Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why is Corporate America So F*'d Up?

I've been working this job now for a year and it never ceases to amaze me that the Dilbert Principle plays itself out on such a regular and predictable basis. It's a sea of cubicles and pointy haired bosses and even less capable "engineers" that really haven't got a clue. I hear things like "We don't use open source, it could have security holes". "You want that one small change made? Sorry, won't happen until next year". "That didn't get done? Oh well you must have forgotten the cover sheet on your TPS report"

What I do in effect is go to a customer site. They ask me what time it is. I ask them for their watch. I look at their watch and tell them what time it is. I then put the watch in my pocket, get on a plane and go home.

The people that really have their act together are the small shops that don't have alot of people. They know how to operate their watches, and what they need is some fine tuning on setting timezones, how to properly wind it, etc. They seem to get the fact that throwing money away on bad projects and not correcting mistakes before the resources are spent is a bad thing.

Big corporations on the other hand cannot tell whether it's 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon. They need lots of help just to find out if it's day or night. As a cost savings measure windows are know only available for the Janitorial staff and upper level executives. As an example, I was working at a multi-national fortune 500 company recently and they wrote a bunch of lengthly documents about the requirements for the project. The only problem is that the requirements would not meet the needs of project.

The totally insane part of it is that even after I told them this and documented it, they still proceeded ahead with the original requirements because "That was what we spec'd, that is what we are going to do". "We had knife fights for 3 months to get this document together, we're not changing it now".

It doesn't matter that the project will not give the end users what they want, it doesn't matter that they are throwing wads of cash at a project that won't give them dollar one of return on investment, what matters is they have agreement on some marching orders, and by god, and damned the torpedoes, full speed ahead. They're so far down the river (or up the creek) that there is no turning back. But at the end of the day, they spent a bunch of the companies money, didn't get anything back, but they are still employed because they did exactly what they were told, by the letter.

I wrote something up that called out the error of their ways, but then had someone looking over my should that made me take out any references to lack of accuracy, or will not work. It was a classic exercise in futility, the only thing that was left was a document that said everything was great, make it so number one.

This is not something that is unique either. I see this corporate disease almost everywhere I go. It's the old, "None of us is as dumb as all of us" adage.

There is an epidemic of mediocrity where the barely qualified make million dollar decisions and those who are qualified have left and gotten consulting jobs, or are in Vermont somewhere painting canoes.

I don't have a solution... Yet.. Maybe there isn't one. All I can do is search for the answer and hope that one day a solution will present itself. If I find it, I'll post the solution I found, here on my blog, from my new 100 foot fully crewed yacht.

Meanwhile though, I'm maintaining the status quo in corporate America and sending them the bill. In other words, if your not part of the solution, there's money to be made by prolonging the problem.


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