye, and say “But it's

working other places, so all this theory is pointless?”

A few years ago I wrote an article

about how people never fail in IT. We can always redefine what it

means to succeed so that everyone looks good. It's part of the charm

of what we do; metrics for success change so easily. A few words

here, a handshake there, and the greatest disasters get recorded as

shining successes. The nightmares of support, the exhausted staff,

and the over funded, under trained and performing departments just

get overlooked.

At some point the pain gets good to

people. They start to like it. As I mentioned in my blog on trying

to hunt the elephant in the room no one will talk about, the way

things are serve many purposes. In my immediate case it means I do

not have to do much to get by. Just take my licks, do as I'm ordered

even when it's wrong, and collect a paycheck. Every once in a while

one of the Powers that Be will throw me a bone to prove they want an

architecture.

Business also seems to thrive, despite

our mishaps and trials. They get their jobs done around outages,

horrid response times, and occasional outright stupidity on our parts

leading to major events crashing out multiple sites. They accept, or

at least pay for, an organization exhausted past the point of even

analyzing the incoming data to stop the pain.

The magic of redefining success is at

work here. We've defined success as either surviving another day or

getting a system up, and damn whatever happens to the support

afterwards. Its wrong. It's nearly impossible to keep up for any

length of time. It allows people to display their talents and skills

as they keep the place running and it definitely lets people show

just how hard they work for the money they make. Whether we work

anything like smart rather than hard doesn't really matter at the end

of the day, it seems.

I've mentioned many times that pride is

my downfall. I'm a proud man, driven by both a desire to excel and a

determination to serve. I push myself constantly in work, in play,

and in life. I push my teams to excel, to think sideways, to grapple

with the twin snakes that climb into their cradle and throttle them

before lunch. Ahem...

The point is that I have trouble just

sitting back, even when the environment defines success as just doing

what we are told. I know what environments where you do it right

look like. I know what happens when people know how things work, why

they work, and why they break. I have, many times, tasted the

satisfaction of creating and maintaining dial-tone IT, watched it

reduce staffing levels, held the tactical pieces to enable strategic

agility, and felt the quiet pride of a job well done but unknown.

Frankly, I like those experiences better than the constant struggle,

the sudden discovery of failure in “turn-key” systems, and the

chaos surrounding things you just shove in without any understanding

of either their architecture or how they fit into the bigger

technical picture.

So, I've set my team to doing what's

right. We'll get in trouble for it, I'm sure. The people who assure

me in one meeting they will support “doing it right” will

double-cross me in another in the name of expedience. That's just

business. So long as my team keeps moving methodically forward,

stabilizing one little bit of it at a time, I'll go forth and do my

little bit.

Heck, maybe at some point I can show

the customers they really can expect more. If that happens, though,

the definition of success will change...and that will put me back

squarely in the sights of those who profit from the current

environment.

Onward and upward. The team has a lot

of clean-up work to do. Hopefully we can get it done before another

distraction shows up on the horizon.

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