Thursday, May 24, 2007

Empowerment and Trust

I've had this in draft for a while, can't figure out what the point was, but I don't want to think about it anymore. I've seen so many people chafing about the enterprise IT shop at one of my clients...unfortunately only I can do is add another forlorn whine to the choir.

My friend sixty4bit recently blogged about some trust and power issues at a client we have both worked for. Their behavior is bureaucratic in the extreme, they run all projects through a slow and cantankerous review board for all of their technology selections. In the end, the review board exists because the organization does not trust software developers and does not want to empower them to make decisions. The end result is that they slow everyone down and drastically reduce the effectiveness of the organization. The overall atmosphere created is one of fear of anything new, where people stop asking to try new things, because it isn't worth the time to get them approved. In a lot of cases, you have to get approval just to try something.

Laughably, this client is attempting to move to agile development processes, which are certainly focused on empowering the people who are doing the work to make decisions (although that is more of a Lean idea), while continuing on the opposite track in terms of empowering individual projects to meet their customers' needs.

In reality, particular technical decisions about technology selection can be contentious, especially in regards to projects across the enterprise choosing incompatible technology stacks. There is also a need to coordinate purchases across projects to gain negotiation leverage. Even more important, although completely overlooked by these bozos is that the license terms for all software need to be read by actual lawyers. However, it's clear that the real issue here is one of trust and power, tied up with the fun of getting to decide how to spend other people's money.

I am working on a devious plan to: a) get them to trust me, b) keep them feeling powerful, and c) allow for innovation and progress. Reading "Influence: Science and Practice" by Robert Cialdini tonight. Maybe that will help with a and b.


FANTOM said...

That isn't my company he's talking about, right?

Matt M said...

None other...

Sixty4Bit said...

I started to comment last night, and decided that I was to tired to be coherent so I delayed posting to today. I searched for your blog so that I could comment and found that there is a Street's song named "Let's Push Things Forward". When you first named your blog I thought you were just being your typical business-savvy self, but now I realize that you were actually being your typical music-savvy self and incorporating it into your business-savvy life. Proper.

I like your three step plan. Please let me know if there is any way I can help from the inside. I am eager to see the world changed in a more positive way.