Two Companies

A Tale of two Companies“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...” [C. Dickens]

This is a tale of two companies: company X and company Y.

 

Chapter 1 - Company X:

This tale is about a company, this company was dealing with a very strange situation: In the server room lived a dinosaur, but not an ordinary organizational dinosaur – it was a Tyrannosaurus Rex (aka T-Rex).
This dinosaur lived there for a while now, but since it was sleeping most of the time, having the T-Rex in the lab was not really a problem. Except when it got hungry. Whenever the T-Rex got hungry, it woke up and attacked the first employee he encountered. The server lab was a restricted area, only the certified IT people were allowed in this room, so whenever the T-Rex got hungry that would mean one less IT person in the organization.
As you probably understand by now, this phenomenon affected customer satisfaction, created bottlenecks in deployments and reduced employee satisfaction.
After trying to persuade the dinosaur to stop this behaviour (with no luck), the organization decided to hold a post-mortem (pun intended) meeting with a goal to analyze the situation further in order to try and eliminate the problem.

Here are some of the questions that were raised during this investigation:

  • Who hired this dinosaur?
  • Who was its manager?
  • Who gave it access to the server room?
  • What is the cost of replacing an IT person?
  • Can we hire enough IT people so that the dinosaur will harm productivity?
  • And more...

Chapter 2 - Company Y:

This tale is about a company, this company was dealing with a very strange situation: For the past month, once every few days one of the servers crashed, no one really knew why. There was no indication in the logs, no crash report. Nothing.
The IT people, that were the only ones with access to this room, tested everything they could think of that might cause this problem. 
They even tried replacing every piece of hardware on that server. The problem remained.
As you can probably guess, this phenomenon had a negative impact on customer satisfaction, it created bottlenecks in deployments and reduced even employee satisfaction.
After the IT department gave up on solving the problem, the organization decided to hold a meeting with a goal to analyze the situation further in order to try and eliminate the problem.

Here are some of the questions that were raised during this investigation:

  • What can we do that have not though about to understand the source of the problem?
  • Is there anyone in the world that already encountered a similar situation and can consult
  • How much will it cost to completely replace the server?
  • Is there a workaround or a partial fix?

And that was the tale of the two companies....

The end.

 

 

What? What do these stories have to do with anything?!

Well... The two companies and the situations described seems logical to many people, some even find the first one funny, unfortunately it is not very funny.
People too often treat problems as a “T-Rex” situations and not as “faulty machine” one.
The first story demonstrates how the majority of organizations seems to be approaching problem solving. They are looking at the problem as a dinosaur problem and hence asking the questions based on that assumption, looking mostly on who to blame.

However, most (if not all) organizational problems are not a dinosaur-like problem, they are a faulty server problem, and i highly recommend that the questions you choose to ask yourself when facing an organizational problem should be based on that assumption. 
Even if the problem appears to be a dinasaur-like.

When facing a tough situation, try and refrain from finding who is to blame and use techniques such as 5 why's and Ishikawa diagrams to try get to the root cause, and not handle the symtoms.

Acting with this mindset will help your organization build a culture of trust and improvement, using the other approach will most likely promote a blame culture, leading to withholding information, lack of responsibility and eventually poor results.

P.S
Please remember: Dinosaurs are extinct.
May the force be with you.