Saturday, May 22, 2010

Politically based Engineering Organizations

When an organization is resistant to change and evolution, it can in many cases be attributed to weak technical leadership. Now this weakness can be because of the politicalization of Engineering and Development organizations.

Some of the warning signs include:

- Political assasinations to protect the current system
- Senior personnel and very experienced people intimidate the management structure and are discounted
- Inability to deliver
- An unwillingness to question existing process or function.

People that function at a very technical level find places where politics prevalent, a difficult place to work.

- Management doesn't want to know whats wrong with their product.
- They don't want to change.
- They shun and avoid senior technical folks and experience is shunned.

Political tips and tricks

- Put up processes and negotiations to stop progress.
- Random changing processes.
- Sandbagging of information.
- When something is brought to the attention of the Manager, the technical
person's motivations are called into question. What VALUE does the person bring to the Company?
- The person's looks or mannerisms are called into question.
- The persons heritage or background is called into question.
- The person's ability to be part of a team is called into question.
- Diversions are put in place to stop progress at any cost.

General Rules of Thumb

+ Politically oriented Supervisors kill technical organizations.
+ Image becomes more important than capability.
+ Politicians cannot fail or admit failure. Therefore, risks are avoided.
+ Plausible deniability is prevalent in politics.
+ Blame-metrics is prevalent. "You said..."

Given strong ENGINEERING leadership, technical folks will grow very quickly. Consequently, their product will become better and better as you learn new techniques and share them, everyone gets smarter. True Engineers have a willingness to help others, solve problems, and do great things. A little autonomy and simple recognitions and you're off to the races.

Politicians are more suited to Sales jobs. Sales is about making the numbers at whatever cost. In fact, Sales people will do just about anything to close a deal. They are more apt to help themselves than to help others unless it also helps themselves. Engineers need to know that their managers have their backs. Sales folks have allegiance to the sale and themselves... A bad combination for Engineers.

One of the best and most visionary Vice Presidents I've ever worked under, John Schanz once told us in a Group meeting that he wanted us to fail. Failure is the ability to discover what doesn't work. So, Fail only once. And be willing to share your lessons, good and bad. And dialog is good. Keep asking new questions.

In Operations, Sales people can be very dangerous. They have the "instant gratification" mentality in many cases. Sign the PO, stand up the product, and the problem is solved in their minds. They lack the understanding that true integration comes at a personal level with each and every user. This level of integration is hard to achieve. And when things don't work or are not accepted, folks are quick to blame someone or some vendor.

The best Engineers, Developers, and Architects are the ones that have come up through the ranks. They have worked in a NOC or Operations Center. They have fielded customer calls and problems. They understand how to span from the known to and unknown even when the customer is right there. And they learn to think on their feet.

No comments:

Post a Comment