Well, you would think I could avoid
getting into trouble on the Monday of a holiday week. It’s not like
there was anyone in the office. Fully half of my team wasn’t in; the
other half could have gotten on fine without me. Everyone wanted to
talk about their July 4th plans more than they wanted to hear about
yet another IT thing which might or might not affect them in the long
If I possessed any sense whatsoever I
would have talked about the same thing. Instead I pointed at the
elephant not once, not twice, but three times in a row. People will
not thank me for it; more likely one or more of them will want my
head on a platter. Blame, after all, is both easy and fun. Better
yet, the screaming and hair-pulling distracts us from the real
Every organization has their elephants.
You know them well; those massive problems no one wants to talk
about, ever, under any circumstances. Some elephants lurk in the
middle of meetings but don’t make too much trouble so long as
everyone knows where they sit. Others, though, lay in wait and try
to run you over when you least expect it. The elephant in my current
organization is of the later sort.
Now, being new to the organization, I
don’t always know when to keep my mouth shut. I’m also inclined to
say what I think and back it up with data, theory, and practical
examples. None of this endears me to those who like their elephant
just the way it is, thank you very much. It also has a tendency to
leave me without any markers, as they get consumed when the elephant
So, the question becomes, what the heck
do I do with the elephant? It’s too big for my team to wrestle down.
It’s results leave my reactive team members so battered that they
can barely find the time to work on other things. My sole
non-reactive team member, my senior, will not come back from medical
leave for at least three weeks. I do not have the authority or the
power to deal with it personally, though I’m slowly making some
progress on shutting it out of my direct area.
Looking for allies will prove
problematic as well. Elephants come into being for a reason; someone
or multiple someones find them useful. They remain in the
environment because it supports them. They grow and become, well,
elephants though a long combination of neglect, politics, and
influence peddling. All that means the organization as a whole and
the individuals in the organization possess a pretty high level of
commitment to their little pet.
Anyone I turn to for help will likely,
at some point, turn on me. Any ally I build for this effort will
eventually have to cash in their chips rather than go on yet another
elephant hunt. That’s assuming I can find someone with the political
will and the influence to even start.
So. I have an elephant crashing though
my network. There’s not a thing I can do about it other than apply
the techniques I know and do the best I can to not let things get
completely out of control. My team’s completely tied up this week
trying to keep things afloat, so I’ll have to figure out how to do
this with a team of influence rather than one of authority or mutual
On a more positive note, we have taken
another short-term step towards implementing teamed approaches to
problem solving. Right now, I’m acting as the second part of most of
the in team pairs. When we have to reach outside the team,
I’ve decided to keep my people involved rather than allowing the work
to pass completely out of our hands.
I’ll let you know how that turns out.