From a previous weblog entry, a tour of a modern aircraft carrier prompted the questions:
Is it possible to run your IT shop [like an aircraft carrier] as such an incredibly structured, high functioning, ready-for-anything organization? Is this right way to manage a technology group?
There are three general consensus answers for this question:
1. Absolutely. This is what IT groups everywhere should strive for.
2. Irrelevant. Such comparisons are overly idealistic and inherently flawed.
3. Good for perspective. Some concepts should be used and applied to illustrate possibilities and how to approach things differently.
Three different managerial personalities are each defending their respective answer. Mr. Good For Perspective rounds out the third stance with his viewpoint…
Knowledgeable and experienced IT managers know that Answer #3 is correct. Analogies and comparisons are a great way of getting concepts across, as you can make things relatable. This happens every day in common speech. “The glass is half-full rather than half-empty.” “We are charting new territory!” “This box is the Rolls Royce of servers.” Of course there is no such thing as a perfect analogy, especially when you break it down to the details; however a comparison for perspective or imagery is an extremely effective way to illustrate your point. For an IT shop, a comparison to certain functions of an aircraft carrier can help to effectively illustrate key points and principles to your staff. Although the duties of your IT shop are much less complex than the USS Ronald Reagan, you can certainly take inspiration and learn lessons from how and why the RR does certain things the way that they do.
Perspective is the key to this. When you feel overwhelmed, even the construction of the USS Ronald Reagan is a good parallel. It took years and thousands of people to get this ship from an artist’s concept drawing to a functional floating fortress with more firepower than many countries. Whatever technology project an IT shop is planning to do is much less complicated; if a project like constructing the RR can be done, then the IT should be easy in comparison! This kind of perspective can help to inspire staff to move forward and tackle bigger problems with more confidence. This is good management.
Mr. Absolutely is being far too literal with Answer #1. If you spend too much time and effort chasing the perfect system you will lose focus on your IT duties. Life is not black and white, so one must be selective in drawing comparisons. All-or-nothing thinking is bad thinking.
Answer #2 from Mr. Irrelevant shows his closed mind and highlights himself as someone unwilling to look at different viewpoints and think in different terms. He outlines many different reasons why this is not a good parallel, however he is missing the point; it is a selective analogy, not a literal parallel and there are plenty of valid comparisons. Everyone must work together to achieve common objectives; there is major interdependence of functions, there are expectations that duties will be fulfilled. An open minded person can find inspiration in everything and benefit from that perspective. No one is going to literally run their IT shop like an aircraft carrier; otherwise I would leave my current job and start a company that specializes in grey paint and uncomfortable uniforms.
This leaves us with the most sensible viewpoint, Answer #3. Selective analogies help to provide perspective, focus and putting what you do in other terms that can make concepts easier to understand.