Good but not great – but that’s OK

No matter how it is prepared herring hits the spot.

Herring is the perfect food. Whatever one does to it it  tastes better for being done. And in my week in Sweden I have consumed herring in just about every form including herring sausage.

Friday was my last in Stockholm and it was insanely wonderful day.

I spent the first fours days of last week at a Swedish Government Agency studying their development methods. Just as I had done for a US Government Bureau in Washington DC and a Financial Services company in Pennsylvania the week before. And before that for a telephone company in Singapore and an insurance company in Italy.

The conclusions from each of these engagements is the same. Not just in broad general sweeping state of the industry terms but right down to the very detail of how the processes are executed. From the overall macro process (designed for a technology landscape of yesteryear) to the minutiae of the micro process (no bothering to rerun all the tests when errors are found late in the cycle)  the list is the same.

Here are just some of them:

  • Processes are deficient
  • Processes were designed for a different technology landscape
  • Processes were designed for a different risk, governance, audit environemnt
  • Application of the processes is incorrect, inconsistent and incompatible
  • Checks and balances are sidestepped
  • Metric gathering is “gamed” to make the numbers fit the KPI’s and SLA’s
  • Gaps in the tools filled with Microsoft Office products
  • Personal toolsets manually interfaced into corporate ones
  • Extensive rework
  • High error rates

But the number one thing they have in common is:

  • Passionate, energetic, dedicated, loyal, highly skilled, business focused staff members

In short talent, commitment and long hours by “heroes” is what makes delivery of the software possible.

At each of the places I mentioned great work is being done. Tremendous solutions are being delivered to a usually happy, and frequently ecstatic, end-user and customer base.

So should I tell them to fix what they can, suffer the disruption and hope that they will be more efficient, effective and error free a year or two hence?

On Friday morning I delivered my report to the client and said what I had found and what my recommendations were. They thanked me and agreed that my summation of their processes matched what they too believed to be many of the issues. We agreed to revisit the report in a couple of weeks to decide an action plan.

On Friday afternoon before leaving Stockholm I spoke at the IT-support fokus konferensabout IT Service Management (ITSM).

I challenged the audience to admit that their current help desk solution was expensive, unwieldy, causing low customer satisfaction, impossible to change, being used more and more and being ignored more and more. And they did admit it. But they also confirmed that replacing it would be just too much effort and disruption.

So the message seems to be: good enough is good enough … and … if it ain’t broken don’t fix it … and … people like being heroes … and … we’ll fix it when it get’s bad enough.

And … I don’t blame them.

So Friday was an insanely wonderful day because I learned a universal truth: change is hard to start, it is hard to do, it is hard to sustain and it is hard to be passionate about it if it is being done to you.

I also learned that I could go a day in Sweden without eating herring but also have to confess to choosing the gösfilé (pike-perch) for lunch. Yum.

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1 Response to Good but not great – but that’s OK

  1. gcbenison says:

    “change is hard to start, it is hard to do, it is hard to sustain and it is hard to be passionate about it if it is being done to you.”

    I have observed this about developer habits too. For example, people tend to be very loyal to their preferred text editor, not because one is so much better than the other, but because *switching* between them is hard. So whatever habits people develop early in their careers, often without much thought or reflection, tend to stick around for a long time.

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