I've been teaching systems design for over thirty years now and the mechanics for such work is fairly simple and straightforward. However, as I've told my students, the Achilles' heel to systems work is not in design, but rather in implementation. I've seen some truly wondrous systems fail, not because of any serious design flaw but due to a general failure to recognize the new system's impact on the status quo.
Changing the status quo of anything is not a simple task, primarily because people are creatures of habit and form allegiances to the processes and tools they use to perform their work. Further, there is a tendency to develop a protectionist attitude by those who may view a change as an infringement of a corporate or political fiefdom, something that will be staunchly defended.
The one inescapable fact remains though is, "If anything in life is constant, it is change" (Bryce's Law). We change for a variety of reasons, e.g., economics, competition, politics, society, technology, legal, or due to government regulations. Change is simply a fact of life. We may either embrace change or stubbornly resist it, but ignoring it won't make it go away.
It is our duty, therefore, to challenge the status quo in order to evolve and improve, which is something we must admonish our youth to perpetuate. This does not mean we should change something simply for the sake of change, which would be madness, but we should strive to seek new and improved solutions so we can serve our customers or constituents better. For example, we cannot escape certain laws and rules, such as those found in math and physics, but we should certainly explore new ways for implementing them.
This means we must reserve the right to question and discuss. Banning such discourse is like sticking your head in the sand. After discussion though, if the status quo is still a sound and viable solution, fine, then it should remain unaltered. If not, it should be modified and improved accordingly (assuming it is cost justifiable to do so).
Regardless if a change is justified or not, be prepared to ruffle feathers when implementing it. As Machiavalli correctly observed in "The Prince" (1513):
"It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones."
Just remember, progress is arrested when we surrender to the status quo, that we no longer strive to exceed it. That would indeed be a sad day. Stagnation is not an option.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.