The Hill to Die On

An old network manager who was my peer for years at a previous company used to ask a trick interview question to see if people truly understood what he was really asking.  He would ask: “Which is the best OS – Unix or Windows?”

What he truly wanted as an answer was “it depends on the job you need to the server to do.”  He wanted to see that people understood that server operating systems were just tools in the tool box.  He wanted to see that people weren’t married to a ‘religion’ walking into a place where we practiced many religions.

But people would also trip.  They would go on rants against Unix ever being a valid choice. Or against Windows ever being a valid choice.  They would espouse the virtues of their own religions – not acknowledging, of course, its own shortcomings.  They would believe they had to pick a side.  Even if there was no side to pick.

I feel like each day I am surrounded by this age old debate – picking one religion, of say, project management in order to get the job done – while running the other out on a rail because it is antiquated – too bulky – too dumb.

But just like in the interview question, they do this without weighing the pros and the cons.  They don’t say “here is the problem I have to solve – all of the issues related to my own team and the other teams – how do we solve these and be successful.”  Nope, instead they toss the baby out with the bathwater – all in the name of the new and shine that promises to solve all of the world’s woes and make you coffee too.

I sat in a meeting today where it was me (a project manager), a cohort from development (a product owner under the agile methodology of things) and a release manager (who has their own approach).  And as the other two sat around espousing the virtues of their way, the challenges they face, and the way everyone else needs to change to fix the problem, I just laughed.

This conversation could have taken place 2 years ago when I started.  The issues are exactly the same – the concerns from the business are exactly the same – and really nothing has changed.  Except we adopted the “agile” methodology instead of the old crappy project methodology we were using.  But, because we adopted the religion instead of looking at what truly fit – we didn’t fix anything – we created new versions of the same problems.

They turned to me at one point and asked what I do in those situations.  “Well,” I said, “I just get it done.  We know what the formula is for successfully taking a country live on the software – we know what the dates are – so I do whatever needs to be done to hit those dates.  No fancy methodology – just my own personal ‘get shit done’ approach.”

They tried to argue with me when I finally said simply, “Until people stop taking this crap personally  and start realizing that if one of us goes under the bus then we all go with them, we will never be successful.  This isn’t a methodology issue – this is a people doing their job issue instead of guarding their territory.”

I know it is human nature to join groups where they can get their autonomy to shine – but at the same time have commiseration and validation from the group.  But why do it at the expense of the bigger picture.

Because whether it be about server operating systems or project methodologies or relationship tools (tossing in something not technology related), it’s all about using the right tool for the right job – using the tool that is going to FIX the problem or improve the situation.  Just like you don’t go down into the basement and decided “today I’m going to fix things with a hammer” – it baffles me why people do it elsewhere in life.

Then again, it’s the way my mind works.  I guess, as I ask others around me to do, step back and look at the big picture.  Stop trying to force things.

Because going in circles is the worst way to try to move forward.

At least that’s my opinion….

What do you think?