13 years, 5 months ago

Just Flippin’ the Black Swan Burger

Link: http://www.angryarchitect.com/?p=402

I woke this morning to hear the news that a certain bank was in its fourth or was it the fifth day of computer difficulties. Apparently some branches had stayed open all weekend so that their customers could get some cash.

No doubt, by shear determination the bank will overcome its issues. And no doubt when it’s all over it’ll instigate the usual LEAN, ITIL or whatever reviews to “nail down that process” so it doesn’t happen again!  The problem with this approach this that it will not happen again; ever hear of the Black Swan Theory? But something will happen and it’ll be just different enough to escape that new “nailed down process”. When will they get it?  Process is no substitue for an engaged skilled team of professionals.

Thinking about this problem, because that’s what good architects do. The following occurred to me. I’ve never worked for this parcticular bank, but I’ve had the pleasure; and it was a pleasure of examining at length some of their training documentation from the late nineties. I can tell you that they had everything, career paths, skill sets, selection criteria, everything you can imagine all beautifully laid out for everyone to see.  They were aiming for excellence!

So, how could this stuff up happen in such an excellent organization. Well after talking with some ex-insiders the story goes. That at about the time they had everything down pat. There was a change in management. It became all about cost and the first things to go were the training and development budgets. The next thing to go was many of the excellent people, seeing as they didn’t want to work in an organization that was rapidly becoming unexcellent.  As you can imagine this accelerated the decline dramatically; not only were good people lost, but the whole culture of excellence went into terminal decline.

One of my contacts related the moment, the exact moment when the bank went from being a place that he was proud to work in to, “just another bunch of wankers.”  He asked his manager why his training course had been cancelled. The answer, “look we’re not into all that skills  BS anymore it’s too expense! It’s all about process now.  Just go back and flip the burgers!” Besides the understandable hurt of this insult, this change was followed by a slow but  steady decline in real wages and conditions (like taking the instant coffee away). Well the management thought (oxymoron perhaps) people weren’t as skillfull as they used to be and they’re not nearly as loyal; so why pay them so much? And so the spiral continued. Flipping burgers and doing the back ups.

What process can never do is engage your people the way that skills development does. When you flip the burger you’re not engaged. I wonder how much the bank did save?