Seeds don't grow in oil

It is common knowledge in the kitchen that should you want oil to take on a certain flavour, one soaks seeds with the required flavour in the oil. Many concoctions are created like this with usually two products. First there's the oil that tastes like the seeds, and then there are the seeds that have an oily taste. But during this culinary exercise it will have been noticed that the seeds never germinated.

Ok. So we all know seeds won't grow in oil. It's pretty close to a daft statement, isn't it? But if it is such a daft statement why does the management of technical companies try to accomplish this all the time? Why are they hell-bent on trying to bring ideas to fruition in an environment that is not conducive to it?

Providing technical service and support within the organization is the oil that keeps the wheels of the business turning smoothly. The grade of oil is seen in the sales figures.

Management then get a brainwave about enhancing an existing product or, even more intensely, an idea for a new one. They hand this to the technical department, asking if it is possible and how long it would take. The answer appears feasible and deadlines are drawn up. The program is in place.

It does not take long and the milestones show a distinct lagging behind and that the deadlines are in serious jeapardy of not being met. Meetings are called and explanations sought, but none can be given as not one of those present can recall what it is that delayed the program.

What is known by upper management is that the team are hard workers and thereby grant a little grace and set a new deadline, one that is mutually agreed upon as being "more realistic". Again, it does not take long and it becomes clearly evident that the new deadline is now under severe threat of being passed by at a speed faster than the Concorde in mid flight.

This time management involve the lower ranks within the technical team in a desperate effort to understand what is causing the delays. They are asked to speak freely and to raise any issues that are at hand. One brave soul finally blurts out "we cannot operate under the pressures of technical service and support"......

.... and everyone sits there stunned!

Although the tone of the meeting has become very tense it is soon agreed that a secondary program needs to be put in place to monitor the amount of technical support being given by this department. The results show this to be not drastic leaving management all the more confused.

Apart from confused, management are also annoyed. All that is seen is the new product not rolling off the production line. All they have is the perceived feeble excuse of the technical department having to offer technical support over and above designing, or is that to design over and above technical support?

Soon, however, the project is cancelled, probably with personnel losing their jobs, and not too far in the future the company threatening to fold. But what went wrong. Was it a fault of the technical team, or management?

The mechanics of what went wrong is fairly simple and it makes one wonder why such a simple mistake is not taught in management schools. You just simply cannot mix the oil required to keep the wheels turning with the water required to germinate and grow new products and services. Asking humans to concentrate continually on a new idea while being permanently interrupted by issues of older ones is asking them to develop levels of split personalities.

The situation has only two options, and it is clearly decided by the number that make up a technical team. If comprising a number of individuals then the responsibilities need to be split with those who are stronger at support being exclusively given this task. This idea may be scowled at by management but it allows the individuals to develop their techniques at providing excellent service. Those left to design can now do this with the freedom required to let their minds create superb products and services without the continual interruption of support calls.

If this department is only one person, and their are many companies who have just one individual as their technical backup and support, management have no choice when it comes to using this individual for design. They must not impose deadlines. It sounds drastic but it is the only way the individual can operate. The moment deadlines are created pressures are placed on the individual to deliver to the company first, this done as the fear of losing his job is foremost in his mind. Stress is soon added to the equation as customers complain of poor service. Management then start shifting the technical department's priority between support and development, and land up wanting both at the same time.

The individual finally lands up leaving the company for greener pastures, and the company advertises for a replacement. And yet, as employment adverts are perused, it cannot but be noticed how many companies are expecting prospective candidates to be able to grow seeds in oil.

Marc Dekenah

© 16.06.01