Corporate Efficiency : “Humans Are The Problem”

I sometimes say in jest that in the corporate world the “humans are the problem”. Communication, expectation and difference in perspectives are some of what causes executions of projects to not work.

This is a response to frustrations expressed by people on my team that “other” people are doing things the “wrong” way. I find it fascinating there are such divergent views of the same project. Thus happens often when a project spans across multiple teams and multiple timezones. Also when team members play very well defined roles, it may be difficult to see gaps which don’t fit these roles.

For example, when a customer reports an issue, and he has already done a lot of troubleshooting on his own but has hit a wall. He reports a ticket as a bug, with very cryptic message such as “feature X” is not working. His expectation here is that someone will respond in less than 24 hours and maybe even provide a fix for the problem. The team that is assigned the ticket 1) may not be the right team 2) may be fully committed to other tasks 3) may not be looking at incoming requests on a regular basis. In a scrum environment, the team also is highly incentivized to deliver what they started the sprint with and ignore all incoming request unless it’s a spike item.

The original ticket may not even get looked at for 2 days. Meanwhile the customer is frustrated with lack of confirmation. This is when there may be a start of escalations to various management and eventually the original team will have to spend time looking at the item anyways, but precious time will have been wasted on escalations.

Humans are inherently flawed in the way we perceive the world. We can only see the world in a limited number of perspectives. In the corporate world, that often is the perspective of our well defined role. When we can see more than one perspective and if we do this for a small amount of time everyday, it goes a long way to solving and filling the gaps in expectations, having empathy for the person on the other side of the team boundary and the other side of the world if that person is in another timezone.

A corporation is a mini version of everyday interaction in our personal life. When we think there are problems, it usually means “humans are the problem”. Which to me means: we should look to ourselves to see what we can do personally to change and fix the problem.

T

Tony Tam

Senior Principal Architect @ Splunk Founder of ImpactfulEngineer.org & SFBadminton.org