CXO

On the Road Again, Part II

In theory I'm on vacation right now.  I say in theory, as I've got a heck of a lot to get done this weekend for business and for a house I no longer live in.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm paying kharma off at a vastly accelerated rate.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about the events of the week.  Well, that's not entirely true; I want to talk about the emotions, causes, and situations underlying those events.  If I talk about the event's themselves I'll probably say too much about things people would rather I not say in public.

The week started out as well as any week of travel does.  My senior and I went out to a site to do an install.  We hooked up with the functional support, the on-site IT, and the consultant hired in to do the application migration.  We had a plan.  We had the tools.  We had the talent.

Unfortunately we also had a complete disaster.  Okay, that's an overstatement.  The users experienced an unrelated downtime in the middle of the second day of our 4 hour install.  We managed, though a lot of hard work, to prevent them from feeling any of the heat we encountered.  However, by the end of it all we were worn out.  Three days straight of work without sleep will do that to you.

Looking back over it, I have to ask myself why I allowed it to happen.  Individually each of the decisions was the right one.  At the moment we made each choice, it was the most logical step forward.  Looking back over my notes I can honestly say I would make the same decisions all over again, given the same information and team skill set.

The overall result even turned out okay, though we have a number of follow-up items to resolve.  The system is up, patient safety was not compromised, and the users like most of the new features.

However, I have a nagging feeling that I pushed my team to hard.  We didn't have to stay up for two days; this system frankly isn't that important.  If it didn't get upgraded, we could have just rescheduled.  Similarly, we didn't HAVE to kill ourselves that second night trying to get the preferred software distribution method to work.  We could have fallen back and punted with the old method, which is what we ended up doing at 3:30am.

So...did I drive the team to hard?  Maybe.  I wanted to get it done, yes, because my team needs to do 5 FTEs of work with 4 bodies, not including the 2 FTEs of management and operations we need.  When a schedule slips it hits everything, hard.

I also wanted to prove a point to someone in our organization.  This person constantly complains that we do not meet our deadlines and that we don't give work associated with his group sufficient priority.  So, I wanted to prove that we do care, even about little things like this application.

There's also the issue of the political acceptance of the new software distribution solution.  It's not well liked, even though it's worked well for just about everything we've tried it on.  No one, including us, has a choice in the matter anyway; with the desktop image in the shape it's in we absolutely need a medium-term virtualization solution while we get the desktops back into shape.

I suspect it's the lack of options which makes it so unpopular.  People like to think they have options; executives and would-be executives like to think they have control.  To manage yourself into a satiation where the environment dictates direction rather than you dictating the environment doesn't make anyone happy.

In the end we got it done.  We got the protection we needed, for the most part, and I stifled the attacks on my team in a meeting.  I'll pay for that; using interaction tricks to control a situation did not make the person being controlled any happier.  I lack the political influence or authority to stop her from chewing me up eventually.  It's just a matter of time and hopefully pulling enough together before that day comes.

On a happier note I did get to two days working with our field staff.  With luck, I proved myself enough to be invited back.  Connecting with the field staff and their executive management can only help me in the long run; fundamentally they sit closer to the client than I do.

Last, and certainly not least, I realized something about healthcare IT.  Generally in IT we are pretty close to the only reality in the business.  We do things with discrete beginnings, middles, and ends.  We actually get motion and results, which leads to some very strange warping of the political landscape.

In healthcare, though, we do the least "real" activity imaginable.  Or at least we did, until our tools started to show up at patient bedsides.  Now we suddenly find ourselves in the patient care business, rather than taking care of the back office.

I'm going to have to think about that some more.  It's possible, even likely, that I can wring something useful from it.

Back to weeding.  It's going to be a long weekend.

 

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