Thursday, May 21, 2009

Serious Work

Two remarks about Work.

Working in IT can suck you in big time.

I just spent one of those weeks of late-nights hammering on a problem for one specific client, working from the Rotterdam Office of my employer.
And in the same three day-week, every third manager and every third Secretary in the dutch subsidiary got fired. A bit like shooting ducks at the fair, I guess. Hence two remarks.

Firstly, the people-cleanup.

The culling is a tragedy for those involved, but Especially for the Secretaries.
Personally, I welcome a good management cleanup. We had a lot of duh-livery managers, and a reduction in overhead was long overdue.
But firing Secretaries in this climate is "not done". It may be that I have not worked enough billable hours, it may be the boss did not keep our "utilization" on par, but it is definitely not the fault of the Secretaries, and firing them isnt going to help.

Also you can fire 1 extra manager and keep 3 good, useful secretaries.

Secretaries are the fabric of the company, they Really know how things work, and they are immensely valuable in emergencies. Whether you are stuck on an airport or need a replacement for a broker laptop power-supply: Call the Secretary.
The indians may mean well, and have nice callcentre-scripts, but all they are allowed to say, sir, after 30 min, sir, of phone-confusion, sir, is "you must contact business secretary and order replacement, sir..."
The secretary knows that the power-supply-thingies break down, and has a few spareparts laying around!

Hence my deep Respect to all Secretaries, past present and future.

Secondly, the we-feeling.

Our new NL-top-dog is much impressed by the "we feeling" in our company.
Right, well, the secretarial staff will agree....

I know it sounds funny in (northern)english, due to the various meanings of "wee". But he wants to compliment the remaining staff on the "team spirit". It just sounds funny if you litteraly translate from dutch...

The thing that gave me a real boost in the last week was the Dedication of a small team that laboured on, regardless of the organisation falling apart. Regardless of tears at the coffee machine, regardless of losing a few good bosses, regardless of uncertainty about who would sign off our expenses, regardless of the vendor documentation providing the wrong scripts, regardless of the client trying to prevent them from work by calling every 5 min.

We had a customer that had got himself in a real twisted problem, mainly due to ignoring good advice for years. And now we had to bail him out of it.
Never ever had they listened to good advice. But of course we would take the blame, that is what the IT supplier is for.
An "I told you so" attitude never got you anywhere.
But Helping a customer in need Might get you somewhere.

So when things really broke down, some of our brilliant brains actually managed to puzzle him out of a bad spot. They figured out which tables and un-documented relations (and bolted-on triggers!) had caused the poblems. And they retrieved exactly the right records to resume normal operations.
That is the sort of team you can win a war with.

Remember Robocop? big bad ED209 couldnt even walk down the staircase...And for those in the know: Brains always are better then Iron.

Iron, Big, Brute-Force, Expensive Iron, may look good and make you friends at hardware-vendors.

But Brains will win the day.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Secretaries and admin staff are also often paid an insultingly low wage, so decimating the admin arm does not exactly save a bundle of cash.
What it does ensure is that all those people who are left have fewer secretaries to call upon to help them when things have gone gnarly.
But be reasonable Piet, managers make the decisions about such things and they don't like culling their own (unless the youngsters are becoming too much of a threat, that is).


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