The Desire For Certainty

On March 3, 2014, in HRExaminer, by John Sumser

photo of time magazine cover about obamacare website debacle

It would be nirvana if there was an orderly progression to the evolution of HR and its systems. There’s not. It’s much more human that that.


In my work, I meet a lot of people who sincerely hope that there is a simple answer. They tend to have managers who hope the same thing. Those managers usually report to people who don’t get their fingernails dirty.

That’s the story at the core of the original Obamacare website disaster. The most recent issue of Time contains a remarkable essay that details the design breakdowns and the remedies. It’s a story worth circulating around your organization. (The link requires a subscription, check out some of the other summaries.)

The bottom line? The original team was a group of well spoken folks without real technical chops. The government people charged with managing the project were void of the proper experience. So, the original project didn’t deliver what it was supposed to.

The fix was to install experienced project managers who understood the technology. Unless you get intimate with the technology, you can not manage it.

It was a Dilbert problem. Heavy delegation without the capacity for meaningful follow up. It’s a common thing in technical projects. The managers in charge demanded simple answers to complex problems. Without having recruited the right talent, the were unable to ever gain a sense of control over the project.

The answer was to manage by ‘kicking *ss and taking names’. The leaders of the problem solving team moved into the project as if it was a new home. They minimized procedural meetings and focused on solving problems that moved the game forward. They could do this because they understood the processes they were managing.

There’s a weird point of view that dominates delegation heavy organizations. The idea is that where you are can be understood and that there is always a simple explanation. This is a notion that explodes in silly ideas like Maturity Models or perfect job descriptions.

What we are charged with is getting things done. Circumstances change, plans evolve, priorities shift and technologies transform. Still we have to get things done. It would be nirvana if there was an orderly progression to the evolution of HR and its systems.

There’s not. It’s much more human that that. The desire for certainty and predictability is at the root of way more judgment errors than just the Obamacare website fiasco.



 
Read previous post:
HRExaminer Radio: Episode #47: Jeanne Achille

John Sumser interviews Jeanne Achille, CEO and founder of the award-winning agency Devon.

Close