Hunch On IT

People do what they know…

Posted in Human Behavior, Information Technology, IT by carlkessler on December 12, 2009

This is obvious right?  We do hire people for their experience and we expect them to leverage that knowledge to do a better job.  This works 90 percent of the time.  The issue is that when it counts the most, our experience can really backfire.

The two key scenarios are (a) when the world has fundamentally changed and (b) when we are overwhelmed.  In these situations, experience may not help at best and be counterproductive at worst.

When the world has changed, what we did in the past may not work.  Consider a real world example, remember the images of soldiers standing in rows in brightly colored uniforms firing volleys of musket fire at each other.  Muskets were fairly inaccurate.  Those rows of soldiers acted as kind of human machine gun increasing the probability of a hit (among other things).  When we invented rifles which were much more accurate over longer distances and added tactics like guerrilla warfare, the military units that failed to adapt suffered higher causalities.  The old way which had been very effective, was now a liability.  The same is true for IT.

The trick is really recognizing when the world has changed.  Sometimes a major change arrives as the result of a “disruptive” technology.  In IT we do a pretty good job of identifying and even driving this type of change.  The major changes that can really blindside us, where our experience may actually have a negative outcome, are changes that aren’t reported in the technology rags.  They are major changes in how our company does business or in the scale it does business on.  Examples might be:

  • Moving from a product to a customer focus
  • A rapid increase in size
  • Certain regulatory changes
  • The addition of substantially different product lines

In these type of situations, it’s important to step back, ask some tough questions and seek 3rd party help.  In my experience, my gut is usually the first to raise a red flag.  Be wary if there is substantial horizontal impact across the corporation or major changes in capacity requirements.

The second scenario is when we are overwhelmed.  This may be due to the volume of work or the complexity of effort.  I am personally a victim of this.  When I have a lot of work to do, I have two choices.  Do I take out the chunk I can do most easily because I know how or do I tackle the more complex tasks which require a lot more thought?  The temptation is to whittle down the stack by taking out the “easy” stuff.  The easy stuff may not be the most important, in fact, it’s more likely not what is important.  The individual can deal with this by being aware of the affect, setting priorities and sticking to them.  Management can help by being aware of when your team is overloaded and effectively setting priorities.

The axiom here is “Have the experience to know when you don’t.”

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  1. IRS Lawyer said, on May 23, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Helicopter parents destroyed my school. How? By insisting on lower standards so that their kids could get good grades in upper-level classes without doing any work. The middle school from which I graduated now insists that schools not teach grammar because it hurts kids’ self-esteem not to be good at it. That’s crap. The point of school is to learn how to be good at things that one was not able to do beforehand. Parents want their children to do well; everybody does. But the “helicopter parents” who give their kind a bad name do so because they are unwilling to accept that their children need to learn to do things they don’t want to, or that being an A student may mean sacrificing time that would have been spent doing something else.

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