Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Wall Approaches At Full Speed

Corporate politics. It is its own breed of stupidity. I slammed against it pretty hard this week at work. I ranted about it in an earlier entry so let me just cannot catch you up on the way of the world. Earlier in the week I had the conflict with the project engineer over who controlled the project, how it was supposed to be run, and who needed awareness/approval. We had what amounts to being a sincere difference of opinion. 

The organization within the company that he works for is very bureaucratic. Typical of bureaucratic organizations they think their way is the only way. We skirted around it multiple times in the project life so far. He gave, I gave, and we kept going forward. Then I realized that unless we settled that it would be a never ending struggle that would rise up every time, every project. 

So I suggested we have a meeting with the key project people, my manager and his manager. 
I suggested the meeting so we could talk it out, resolve our differences, and keep going forward. Instead, for unknown reasons, he decided to escalate by forwarding the email that was asking for clarity to multiple people on his side of the fence. I talked with him briefly today trying to get a little information out of him and he intimated that he had inadvertently touched off a firestorm on his side of the fence and that he had a meeting scheduled with his manager and the impression he gave me was that his manager was not happy. High above us, at another level, at the level of vice presidents and directors there is an ongoing internal struggle about which model works better. 

On our side of the fence we have a very fluid model where the project manager is able to determine the approach that is proper to the project and has a tremendous amount of leeway to determine the process steps, the various milestones, and the reviews. The Corporation has recently stood up in independent organization under a new vice president and directors in order to increase efficiencies in the delivery of key software and technology services where speed and innovation triumph over the rigid bureaucracy. This represents a loss of power on the part of the rigid bureaucracy and the rigid bureaucracy, typical of creatures of their nature, is responding by trying to tighten their grip. 

This project engineer is caught in that cycle. Bureaucracies do not like people to rock the boat. They tend, if at all possible, to crush them. That crushing mechanism has swung into action. The only question is who's going to get crushed when it finally stops. Because the project engineer was basically brought up inside the bureaucracy moving outside of his box is a frightening experience I think. Because I could give a flying rat's ass about the bureaucracy banging into it, bouncing off of it, going around it, even getting battered by are things that I'm used. I'm always amused at how the bureaucracy wins until such time as it gets in the way and then everybody looks the other way while something gets cowboy through the cracks. 

I'm curious as to how all this is going to work out. I suspect that the end of the day there be a compromise at the levels above us. I just hope that my project engineer friend survives. I do feel sorry because I caused him stress, because I caused my own management stress, I'd rather move much smoothly through the waters. However there is a particular type of bureaucrat that this organization within our Corporation seems to grow. 

These are the people who have the mindless obedience to the machine. It takes place in a sort of passive aggressive way. Even when pushed outside of the box they just try to climb back in and pull the cover down. It's crazy to me. I think that any project in order to be successful must be organic. By organic I mean that the methodology, the style, the scope, the tools and the process must be tailored to the project. Whereas the bureaucracy believes the project must be tailored to the process. 

I think were my friend the project engineer makes his logical mistake is in thinking that the procedural direction, the templates, the processes of his bureaucracy must be adhered to as if they bore the weight of law. When in fact if you read the actual processes they give a tremendous latitude to the project management. It is down that opening that I've driven many a project to success. Of course every now and then I crashed into the wall at full speed.

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