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Entries in staffing (2)

Monday
May062013

The Importance of Staff & Shifts

In the course of our business, we see many data center/applications migrations and/or high-severity issues.  One observation we always share with our clients is to plan for staff rotation.  As you might expect, some listen and others do not. Here’s why it’s important.

Migrations often happen overnight…when the business sleeps or operates at a lower activity level.  Organizations without satisfactory disaster recovery plans often incur an outage to do a migration.  People are resilient for so many hours, and then they crash. 

What often happens in migrations is everyone wants to be at the starting line, and the adrenaline keeps them engaged.  If shifts are not “forced,” then there is often nobody left with “gas in their tank” to troubleshoot issues.  People simply have to disengage to be fresh.

We saw this at a large customer where the team had persevered, declared success, and then dragged themselves home.  There was an issue, and the on-call was unwilling to make changes as he didn’t understand the changes that had taken place (a change management issue.)  NOBODY involved was responding to calls.  As it turned out, the group’s manager lived in my town, and I got to knock on his door at 10:00AM on a Sunday morning.  His wife wasn’t happy (he had been up all night) and did indeed get him up.  While he resolved the issue, a few months later he resigned and went to work at a different company. 

In this case, the team was not structured to focus on a multiple day issue….and response was poor.

In another case, a new virus definitions in client’s antivirus system determined the operating system was bad, quarantining the operating system.  The client had a policy to delete quarantined files, so with the speed of automation thousands of operating systems were deleted.

The senior manager quickly determined this would require a sustained 24/7 response, and teams were “nominated” to cover 12 hour shifts.  We were asked to help on a sustained basis, providing process oversight and helping with crisply doing turnovers.

To the credit of the senior manager, this approach allowed a sustained response as systems we recovered from (gasp!) tape.

Large IT shops often run with multiple shifts and a technical response is more organic.  Smaller shops tend to have an operational capability 24x7, and may lack the detailed technical response.

When planning or reacting to major events, think in terms of how to rotate your staff for a sustained time.

Monday
Aug272012

How Fast Should We Do Managerial Transitions?

The best boss I ever had was a big red-faced Irishman by the name of Hugh McGlinchey.  He had a standing rule to immediately let someone go once they resigned….paying them for their notice period.  It seemed inconsistent with Hugh’s empowering good nature for this “vindictive” trait to be a part of his personality.

One day over an appropriate beverage, I asked Hugh about this inconsistency and was curious if he wanted people gone so they couldn’t harm any systems. He was stunned people thought he was being vindictive.  “I believe most people have their work wrapped up by the time they resign.  Why make them sit there waiting for their last day?  Why not let them have some time off before they start their new gig?”  You can see why Hugh was a great boss!

At another place, a CIO transition took the better part of two years.  The decade-long CIO and the CIO-in-Waiting both communicated the plans widely.  They had a whole metaphor around driving a car, and who was in the driver seat and back seat.  So for a year, the original CIO drove, and then they swapped roles at one year. 

This just seemed to take way too long.  While the two CIOs shared a vision, they were very different.  One was fairly thrifty, and the other had strong beliefs about making strategic investments.  When requesting a budget spend, people would walk into a room, make their case, then their heads would bop back and forth like a bobblehead toy waiting for a decision.

If you are coming in to a new role, you can’t dive in out of respect for the incumbent.  If you are vacating the role, you are not taking on any new (major) projects and suffer what I call a “living wake,” where everyone comes by and pays their respects to the nearly departed.

Lengthy transitions are frustrating.  They are frustrating for the person vacating, as they often want to move on to the next thing (even if they are being terminated.)  They are frustrating to the incoming person, as they can’t get into their new job.  And they are frustrating for the rest of the organization, as there can be a gap in role clarity.

So you’ve probably figured out I advocate for quicker transitions.  I do think it is appropriate for the person “moving on” to respond to a call or email, and be helpful in any reasonable way. 

Truthfully, a week is more than enough time for a transition.  Anything more than that and it becomes counterproductive.

What are your experiences or horror stories?