Management Sucks 002: A Profile In Courage

When my boss at “Monolith” Corporation told me that he thought I lacked “courage”, I had to speak-up.  I had already sat through most of what was a shocking performance review, and tried to bite my tongue.   This guy had spent, at most, an hour during the previous entire year looking at what I was doing, and his assessment was more than  just a little off, it was from another planet.

As he continued to speak, the events of the previous 12 months could not help to cross my mind.    I had fought all year for my little development team, trying to keep us together and viable as  the walls of the “Monolith” web strategy were crashing around us.  To anyone who would listen, I explained what my alternative strategy would be, to replace the one that was failing and costing $millions.   My boss knew of this, because I spoke of it often.  In no uncertain terms, I explained how we could fix these issues, given the chance to do it.

I had the experience.  I had helped run a very successful technical strategy for the web for nearly a decade.   The mistake was that the upper brass in I.T. allowed our customers, who did not have the proper experience,  choose their own technical direction. Now they were up to their neck in terrible problems. We needed to restart from scratch, retreat from the failures, and try to push for success with limited resources.  I still had the internal drive to do it, I only needed support from my management.

At furst, my opinions on how we should fix the issues we were facing were not popular. Our customers in the Monolith Digital Network were positive that they were moving in the right direction, even though most of the evidence was to the contrary.  Only after a few high-profile people left the company, did I start to make some in-roads.  However, it was not easy.    There was one particular meeting, late on a weeknight in which I was finally able to voice my opinion in an open forum with the customers listening.

I did not have a popular opinion at first, but what I said made sense.    I explained, very calmly, how we should proceed.  We needed to go back and rethink our direction, and use tried and true methods that were cheaper, and performed better.  I explained to them how, justa few years prior, we  supported far more traffic with less servers, and much less cost using a different set of  technologies.  In essence, I was telling them that what had done was wrong, and they needed to start over.   It was not an easy thing to say. However,  I received almost unamimious backing from the customers.  The next day, many of them came by to thank me for “standing up” and for “taking a stand” to make things better.  One of them, a very influential VP, even called me a “Rock Star”.   It was the most “courageous” I had felt in many years.

Unfortunately, my boss was not there to see it.  I tried to explain it to him, but he never “got” what I was trying to say and I could never figure out why.   At the same time, he and I began a long process of butting heads over resources.   While he was absolutely positive that we could run an affective web development team with a completely off-shore resource model, I was not convinced.  The quick turn around for web production did not lend themselves to a completely offshore model.  We had some offshore resources, but the worked better on projects with a longer turn-around 8-48 hours of many web projects.    Since I had been a web development manager for 10 years, and had been extremely successful at the job, I felt that h e should, at the very least, consider my expertise on the matter.  While he had “web” in his title. he had never worked as part of of a consumer web development team.

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