Monday, June 28, 2010

The Stragedy of it All

Among the many things I used to do to pass the time in long, frustrating planning meetings back when I worked in IT was to come up with new words to describe the awfulness of whatever was happening at the moment. While most of the words are lost to me now the one that has stayed with me was "stragedy." I accidentally said that in the midst of discovering a major project was collapsing under the weight of bad planning and poor decision making. I said, "so this is our stragedy?" What I meant to say was, "strategy" but mashed it with tragedy and made myself a fancy new word to describe exactly what happens when a lack of strategy meets reality.

At the risk of stating the obvious, we got ourselves a whole big stragedy going on right now in this country.

Shortly after 9/11 when I had heard one too many conspiracy theories about what happened, I realized I had been working in the Corporate world too long as I no longer believed that anyone was smart enough to plan a conspiracy let alone execute one.

I guess you could say I had an "aha" moment when it finally occurred to me that the people running the government, post office, hospital, Oil Companies, etc. were not a different grade of human than the ones I had been working with all these years.

Oh sure maybe you get more of the best and the brightest at the White House level but that is just a matter of degree. There are just as many people at the White House who don't respond to email, just like in your office.

Once you realize this, everything you hear on the news and know about the world changes. It's kind of like finding out Santa Claus doesn't exist, it's hard to imagine how you believed in him in the first place.

So although I believe there are people who conspire to do evil (usually in the name of God) I am not surprised that BP did not have an adequate contingency plan and that they still don't. I am not surprised that Congress doesn't seem to know what to do about it. And the New York State Government not passing a budget? Well who can blame them for thinking it's all about their agendas and not about their constituents. How is that any different from the folks you work with who don't care that they are leaving you high and dry when they punch out at 5:30pm and leave you to finish the project?

The stragedy of it all is that we want to believe there is someone, a leader, a guru, a teacher, a boss, a company, an institution that will show us the way and in doing so, make our lives and the world safe. We assume everyone who makes more money or has more power is smarter than we are and we definitely don't think our government is run at all like our places business, but guess what, it is.

I guess it's easier for us to feel outrage at BP for not having a better handle on the situation, for showing an astonishingly low amount of concern for safety over money, for not fixing the problem sooner (if they can ever fix it at all.) The alternative is to feel complicit. Our hunger for oil got us where we are and the people we sanctioned to drill for it are not going to get us out of it.

Everyone is talking about who is going to pay, who will be responsible and no one, has really stood up and said, I am, We are.

In my time working in Technology I had many successes and failures but what I was most proud of was taking over the management of a project that had gone horribly wrong and was causing a tremendous amount of pain for everyone in the company. We had a huge technical issue we were prepetuating without understanding how or why. On a team of eight support people, I had five quit in one day. I had chest pains and a lot of moments in the ladies room where I wondered why I wasn't drafting my own resignation, but I didn't.

The problem was beyond the scope of my technical abilities, or so I thought, until I met with the engineers who were stymied. Suddenly the high paid experts were not so expert anymore.

The solution took the combined efforts of all the IT people on our team, it took collaboration, respect, an openness to new ideas and most of all it took a lot of guts to suggest a solution and be wrong. I was wrong a lot, but I was determined to get to the bottom of the problem, I did not want the situation to defeat me.

We all have those moments in our lives when our best laid plans or intentions go terribly wrong...sometimes we run or point the finger or shut down but sometimes we rise to the occasion and show ourselves and the world our best. We say, enough. The buck stops here. It stops with me. You don't need a degree, a fancy job or permission to do that. You just need balls.

No comments: