Information Technology organizations that struggle to do things well often don’t realize that they don’t do things well. Have you heard the saying, “They are so bad, they don’t know they’re bad”? They may even think their approach to IT is the norm. They may believe that they have to do things their way because they are different than everyone else. I suggest that these organizations don’t do things well because they don’t do the small things well. Thus, they will never do the big things well. There will always be challenges of programs and systems failing, data corrupted, and even putting a simple program change into production can be a disaster and often is a disaster. They don’t sweat the small stuff.
I regularly take my car to a car wash that fortunately sweats the small stuff. There are many car washes in my area, and many are known to be good or have the reputation of being good. What I found is that no other car wash in my area goes to the level of detail or small stuff as the car wash I frequent. Have you ever taken your car to be washed, have it toweled dry, and drive it home, only to now find little spots trailing down the side of the car? You look at it in frustration and may take a towel and wipe the blemishes away. What happened here? Well, the toweling dry doesn’t remove the water in those hard to reach crevices between doors or in some of the nooks and crannies in the design of the car. You drive away, and the wind blows this water from these locations down the side of the car.
The car wash I frequent takes the step of using an air hose to blow the water from these locations after toweling down the car. They then towel dry any water blown from these hard to reach areas. They sweat the small stuff, so you don’t have to. They take that extra step of making sure the result is what you expect, and the outcome is what you desire. It is that simple.
The Fundamentals Are Important in IT Management
In many IT organizations, the small stuff is overlooked. It is deemed unimportant. We don’t have time for that. We think we can do our jobs well without consideration to the small stuff. Why is that? People think that BIG is best, and we can achieve great results with BIG items yet not pay attention to the details. Have you ever seen an IT organization with many groups that are designed to deliver a piece of the IT pie yet these groups don’t function well or function at all together? Try business analysts and project managers not speaking with each other. Try system administrators purging files without knowledge of what they are or why they are used. Try area managers and developers not discussing schedule and resources before making a commitment. Try business analysts committing to a design as part of a project without understanding or soliciting input from those in the know. None of this will work well together much less be successful. Yet many folks have no idea that their lack of attention to the small stuff is why they fail time and again.
The answer is simple yet not so simple. The simple answer is to sweat the small stuff. The not so simple answer is what, how or where or when. Focus must first be given to the basics, the fundamentals of IT. Think about some of the worst NFL teams. What do they often lack? Fundamentals! Why does the guy attempting to make a tackle look more like he is throwing a block? Fundamental in tackling is wrapping up the player and not throwing your body in front of the player as if throwing a block. Focus must be given to fundamental things as keeping an implementation process simple. Focus must be given to simple things such as communication between managers, staff, and business. Focus must be given to research, analysis and decisions driven by an educated understanding. All detailed driven activities where common sense says certain things must be done to ensure success, yet often go ignored.
Change to improve these items must come from the top. Most challenges of this nature are the result of leadership at different levels and not the folks swinging the hammer. Those folks are most times very capable and driven to deliver success. Leadership can view things so myopically that they cannot even see the simplest solution. Maybe a person in leadership has experience in one company and can only approach things the same way every single time because that is what he knows. Often we want to stay in our comfort zone thus do the same things over and over. The interesting thing is that some managers expect different results yet they do the same things over and over thus expecting improved results, or different results, is a disconnect. Change to deliver improvements must be driven by the top most leadership. Managers at different levels must give the appropriate focus to details. Sweating the small stuff is a must in today’s world. It is a must to deliver success. It is a must to separate the best from those that are just not so good. Success in business and in IT hinges on sweating the small stuff.
Are You Overlooking the Small Stuff?
Take a look at your IT organization and ask the tough questions? Do we sweat the small stuff? Do we constantly allocate critical resources to fix or patch data? Are our systems reliable or do they fail often? Do we make commitments without necessary information? Do these happen frequently? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you might need to sweat the small stuff. You definitely need to evaluate the approach to IT management.