You Hired Good People, Right?

, 2008-08-02

In the current issue of Redmond magazine there's an interesting story in the Never Again column. It's titled:

Listen to the People You Hire

The situation is one that's familiar to a lot of IT folks, there's a problem, they've got a reasonable solution, but management feels that an outside opinion needs to be brought in to bring light to the situation. The third party comes in, offers the same opinion that the in-place  IT folks have been stating all along, and then proceeds to offer their own services to fix the problem. They then come in, the solution delivered isn't right, and the existing IT staff is left to pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, the consultants have exited with a sizable chunk of money... more than if the IT personnel had been allowed to solve the solution in the first place.

I'm not against consultants or consulting. When needed expertise is lacking within an organization, such as when a company is gearing up on a new technology, bringing in knowledgable consultants to help implement the solution and provide training and education makes a lot of sense. Another case is when there's a particularly challenging problem that for a regular IT staff that simply requires a domain expert, a good consultant can mean success. And finally there are cases where consultants can be brought in to augment staff, if the situation permits it and would actually benefit from such a move (see Brook's Law), to provide additional workers to complete a project.

The article naturally heaps the blame on the consulting solution and in the situation described with the facts presented, I would have to agree. However, the concluding shot was this:

The bottom line is that if you don't trust your network administrators and heed what they're telling you, you need to hire new ones. 

Based on how the article read out, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The problem wasn't that the network folks were untrustworthy. They were. The problem was that management didn't trust them. Hiring new network administrators wouldn't have solved the issue. Management had to learn to trust the people it had employed. Given that, I would amend the final line to read something like this:

The bottom line is that you should trust your network administrators and heed what they're telling you unless they've given you reason not to. If they have, you need to hire new ones. 

If you've hired good people, trust them and invest in them. This gives them a reason to care about the organization and about the job they do. Often they can save the organization money and pain if they are worth their salt. If they aren't trustworthy, they're going to cost everyone in the long run, so you need to replace them. And by the way, trustworthy people are going to know when they need help. And they won't be disagreeable to bringing folks in. After all, they care about the organization they work for and understand that they are valued and respected.






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