Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Of Revenge"

The most unproductive urge in management is revenge. It is an irrational emotion created by a perceived injustice and it produces irrational behaviour with wasted energy. Over many years of mentoring and coaching I've seen hundreds of managers squander their leadership currency by dwelling on a grudge. 

There is no room for revenge in business. Revenge is like quicksand: the angrier you get, the faster you sink. I've always told folks that history is over, so get over it. Move on: build, create, and forgive. Of course that advice is easier said than done. So over the years I've looked for published material to help prevent folks from sinking in the revenge quicksand. 

There is a lot of well-written business material to provide guidance, but I have never found anything with much lasting impact until a few weeks ago. I was helping my son with an essay on Hamlet, a play centred around a character tortured by the need to seek revenge. In the process of researching the paper my son came across a wonderful quote from a Francis Bacon essay titled "Of Revenge": 
"Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon."
The essay containing this quote was written over 400 years ago, yet it has enduring truth for current managers. We all feel wronged at times during the course of leading in an organization. Whether we get passed over for a promotion, cheated out of a bonus, or caught in a downsizing.  Dwelling on the event is fruitless. Focusing on the negative simply throws you into the infinite vortex of despair. 

Focus on what you are going to do next. The past may be prologue. But it has passed. The future will only start when you rise above the irrelevant self-imposed prison created by wanting revenge. The future belongs to the optimist.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Part 16 - When going out into the Universe, remember: "Boldly go where no man has gone before!"

(This is part 16 in a series of 16 posts about IT leadership in higher education titled Everything I Need to Know about IT Management I Learned from Star Trek. See Part 0 - Introduction for the full list.)

Every episode of the original Star Trek began with the proclamation to "Boldly go where no man has gone before!" For folks working with technology, this statement is a natural assumption. But there are two caveats.

First, I’m a big believer in early to beta, late to production. What I mean is that it is good to experiment with new technologies in beta test mode. But we have an obligation to our organizations to treat production as sacred. Experiment to learn but be cautious about what you give to your clients who trust you for reliable production-ready solutions. No matter how much we like cool new toys; we must ensure they will work reliably in production.

For example, I worked at a Canadian organization where one of our peers moved some services to a foreign cloud computing service. At the time there were huge potential privacy and legislative compliance concerns about moving personal data out of the country. Although we wanted to do something similar, the legal and technical analysis was expensive and time consuming.

Pioneers have arrows in their backs, so we let them go first. They figured out the privacy issues, they sorted out legislation concerns, and they pioneered the first contract of its type in Canada. Once the first-mover problems were sorted out, the way was paved for cheaper, quicker, and less painful implementation at other similar organizations.

That was caveat #1. The second caveat is related to the time and period when the original Star Trek was aired. It was a product of the mid 1960's when political correctness was only beginning. You should boldly go where no person has gone before!