24 January 2015

The Five People You'll Meet in Planning Committees

It's a scenario that many of us have faced at some point in our professional careers: you're in a meeting with coworkers or clients, and some seemingly-reasonable proposal is casually made by a relatively new coworker.  The firestorm that erupts would be enough to stun into silence even witnesses of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption.

When confronted with the reality of maintaining day-to-day operations in the face of a constantly evolving field, people react in different ways.  In an IT organization, recognizing these attitudes in co-workers and clients can mean the difference between success and failure of a project (and sometimes between life and death of your professional career).  Here are some of the types that I've encountered so far:


"The Wave Rider"

This individual is in love with the bleeding edge.  Whatever the latest and greatest gadgets, tools, tricks, and fads are, these folks are convinced that your organization must upgrade- regardless of whether they make sense, or are feasible in any real-world scenario.  You can recognize these individuals by their constant references to sites like Engadget, Mac Rumors, and Tech Crunch.
  • Pro: these individuals will be the prime mover for most improvements that are made
  • Con: sometimes those aforementioned movements happen to be off cliff edges
  • Nemesis: The Unretired

"The Greener Grasser"
Nearly always unhappy with the way things are currently being done, this is the certified professional complainer.  It doesn't matter how easy, simple, effective, or resilient the current site is; it doesn't matter how many dollars the replacement will cost- the status quo must change.  These wonderful creatures can be spotted a mile away by their near-incessant complaining about every aspect of your organization.
  • Pro: when these individuals stop complaining, you know you've got a truly winning product
  • Con: your annual earplug budget to deal with these folks will typically exceed any raises you get
  • Nemesis: The Tape Wrapper

"The Toll Troll"
Extortion is the name of the game that this ruthless cut-throat plays.  Any time an institutional purchase or policy change needs to be made, they somehow always manage to come out on top.  Need to deploy a new customer portal?  Be prepared to fund five new positions in HR.  Need to replace some aging network infrastructure?  You're going to have to remodel an entire floor first.  These folks can be spotted by their presence at meetings in which you'd think they have no vested interest, during which they talk of how inconvenient all of the changes will be to their departments / divisions.
  • Pro: once given the proper incentives, these folks will become your strongest allies
  • Con: over budget, every time
  • Nemesis: everybody else in the meeting, if united

"The Unretired"
Just as the undead are stuck between two natural states, so too is this individual.  They have given up all interest in anything but working through the day-to-day grind, and resent any changes in routine, which they deem utterly superfluous and counterproductive.  They can be picked out of a crowd quite handily by the the immensely annoyed face that they present whenever large-scale changes are discussed.
  • Pro: a veritable fountain of views both pragmatic and skeptical
  • Con: rarely, if ever, say anything but 'no' to new ideas
  • Nemesis: The Wave Rider

"The Tape Wrapper"
To say that this person has a singular obsession with rules would be like saying that Mozart was fond of music.  No project, undertaking, or visit to the restroom would be complete without a thorough recitation of institutional policy.  These odd characters can be spotted by sounding eerily cheerful when starting sentences with the words, "but our policy says that..."
  • Pro: can be relied on for a fair, unbiased, balanced, and considered opinion
  • Con: throw your project schedule out of the window
  • Nemesis: The Greener Grasser

As always, I'd like to know what you think.  Do you know which type you are?  Can you think of any additional types that should be on the list?

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