CXO

Why is it so hard to point at the elephant in the room?

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

run.

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

problems.

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

defends itself.

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

respect.

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.

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