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    « CA World 2011: Perspectives | Main | A "How To" Series, Converged Infrastructure Style »

    11/25/2011

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    Robert Miletich

    [BLOCKQUOTE:No matter where you are, or what you do as an individual contributor, your responsibility is to make the people above you successful. I don’t care if you don’t like your boss, I don’t care if you are more qualified than your position demands, your job is to ensure that you are doing everything you can to make your team successful.:BLOCKQUOTE]

    That of course is true - known as carrying your weight and contributing to organizational success.

    Where you get into trouble is when the success that you contribute to collapses under the weight of incompetence. What do you do? Do you put up with it interminably - safe in the knowledge that "you've" done your best or is it incumbent on you to say, wait-a-minute, *I* do know how things should work when they work, and odds are that people expect me to *not* stand by while the thing collapses. Repeatedly.

    I'm not a fan of libertarian-think individualism (a malady common among techno-folk that done it all on their own, standing on no-one's shoulders), but I'm old enough to know that people are hired on as individuals, based on some skill set *they* possess, and as such, contribution to a team is necessary, but only as much as the management allows it to be integrated.

    I don't believe in general equality and anonymity within a team - managers always view people based on their individual utility. Some will contribute more because they're younger and don't know the consequences of the familial neglect they trade-off, others may hold off based on experience - it's hard going full bore down a path you've been previously and know doesn't work. (That's why I love junior wunderkinds - they assume that because they lack the experience, everyone lacks the same experience, or that everyone else's experience is invalid because only the wunderkind can decide if past experience is relevant.)

    A team is a wonderful concept, but people are seldom hired as a team; they're hired as individuals. Also, teams can be easily become unproductive if they get too big - General Maxwell Thurman had a well known saw: "...if fifty can't do it (the task), five can.", meaning that accountability and division of labor is easier in a smaller group - less diffusion; more individual accountability. The trick there is with competent leadership - the leader must understand what the team dynamics are etc.

    Anecdote: I was once an administrator of UNIX systems for DoD back in the stone ages. Kept my systems patched, they didn't get compromised, well oiled, and kept on ticking. The next department over didn't want administrators telling them things, instead provided Sun workstations to engineers for self administration. In short time they had a festering nest of worms that crippled a sensitive engineering organization. When the after-action analysis was done, it wasn't the competent administrators that were asked for best practices - instead the idiots from engineering became the traveling poster children delivering "lessons learned" across the global enterprise, (and explaining that UNIX administration was too cumbersome and unfriendly).

    What I learned from that was 2 things - 1) being quietly competent = invisible, and 2) you can turn incompetence into an asset if your boss has a vested interest in protecting his own incompetence (in their case allowing drive-by administration by the engineers themselves) and then turning it into "LEARN HERE! BRAND NEW EXPERIENCE! NEVER BEFORE ENCOUNTERED!" when all it really was bad practices. The final takeaway for me was to be attuned to when the organization is dysfunctional enough that it falls into competence = invisibility, and incompetence = novel experience worth learning from.

    BTW: I'm not leading here - JUST TALKING LOUDLY!

    Jeramiah Dooley

    I think you bring up a great point: at what point does the disfunction of a team mean you need to make a change. The ugly truth is that not every manager is capable of putting together a framework that allows every member of the team to succeed (at whatever level "success" means, as you point out). At some point, your ability to be a good soldier is outweighed by your need to put yourself in a position where you don't jeopardize your sanity.

    Speaking of, I hope you've landed somewhere that makes you happy, and give you the framework you need. It was great working with you, and I appreciate you keeping in touch!

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