Friday, November 7, 2014

IT Designed for Perfection

In my conversations with people about how to create the best IT organizations, many times the topics devolve into talks about "best practices".  We have all read the advice from experts about how it is possible to create "high performing organizations" that are "process driven".  Many people still believe to this day wholeheartedly that a recipe exists, if only it could be found, that would show CIOs how to provide perfect service to everyone.

So, do you believe that perfection can be created by human hands, hearts, and minds?

Over the years I have come to believe that perfection in not only unachievable, but is entirely undesirable.  Because the world is always in a perpetual mode of change, so to are people.  More and more I have come to believe in the "design-to-fit" philosophy.  To illustrate what I'm saying, look at the quote below from the first (Episode 4) Star Wars movie:

Luke Skywalker: [on first seeing the Millenium Falcon] What a piece of junk!
Han Solo: She'll make point five past lightspeed. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid. I've made a lot of special modifications myself.

Luke Skywalker, the hero of the movie, was looking for transport off the world of Tatooine.  Upon seeing Han Solo's ship he was less than impressed.  But Solo pointed out that even though his ship was not "perfect", it was perfectly designed for the task at hand.

In today's business climate those that run IT organizations are always resource constrained.  By now, most business people know that information technology is a critical component of the success of a modern company.  Therefore, they always need more from their IT organization than it can produce.  Sometimes the limitations are money; other times the personnel are just not there to accomplish the work.  Whatever the conditions may be, an IT organization cannot be all things to all people, all the time.  Like Han Solo making the most of his ship with the money (credits) he has, the IT organization must be designed so that it can handle the most important work first, the rest of the work second, and for everything else left over there must be good outsourcing partners to pick up the slack.

These days you will hear about how important emotional and relational intelligence skills are for CIOs and IT leaders.  This fact is axiomatic because the management of expectations of IT is now firmly baked into the job CIO job description.  When everybody wants you, now, and there is no middle ground between functional and not-functional (it either works or it doesn't!) in the eyes of the customer, relationship management will be the determining factor in a person's ongoing success.

The point of this blog is to let you know that just like the rest of the world, perfection is not a viable goal for IT.  Rather than believe the hype, no amount of processes or practices can cover all possibilities.  Anytime you read about someone claiming to have done just that it is time to pick up different reading material.

So how do I personally approach the concept of getting my organization to be ever closing in on "world class".  If you've read my previous blogs, you'll know the answer.  While I do consider best practices and processes important, I spend time finding excellent people, which means that I find people who are problem solving machines.  It is monumentally hard to find great talent but it is that and not design/process/practices that will get you as close to perfection as you'll ever be.

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