Recipe For Disaster

Command & Control

I’ve been thinking about a scenario where I compare a transparent organization with a non-transparent organization. It sounds somewhat boring to compare the two, so I’ve been formulating in my head what it would like to do everything wrong.

To put this into context, imagine working with a new application being developed within an organization. I use this example because it’s complex, lots of moving parts.

This is a scenario that would cause problems right out of the gate, and for years to come.

What better way to look at the success a working out loud mentality can bring you than to look at the alternative.

Work in Silos

The project begins in a secretive fashion with only those parties involved deemed necessary by the project sponsor.

What better way to make sure nobody knows what anybody else is doing than to separate everyone’s work? There’s only one thing better than separating departments and putting them in silos, separate projects and put those in silos too!

If everyone is in their individual silo then there’s no distraction, just focus, right?

The problem is that there’s no inspiration, no cross pollination of ideas, and no honest feedback from the user.

Now there’s a perfect environment for task doubling up to occur, nobody knows that somebody else is also working on the same problem! What’s better than the same effort being put forth on many fronts all within the same department sometimes?

Make sure nobody has visibility into anybody else’s work, wouldn’t want to give away the surprise!

Don’t Show Your Work

One of the best ways I can think of to ensure your business partners are unpleasantly surprised is to show minimal updates, reduce communications to only touch-point meetings, and spring the final product on them all at once

Prototypes aren’t important, neither are wireframes or getting a good handle on the user. Corporate applications are all difficult to use, why should this one be any different?

Don’t let anyone see the mess that the development process involves. Instead, try to hide everything you’re doing until it’s time to unveil the final product, it’s sure to be loved!

If we open the process to feedback and show our work, we’re sure to get bogged down and a product that’s not useful to the user. Besides, users don’t know what they want until we give it to them, nevermind the fact we didn’t think it through.

Surprise Them

There’s nothing better than giving involved groups a surprise right?

Make sure they’re surprised! You’ve done a great job hiding the process and what you’re doing. We’re only showing them enough to keep them satisfied, but not to get an idea of the whole process and what the end product will look like.

If you show the product along the way there’s bound to be confusion. If we involved those outside our department there’s sure to be too many “cooks in the kitchen”. Oh, and not to mention feedback that bogs the project down to a snails pace. We’re the professionals after all, this is what we do.

Better to keep things under wraps until the final unveiling. It’s sure to be a success if there’s minimal visibility and great surprise. Surprises are good right?

What Now?

Nobody saw it, only a few got to give feedback, no testing was done on real users.

We’re far down the road to success, right? Good because we can’t change anything now. Everyone is going to have to be happy with what was done, no changes can be made now.

At this point feedback is pointless, more of a formality. No major changes, just bug fixes. It’s a so-so product that satisfies the minimum requirements and isn’t all the great, but we got it done.

After all the “successes” that have been delivered, everyone should pat themselves on the back for asking the wrong questions, getting great answers and ensuring the future will be filled with user frustration.

Stuck With It

Until the whole process starts again under wraps from all visibility, we’ll just have to deal with the monstrosity that was created. The next five years will be filled with solutions to try to fix all the problems which could have been overcome had a transparent working style been adopted.

It will now cost more money to get out of the mess than the initial investment.

Fix It

It’s not an easy solution to fix these problems and styles of working. Working in silos and communicating with email is so engrained in the workplace, it takes a major shift in thinking to move outside of it.

I had a conversation about this issue and here’s what a member of my PLN said, which I completely agree with:

Even organizations and people who think they are transparent, probably aren’t.

Working out loud and being transparent to the organization is a sure way to get better ideas, have more feedback from the people that matter, and end up with a better application that is adopted.

To serve the people that matter, the user, they need to see it and give feedback.

It’s time to change the way the organization works. If things do not change, there will be a slow decline over the coming decades. Slowly people who are resistant to change may find themselves with nowhere to go unless they are lucky enough to find those few spots where status quo prevails (lucky for them, not the organization)!