Thursday, December 14, 2006

Are we there yet?

Why technology needs to take 2-steps back to make 3-steps forward.
A slight departure from the human side of morale (unless you're in the field of software architecture).

The proliferation of technology within the workplace should have enabled corporate Britain (America, Asia or from wherever you are reading this) to have achieved far more than it has. This is not to say that without the technology we have we could have reached where we are now, but to ask if we could be further. Are we really reaping the benefits from what we have? The sad answer is no. In this article I hope to explain why.

For the sake of an example we’ll pick on Microsoft’s Excel. One of the most widely adopted business tools across the globe. Most of its users are aware how to open the application and fill in its little boxes. How many truly open up the raw power of the solution? Very few without a doubt! To declare fairness lets assume Pareto’s rule of 80/20, with 80% of Excel’s true capabilities going untouched. This is a dismal prospect for such a commonplace application.

With more specialized applications, applications designed to perform very specific functions for a well defined user group, you would anticipate that the percentage of power in use would be more favorable to the user’s accessibility. After all, this is not a grand tool that can span across the needs of a multitude of user types such as Excel. This is a tool that has been so carefully crafted that it only addresses a single community. The sad reality is that the weighting could even make the great Pareto whimper. Where most people with access to Excel will praise their use of it regardless of their inability to access its potential, specialist applications are prone to complete and utter abandonment.

What is possibly more shocking is that these specialist applications can even go through a series of versions, patches, hot-fixes… continual maintenance and redesign and yet the result can be precisely the same. Zero uptake.

As someone who works in User Centered Design I am accustomed to these realities and fight the good fight on behalf of the users I represent. The challenge for most designers in pursuit of user adoption is the legacy and constraints that exist before the fight even begins. If the battlefield is already heavily laden with landmines, then any tactics that involve a straight line across this minefield are instantly ruled out.

A business who has invested in a specific direction is inflexible to the possibility of change.

A technology that has invested in a specific direction is inflexible to the possibility of change.

A user that has invested in a specific direction is inflexible to the possibility of change.

And yet change is inevitable. It’s as if we were all building a never-ending skyscraper together constantly being filled with tenants and after 30 floors up, we realize we need to change 20 of them before we can go up any further. The business is loathed to do so as it creates expense and would affect the tenants that have already moved in to the skyscraper. The technologists are loathed to do so as it means undoing all the hard work done to date. And the users are loathed to do so as they are already challenged enough to be presented with a whole new way of doing things. And all 3 are fearful of the unknown – will it work? After all, when we first built the last 20 floors we were convinced it would work and yet now we’re being told that it didn’t.

Instead of creating expense, undoing hard work, being faced with greater challenge and not being certain it will work we make compromises. After all, compromises are good aren’t they? Everyone is happy in a compromise? The tenants are not going anywhere, or if the did, we’ll find others. The business will be fine. The technologists will be busy and the users – well, they’ll just have to cope.

Why would someone only use 20% of an application? Worse still, why would someone abandon an application entirely? And bigger still – why would a business continue to invest more in to building on top of something with such poor adoption only with the glimmer of hope that the users will become more accustomed to it over time?

Excel is simply the only generalist tool that can manage mathematical equations beyond a calculator or your own noggin, and outside of specialist applications. This makes the tool indispensable. Sure, there are other spreadsheet packages available, and yet the majority of office workers will have become accustomed to Excel over its competitors. If you wish to perform any lengthy mathematical equation then it is imperative that you have grasped the fundamental principles of a spreadsheet and therefore Excel.

When faced with an entirely new application to perform what to a user appears to be very similar calculations the first thing they do is find a workaround. Inevitably that workaround is Excel. And as all users form the business, the business becomes accepting of this resistance to use the new application and will either turn a blind-eye, try to enrich the application further (usually to see how they can incorporate the workaround – Excel) or abandon it entirely. Which one is dependent on cost and pride. And in my experience pride often being the most predominant factor.

So if people are using Excel by almost ‘rule’, then why is so little of its potential used?

When a specialist application is written to aid specific user communities perform complex mathematical equations why do user’s abandon this to revert to the under utilized Excel once again?

What becomes even more bizarre when you delve in to this topic to the depths as I have, you will be in total awe to why a business would buy in a specialist application to perform the functions that Excel could do if it weren’t hidden in the 80% most of us don’t use. The arguments I hear most are around security, stability and integration.

Security? Anyone could access an Excel spreadsheet and know the most crucial elements of our business – our money.

Stability? Excel is unreliable. It crashes all the time.

Integration? Excel is a tool. It’s not a service and won’t work with our other systems.

The answer has to be something that is secure, stable and integrates well with our other systems. Therefore we must build a solution that we control who has access to it, will never fail and can be integrated in with our other system.

Let’s dispel the myths of Excel and then revisit this demand.

Security can be set to a single cell in an Excel spreadsheet, not only to a single worksheet, and to the entire workbook. I challenge anyone to crack an Excel spreadsheet once you have forgotten the password to unlock it.

The only time Excel becomes unreliable is when it is installed on a poor workstation or is asked to do calculations that have not been set-up properly.

The manner in which the data is saved in Excel is the most commonly used format for transferring mathematical data in systems, comma delimited or .CVS and can even be extracted automatically and in a mired of formats including the more pervasive .XML requirement of most modern day systems.

In contrast the security, stability and ability to integrate bespoke or specialist off-the-shelf application is more prone to failure because businesses are loathed to spend money on something that cannot be guaranteed, technologists are loathed to check every connection point during integration and users are loathed of new challenges. And all of this from an application that has been built on the same principles of loathing by the developing team.

Before it sounds like I am evangelizing the use of Excel, I digress. It is by the mere fact that Excel has penetrated the office environment through it’s attachment to Windows, the operating system for corporate Britain (etc, etc…) and being bundled with Outlook, a package even less understood by its users and yet even more imperative for the access of email, that it is significant enough to express my point. Excel is still a white elephant; an enormous calculator and we would all be lost without it.

If we were able to take our work tools back down to their simplest incarnations we would have a single piece of software; a very bare looking user interface. What do we need? Words and numbers, possibly the odd smattering of images to best represent those words and images. We would needs something that can send those words and numbers to other people who need them to do their job. We would need something to help us work out those complicated sums. From here on in we are adding complexity for its own sake.

It’s easy to see from this simplistic view that Excel fits the bill and yet there’s a lot more it can do, and we don’t use.

To return this to the original question: Are we really reaping the benefits from what we have? The answer remains no. The underlying question of whether or not we could be further along with our technology, the answer is most certainly ‘yes’.

Whilst we are faced with business led, technology driven solutions that invoke challenge on it’s users, all of whom are apathetic to change we will never have the shift that is needed to spur our use of what can be done.

As I typ Microsoft Word intelligently underlines my purposeful misspelling of the word ‘type’ in a red wiggly line. An artificial intelligence that does not recognize the letters I have used, I am prompted to take action and make the change. Right mouse clicking on the word brings up possible options for what Microsoft thinks I might be trying to spell. Extremely useful when, like me, you are hopeless at spelling and yet still not a true reflection of the power Microsoft could build. As you read the first line, you knew exactly what I meant and yet Word did not. It felt it necessary to check with me. Albeit it’s top suggestion was the word ‘type’.

For you and me we sit here apathetically feeling that this red squiggly line is pure wonderment. How did we, the literally challenged, ever survive from the constant embarrassment of our misspellings before the advent of the red squiggly line? And yet although our embarrassment is saved to the privacy of us and our word processor, the embarrassment still remains.

To extend this to a mathematical equation where I wish to work out what the average value of a string of numbers are I would first have to leave Word and open Excel (unless I knew the greater secrets that lay in the depths of Word which would allow me to perform this calculation without leaving my text). I would then have to know where to place each number, then how to create a formula that begins with an equal’s symbol and the word ‘average’, open parenthesis, the cell range, close parenthesis and enter. For me, someone who has spent a lot of time learning the nuances of Excel, quite easy, for most, and absolute mystery. Why can I not simply request the average of the numbers I type here: 10, 20, 11, 22, 12, 22, 10 and have the answer appear instantly as 15?

The technology we have today is advanced enough to learn from what we do and to anticipate what results we require, but the implementation of this fails because of the need to adopt change. We started with a disparate suite of overly complex solutions and we will continue to use them in such a way. To change would require ripping down 20-stories. And even the tenants are not convinced with that idea.

The option is not to rip down 20-stories, but to build another skyscraper, learning from the mistakes of the last one. The ones that do this with an immense amount of ingenuity start completely afresh from the foundations. These are normally guised as vigilantes and their products branded with ‘Web 2.0’ applications (a categorization given to development houses that use the simplest of user-friendly technologies). These vigilantes are inevitably a group of disgruntled employees of previous skyscraper projects and entrepreneurs who are easily enthused with the prospect of making money. Alas, because of this small start-up vigilante anti-establishment movement, corporate Etc, stick with what they know best, even if it hasn’t proven to be completely successful in the past. They have tenants now therefore they must have done something right. And to build a new skyscraper means carrying across what they feel that ‘something right’ was. Those that disagree become the vigilantes - a self-perpetuating and self-fulfilled prophecy.

The technology we have today is phenomenal. It can do vast amounts. It goes unused because of the failings highlighted above. Users can’t find it; don’t know how to use it; don’t know that it even exists. Our way to remedy this is to build more. After all the cost of building a new feature, a new function, a fix, or even a whole new application is relatively cheap compared to ripping down everything that you have achieved so far to start again.

In answer to my own question, we have yet to tap in to the true power of our existing technology and we are further compounding this reality by adding even more to it. In order for any technology to be truly unleashed and for all to adopt its full power (let alone potential) we have to all be accepting of ‘our’ mistakes and consider that the only way forward is through embracing ‘change’ whatever the cost.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wanted: Full-time employees to work from home 4 hours a day

Again the news is full of stories of global warming. The answer is never actually to do with making the planet greener, it's about taking the green from us, Joe Public, and giving it to the tax man. Sure there are many things you and I can do to make the planet greener, and actually save ourselves money too, but is there a way the government and business in general could be helping?

The big gripe about us not wanting to use public transport might have more to do with the chaos of getting to and from work than the actual means we use to do so. If you could take longer to get to work and the commute didn't mean squashing your nose up against some poor guy's sweaty armpit - would you then consider public transport? If the experience was pleasant, would you?

This is only a blog so I'm not going to delve to far back in history other than point out some obvious facts. When there was little transport we worked close close to our homes. We worked on farms or in shops in the local community. Sure, there are stories much like the Monty Python 3 Yorkshiremen sketch where someone would have to wake up before they went to bed to start to walk to the first of their four jobs to make ends meet. The reality is - over the many centuries we've worked to help our community and to stay alive.

The pace has changed over the years and in doing so we've latched on to some arcane ways of thinking and none of us have ever had the bottle to challenge it. I don't profess to have the answer, but I do profess to have the bottle.

Some questions which could help in solving this riddle - then maybe some hypotheses about why the answers to these could help with global warming, getting us back on topic.
  • Why is it that we consider full time employment as something you start and end at the same time every weekday ensuring it tots up to 40-hours or more?
  • Why is it that we have masses of property, designed to our individual comforts, that go empty for 8/9 hours a day and other masses of property, not nearly as accommodating, that equally go empty for the other 15/16 hours of the day?
9 to 5
That's what we work is it not? There or thereabouts. Who decided this and how did it become so wide spread in Western culture? Can someone be truly productive for a full 8 hours in a day? Does anyone take in to consideration one person who fulfills their quota in just 1-hour where another equally qualified colleague takes 12-hours to do the same work?

Parkinson's law suggests that however long you give someone to do a job, they'll take that long to do it. If you give somebody an hour - they'll do it in an hour. If you give them all week, they'll take all week.

Some very underpaid people in white lab coats have determined that we all have a different 'chronotype'. A type of internal clock. The closer our bedside alarm clock wakes us up to our inner alarm clock, the less likely we are to smoke (An article I read in the New Scientist a few months back). OK. Smoking probably has less to do with my current point, but what this is demonstrating is that we are all very different and that difference implies that we cannot all be expected to be alert and in charge at the same time as everyone else.

We are also all different in our abilities. Sure - that's why we all do different jobs, but what I'm actually saying here is that we are all different in our abilities even between people of the same job. That's why some people are seen as promotion material and others are not.

Lots of empty buildings
When you farm a field, you have to go to the field, the field isn't going to wake up at 6, brush it's teeth and travel down the M25 to get to you. Fair enough. Leaving your home to plow a field is extremely logical. There are a number of industries where this need for people to gravitate towards 'it' is mandatory for business. There are however a number of support industries that don't.

Corporates have large buildings stuffed full of paperclips, photocopiers and water coolers. These large properties are used to house hundreds of people to do their jobs. To capture data, analyze data, to regurgitate data and drink coffee. That's about it. The data is a little more flexible that a field.

The information age does not require us to go to the data, it will come to us. It will travel along wires, it will fly through the air and it will punch through walls just to get to us.

Let there be light
The reason for 9-5 is mostly to do with the number of hours it is light. Thank God we don't live on Venus. A day on Venus lasts more than 5,832 hours to our measly 24.

So the aim of the employer is to see how many hours of daylight they can use up. That's very nice of them. I'd rather work a little longer in the dark and make the most of the light, thanks. After all, I'm not dependent on the sun's natural light to see my computer for if I was, there would be more windows at my office.

So what does an employer get for their 8-hours? I suspect on average they get, at the most, around 2-3 hours of true productivity per day. Why do I claim that? I believe the work environment to be more of a social meeting place than a work place. But a social meeting place that everyone is dying to get away from. Go figure!

For the first hour of a morning, much is spent about getting ourselves 'awake'. Routine work. Stuff that we could do whilst sleeping. Check our email (no wonder people never remember receiving those all important announcements - they were still asleep when they read them). That's what we do first, we wake up. - That leaves us with 7-hours.

There is also the end of day wind down. This is where we think: "OK, I'll leave that for tomorrow, no point starting it now..." and discussions about what are you doing tonight ensues. 6-hours. Then there is that time before and after lunch. Once to discuss what we're doing for lunch and getting ready for it, then afterwards to discuss what we did at lunch before settling back down to 'work'. 5-hours

We'll have a few coffee breaks, a trip or 2 to the toilets, some milling about at the printer or wandering around aimlessly looking for a meeting room and then there are the times that we exchange friendly banter with our colleagues. 4-hours! We're now dangerously running out of time in our 8-hour working day.

The problem is that we tend to be so wrapped up with the idea that work is laborious, repetitive and mundane, that we actually make it more laborious than it needs to be. We don't think of efficiencies. We've got 4-hours to do our bit of work, we'll do it in 4, but really we could do it in less time than that - 2 or 3 hours maybe?

How lavish do you think I am being with my timings? Am I being too frivolous awarding such large volumes of time to seemingly incidental office pleasantries? Really? You should study people like I do.

What's worse is that even though there are only those 4-hours of productivity, I hear way to often how people are 'bored' or 'don't feel challenged enough' or 'don't see the point'... Hence why I believe my blog gets so many hits. Morale is low. Crickey - I wonder how when it is 4-hours of intense social interaction... but there you have it. Humans are never happy.

Bricks and mortar
The reason for office blocks? This is a bit of what techies like to call 'legacy'. Because that's how we've always done it. It's only more recently that we've truly been able to work from home, or from decentralized office spaces - 'satellite offices'. The biggest challenge has been less to do with 'how we could get data to you to do your job?', it's more to do with 'how do we keep that data secure on its journey?' or should I say 'how do we ensure that you don't go and show everyone our highly secret data to all your friends?'

The struggle thereafter is 'how do we manage your time?'. Considering that by my theory you are only getting the best part of 2-3 hours from your employee in a day, you're not doing too well at managing them now.

Green Employment
So how does this relate to helping the planet? One is that not everyone needs to start work, nor finish at the same time every day, therefore reducing the congestion so warmly criticized for it's contribution to the planets destruction. Reducing the time that one actually needs to work would encourage employees to take more 'casual' routes to work - maybe even try out that empty park and ride that's so cheap and planet friendly.

Empowering staff to work from home would also mean less cars on the road. Less need for cars at all. Sure, that means more power consumption at home, but in reverse, it should mean less power used at the office. And less need for offices means that there is less need to build more, returning property back to accommodation, meaning even less need to build homes, and with people living more centrally, meaning there is more opportunity for people to work for the benefit of their community and less need for travel.

I'm obviously trying to fit in a whole thesis in to a brief snippy blog and it just won't do. I realize I am leaving out thousands of occupations where being on site is essential or at the very least 'effective'. However I hope that someone reads these words and feels enough passion to investigate this line of thought further.

Happy debating during your 4-hours socializing at work tomorrow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chaos Theory

There are 3 types of business:
  1. Businesses in Chaos
  2. Businesses Managing the Chaos
  3. Businesses not in Chaos
Which business would you like to be a part of? If you answered '3', then I would worry. In order for there to be chaos there needs to be motion. Something has to be propelling forward. A business that is not in chaos, is a business that is not propelling forward. A business that is quietly milling about in an almost static state.

Answering '1' is not good either. Chaos is not necessarily something we wish for, it's simply a natural entity. To resolve chaos you need to be in control of every angle that impacts your business. The chances are, even if you have perfect control over every minute little thing (doubtful at best), your business will still be reliant on at least one factor that you cannot control... your customer's freedom of choice maybe?

'2' is where a business should be. There should be an expectation of chaos because it is moving forward. Expecting it means we can prepare for it. Preparation means we can manage the randomness of the potential outcome chaos can bring to a business.

For employees however this fact is clear. Therefore an employee who finds themself in chaos will demand the support they need to reduce the effect on them. Possibly a good thing... providing the chaos is felt by all. i.e. The business is in chaos, and not the person themself.

An employee who is not in chaos: pretends! Pretending that they are in chaos deflects the attention of their managers on the fact that the business is not going forward.

Heres a test for the workplace. Take a book. A blank sheet of paper will do just as well. Now walk about the office with a distant concerned look on your face. Don't look at anybody directly - just look very hurried and busy. See how long it takes someone to question you.

You might want to set a limit to how long you try this test as it's probably not healthy to continue it forever. However, this is just one of many simple, trivial things that an everyday employee of a lacking direction business will do to look 'busy'. To look like they are contributing to 'managing the chaos'. Chaos that just is not there!

I've heard managers detail exactly how busy their department's staff are and how they simply cannot take on any more work, when I've sat in that manager's exact same department and listen to how everyone is bored, with nothing to do, trying to look busy.

Chaos is neither good nor bad, however chaos is required for a business to exist. For a manager, make sure that that chaos is because of direction, because of something you can quantify and see moving forward, not simply because employees are bored and need to find something to justify their salaries.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cold Hard Direction

Can a director be emotive? Can they be happy to debate questions with uncertainty towards the answer or do they have to be direct. The latter being an obvious choice - direct... Director.

Racing through a variety of similes, an equivalent to a director in the military can surely not be emotive? An equivalent in catering however can be extremely emotive. Sure, both have a colourful vocabulary, and both have to shout out orders without a moment's hesitation. Yet whilst one is expected to 'know' exactly what to do regardless of how cold the request, the other is expected to demonstrate variety. The cruelty of the analogy being that I've never heard of someone loosing their life to a head chef.

In business, where a director is hardly required to 'shout out orders without a moment's hesitation' is it necessary to require militarian coldness? Indecision would be unsettling. So a director must provide clear 'direction'. Yet to get there, does that preclude a director from demonstrating variety as per the head chef?

Business is, and can only be, competitive. It is unbelievably fickle, or at least it's customers are. A decision today may not be the right decision for tomorrow. I suppose in the same way a Major has to make cold hard decisions with the intelligence s/he has at that time, so does a director - and sure, lives are on the line in both instances.

The analogy actually breaks down. A Major on the outside of it all is cold and calculated, yet in the 'War Room' he is challenging every ounce of intelligence. He is taking in all the intelligence and from his advisors will conclude a directive. So a Major is equally experimental and potentially emotive... after all, it's not in his interest to loose lives, especially on the battlefield.

It would appear to me that when someone is not a director (a Major) they perceive the decisions as lacking colour, variety, understanding of the detail - lacking emotion. Yet the needs for that vocation are the opposite.

My question then - when looking from within, promoting from within, looking at personal development, should you be looking for the cold, decisive, authoritarians? Possibly not. Yet how often does this happen? When you are looking for the ones that can really change your company, give it the competitive edge, save lives - who is it that truly stands out?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How many egos does it take to start a stampede?

Ego. Who knew there could be so much of it? My boss has chosen to leave the company. Respectfully I think this is both good for him and for us. He never could really drive the department in the way that it needed (and needs) to be in order to give the company the support it requires to continue its aggressive growth plan. Of course, the result of one leaving means another is to take its place.

My new boss comes from an environment where I suspect when he asked for people to jump - they tended to do just that. He has mentioned some of the organizations of his past, and I can quite imagine that they looked upon him as a miracle worker. And rightfully so. His delivery might be a little off the mark, but the content of his delivery is smack bang - on the money. Being progressive in thought is something that new start-ups think they are but generally can't afford to do, and older institutions know they are not and couldn't be bothered to really sort out.

The interesting thing that this fresh blood has brought in to the business is another ego. An ego that might be somewhat larger than many of those I work with. Worse yet - larger than my own. At the minute, this makes for an extremely tense working environment. Everyone that is in possession of a smidgen of seniority are stamping their hooves and neighing as much as possible. The 'egotites' are competing for the top spot. The one to be reckoned with.

Sure, I am one of them - an 'egotite'. Interestingly, I don't feel as compelled to 'show-off', and more to present myself in equality. Pacing him, I suppose like horses, trotting alongside one another. I don't feel the need to 'keep up', just to show that I'm already at the same speed he is, a pace I've always been at. As if by chance the bridal paths we were taking happened to join up and we're gallantly enjoying the outdoors at the pace we've always traveled.

Others seem to be trying to edge out in front, as if in a race. Bizarrely, it's as though they are panting and snorting too. Maybe because they've had to suddenly add to their previous pace and are slightly out of breath.

There are two things I find the most interesting of all, one is the way in which 'egotites' are choosing to react to this new Stallion, and two, the way in which we all appear to be on the same path - but no-one wants to admit to it.

The Stallion, the ΓΌber 'egotite', has come in with 'fresh' ideas - a clear new strategy. The problem is - it's not fresh. The difference may be, that he will be the one that finally achieves it... the idea, that elusive end goal. In my 4-or-so-years at the company, we've attempted the same piece of work no less than 3-times. The past attempt even matches what the new Stallion has recommended we put in place. The reason why stems from commitment, drive and follow-through. Each time we haven't been able to get enough of a noise out of it to start a stampede. Maybe he can.

The way in which the 'egotites' are reacting is pretty expected: My idea. My area of interest. My area of expertise. My hard-work. My control. Mine. The new Stallion appears to have been saddled up with some interesting headgear that prevents him from seeing any of this - or maybe he does (quite a bit more fiendish than I would care to suspect). The master of egotism merrily tramples over these feelings. And it's going 'noticed'.

In one respect he shouldn't fear to do so. As this previous ownership clearly has not worked. If he is to deliver it, then he is the one that must show complete ownership in it to generate that noise. In another, wounded egos are taking this bitterly, and this may weaken the support for the Stallion, leaving him to make way along the path - alone. At the minute, it's almost as if he has simply upset the whole herd. Horses that are so unsettled tend to bolt or break, neither are ideal when you're wanting to lead.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's all about ME! ME! ME!

It has been sometime since I've entered anything on to this blog and yet every now and then I get a reminder. This reminder comes in two parts. 1. Something happens in my day to day life which reinforces some of the work already here - or stirs another insight. 2. Somebody drops me a line or buys a t-shirt in recognition of this work. Thank you to those that have contributed to point 2. Those in point 1 - come on... how difficult is this stuff?

I've been hard at work over the past 6-7 months on a really high profile project within the company I work for. It has been providing me with the stress and motivation I thrive on. Typically with all projects within my particular organisation, brakes have been put on, and I find myself in spin mode. An analogy - everyone is busily piecing together a Ferrari and yet somebody forgot to order the tyres. You can sit revving up the Engine all day - but where is the fun in that? You want to take it out for a test drive!

In this period of spin, I've found I've had to deal with a lot of wounded and misguided souls. I've had to call software vendors - salesmen - and keep them 'warm'. (You never know when those tyres are going to arrive!) I've spent a good 6-months educating the business on what this project is going to deliver, now all they can see is doom and gloom. ME - I have to be Mr Happy and assure them that it's all going to turn out just fine! Keep the communication going. Let them hear that engine purr one more time before returning to their Ford Mondeos.

There's a lesson in all of this. It's all about 'ME'. Not 'me' ME. But the royal 'we' ME. When you are working on something the issues you are dealing with are less to do with the factual problems - the fact that things are broken - but the emotional problems. If you fix those factual problems with no emotional buy-in then have you really fixed anything at all? Fix those factual problems through emotional validation (recognition) then only are you doing your job.

That's probably a bit woolly. So let's break this down. If the problem is 'the way we sell cars at the minute means we'll only ever sell 2 a month.' For the business to really perform, you need to sell hundreds of cars all of the time. How do you do that? How do you allow a business to really achieve that?

2-cars a month might be a lot of hard work. The people that are selling those cars might put their heart and soul in to selling those 2-cars. It might take the dedications of tens of people to get just 1-car off the showroom floor. Paperwork is a mile high. Customer service is your core principle and your staff do nothing less than their best to impress your patrons.

When you now bring on a project that says 'we're going to sell hundreds of cars, daily!' you are going to have a bigger problem than that you started with.

Deal with the 'ME' factor. Do something that not only works for the business objectives but also do something for 'ME'.

  • 'ME' - the project sponsor...
    Make him/her look good. Warrant his/her fat bonus cheque at the end of the financial year. Make him/her be the envy of his/her peers.
  • 'ME' - the project manager...
    Make him/her look good. Make them feel in control. All important and full of self-worth. Make him/her feel like they're delivering the best project they've ever had the privilege to manage.
  • 'ME' - the business analyst...
    Make him/her look good. (Are you spotting a trend here?) Make them feel like they've nailed all the requirements and are the king in front of the poor forgotten employee, a force with their superiors.
  • 'ME' - the business user...
    Make him/her look good. Make them feel that they're getting what they've asked for. That they are in control. And that their superiors are recognizing them for their unwaning commitment to improving the business.
  • 'ME' - the supplier...
    Make them look good. Make them feel like they are the only supplier suitable for the job. Make them feel like they meet every need. Make their sales people, superiors and/or colleagues think that there is no better client to work so closely with.

The solution - the bit that you are really paying all that money for is inextricably insignificant to delivering a project - the business benefit - without having all the 'ME's, their egos, their statures, their needs absolutely buffed, shined and ready to roll.

It's a selfish world out there. Start thinking about me. Not just the 'you' ME, the 'we' ME's too. Do you understand ME?