The Fantastic Four vs. Auditman

Fantastic_Four_Vol_4_1_Textless

Admit it.

When you were about 9 years old, you know you wanted to be Superman.

Ok. Maybe it wasn’t Superman. Perhaps it was Spiderman. Or The Flash. Or Johnny Storm, the Human Torch.

But as a little kid, with no filter of maturity or responsibility or self-consciousness to interfere with those innermost longings, you know you wanted to be a superhero.

How could you not?

Who wouldn’t want to fly, to bend time and space, to control the elements and physics itself?

Who wouldn’t want to make the impossible actual?

Of course you did.

You’re not 9 anymore, though, and humming the Superman theme song under your breath isn’t going to help with the marching orders you just received at work.

Superhero powers will be required… especially the compression of time and space one.

Startup companies and anyone that works on software projects know exactly how this goes. A customer project due date or a ship date gets established, usually in a complete vacuum of any understanding about what needs to occur to actually meet the commitment. Then, good people, with better intentions, and really understanding family members, burn the midnight oil, then burn the 2 a.m. oil, then watch the sun come up. And repeat. Sometimes for weeks at a time.

These superheroes come up against a seemingly impossible problem, and just guts it out by throwing themselves at it, hoping that the flash of insight needed to get through it will occur, just when it needs to, and just in time to save the day.

You and I, we idolize these people. How many times have we sat through a team meeting where after a successful delivery a glowing management type has gushed over the accomplishments of one of his engineers? We respect their effort, their determination, their results, their superpowers.

They deserve our respect, and we give it to them.

But is this really how it’s supposed to be?

Inevitably there are people that will say that this IS how it’s supposed to be – that without the hard, cold pressure of a cruel deadline, that no one ever accomplished anything. That perspective, and the barely organized chaos that it engenders, make it possible for the same dysfunctional pattern to recur again and again.

It’s like we want to see the flashing capes, see Mr. Fantastic stretching his mind and his body to solve the unsolvable, not see the Invisible Woman as she manipulates things we cannot perceive, see The Thing crush, see the Torch melting weaponry that was thought to be invincible. We want to see the full superheroic arsenal – intellect, physicality, raw power, excitement, explosions – on full display in the achievement of our technologic goals.

It only takes a minute’s introspection, however, to really understand that in the world of technology and technology service, we shouldn’t be craving this kind of excitement, when what we really need is predictable, utterly undramatic boredom. When we contract with a partner to complete a technology implementation, we don’t want Mr. Fantastic, we want Auditman – easily identified by his green eyeshade and readers.

Repeatability and predictability – boredom – is brought about through expert and technically informed project planning, mature processes and disciplined execution. If a technology or service partner is regaling you with battle tales of finishing code or implementing network services in three day long battles under withering enemy fire from disgruntled aliens, what they’re sending you is a coded message – that they hadn’t done this before, or they didn’t understand what it would take and they didn’t leave themselves enough time.

If your provider is telling you that their last technology deployment connected 3,000 sites, that every one was completed when it was supposed to be, that no-one ever so much as got the slightest bit of raised blood pressure, no one was ever late for dinner, and everyone got to bed on time, that’s the kind of war story you should find exciting.

We all need our heros.

Just save them for the comics.

****


All comic book characters are the property of their respective publishers. My Thanks to Segal and Shuster and to Stan Lee, who taught me that not every lesson from books comes from schoolbooks. And my apologies to the accounting profession for even suggesting they are all boring.

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2 thoughts on “The Fantastic Four vs. Auditman

  1. Hi Greg,

    I can’t believe you left out Batman. I wanted to be a Batman when I was 9, because, even back then, I knew I couldn’t be Superman. I thought that Superman was weak because nothing can destroy him, Batman, on the other hand, was a real man.

    That said, I agree that we crave predictability in our business, we want to work on a project where all the challenges were addressed before, we want simplicity, we want to finish our job fast, get paid, and go home rest a bit. I think the majority of us are not super heroes, not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to anymore, since super heroes never rest, and we always want a break, we always want to rest, we always want a vacation.

    I would really like to republish your post on PM Hut where many project managers will benefit from it. Please either email me or contact me through the contact us form on the PM Hut site in case you’re OK with this.

  2. Good article Greg. Some of this is human nature but it should not be this way plus people make mistakes under pressure. Management praises the team and then still signs up for the same unrealistic deadline on the next deal!

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