Ammo Domini

I saw and heard many times (certainly not at you), that professionality is over in the IT field. Quality falls, deadlines are missed, costs are increasing and the joy of creation lost somewhere on the road. In the past everything was better and so. 

What could be the reason? Large projects are still exists, empowering targets are still there, more money spent then ever - it seems to be a perfect situation to fly and still... I collected you some reasons for those cases when this bad feeling is right. Some ammo for the feeling of 'anno Domini'.

Get a great literary quote about the feeling of the past.

Emil had heard that sort of remark before, and he took no notice of it now. Some people were always lamenting the good old days, as thought nothing was as good as it used to be - even the air which, according to them, used to be much cleaner. But you didn't have to believe them. They were not lying exactly, nor telling the truth. Generally they were just discontented, and thought anything was better then what they had got at the moment.

Erich Kästner, Emil and the detectives

Although I fully agree with Mr Kästner, I know that sometimes the things was really better in the past. I have thank hard to find a something what helps to identify the case when something is wrong today and also to give some help to change and fix.

In the IT or by other word the technology era (similar to many other things certainly) you feel you great when the motivators are right and the missing hygiene factors are not pushing you down - referring to Herzberg's Two Factor Theory.

I recognised that our motivators and hygiene factors are able to be derived from the competition level and the dimension shows how much you follow your plans even you have plans at all.

The following centro-quadrant show the five main stages where your company can be.

You can get better understand of the # of competitors axis by reading Competition is the fuel of improvements article. The end values of the plans to follow axis are telling ones. At the Things happen stage you may have no plans at all, or no one cares about them, they are practically missing. Perfectionism is that you have your plans and you force to clean all corners up, nevertheless of its business meaning. Now, go into the details and understand the blocks!

Steam machines

This block is where nothing is changed for ages. Instead of steam machines use other word as you wish, what is representing your experiences better then steam machines. One said, call it marmalade, representing that mindset who cannot imagine that anything else exist for breakfast than marmalade.

These companies are far from the edge and it is almost an impossible mission to invite them for changes. People sit there from 8-4 executes their well-known procedures and sometimes lives by the Parkinson's law.

By other words, lukewarm water envelops people, no motivation to change, the only danger threats them is boredom.

Perpetuum Mobile

This box is the relative of steam machines but the non-competing team works to build perfect solutions, which often means beyond the possible. The case happens that there is no one, who can challenge the plans, challenge the costs, everyone feels that the way they go is the only one. Much larger problem, that the missing challenges cause that the wasted amount of resources in the details bounds to reach hard but possible targets, which later defined as impossible. Companies slip down to Steam machines stage on several occasions because of the delivery failures, loosing all faith to change.

This stage is not simple to reform, since people are so motivated to reach their targets, they believe them hard.

Utopia

Working for impossible target with large amount of competitors in parallel? I can imagine but not as a practical example. Although it is a great target to go for but we must approve that it is impossible to reach. Finally, I never saw company at this stage. As you increase the number of competitors people used to turn back from the horizon. On the other hand forcing perfectionism will kill competition as people turns to the details instead of delivering values.

Comp(l)ete illusion

I call this box Complete illusion because I saw the illusion of full competition too much times. People there are in survivor mode. Usually the most important aspect is to get the lowest prices (sometimes with impossible deadlines), which destroys delivery targets, plans, quality - and the motivation to be better.

You will see here delay, hidden cost what never expected, lost of experts autonomy, unhappy internal and external customers. The typical reason to be in this stage is the extreme cost control. I mean the situation when when the organisation focuses on unit prices of devices and people and forgets the equality that two half-as-good people cannot replace a good one. I heard to call this problem the "rate-card delusion", which is driven by people who has no understanding of value delivered therefore cannot care about value for money. They focus only on the money.

At this stage it is worse not to search for motivation. It also better to be well prepared to measure the level of frustration.

Bright delivery

This is the stage in the center where most of the people likes to be. Here you have good and valid plans, which teams can and will follow. You are open for compromises to change the plans if it delivers more value - and yes, you understand what the value means for your environment. You are open for competition, which may mean external challengers or you challenge yourself situations. Like the good master who debates himself but the followers (in our case the customers) will never feel this doubtfulness.

You see people well motivated here to be proud of their deliveries on time, on budget and on target. All we know that it is almost impossible to reach all the three, but our challengers helps to be as close as possible. The good plans and roadmaps helps to keep the right direction and to make solution compromises with your customers.

To keep this stage up and running you have to care about the hygienic factors, because frustrated people will fell down to the steam machine stage. You also have to keep the good challengers there and carefully avoid the extreme competition.

How to move to Bright delivery?

It is so simple at first look: tune the number of competitors and fix your plans. I know it is not that simple, look some details.

Moving from out of Steam machines, the most important change is to find a good challenger, who understands business values and will become the stand to move the earth. You can expect that this challenger will have plans for the future which may be the basis of your future plan, which anyway would be the second step to create. You should be prepare to handle those people who do not want to wake up.

Moving out from Perpetuum Mobile is so similar. You need a good challenger who will start deliver, which may start to move the originals to focus on real values to deliver. Here you have to be prepared to handle the frustrated people who will feel that someone steals their toys.

The most common and most dangerous stage is the Comp(l)ete illusion. Dangerous since it can is justified by the good old Excel sheets and the blaming to others (colleagues, environment, vis major and so) approach. The best start here to define clear values with your customers together and short term plans to reach them. The next step is to find key vendors who will deliver the short term targets and will be the center of challenging competitions.

Closing

Back to the original question. Yes it may happen that you were in a Bright delivery stage in the past and now you are somewhere else. This case you are right and this is the time to change the era. Don't wait!

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