Tuesday, 29 September 2009
old man take a look at yourself...
In my professional life, I am obliged to be something of a Janus: I sit between the business on one side and a large outsourced IT department on the other. I have a responsibility to my delivery partners to make sure that I capture clear, accurate requirements and kick work off in a way that enables it to be successfully delivered, but I also have a responsibility to the business on the other side to make sure that those projects are delivered as cheaply and accurately as possible. In an ideal world, both sides would always be pushing for the same things and everything would go smoothly, but the reality is that I spend most of my time bridging between two (or more) organisations that seem to be wrestling each other for an advantage.
Naturally, I think I do a pretty reasonable job. Where most people in my role naturally tend to focus on one side or the other, I reckon I go well out of my way to try and steer a middle path and make sure that I challenge both sides equally. I don't think of myself as a natural conciliator, but I spend much of my time at work seeking ways forward without endless needless recrimination over what we've agreed to do; over the often difficult line between defect and project change request... to seek, if you'll pardon the laboured simile, to rub the grit together to produce the pearl.
It wasn't that unusual, therefore, to find myself in a meeting this afternoon where the key business stakeholder and the manager of the third party development team were arguing over the scope and costs of a soon-to-be-delivered project. I've worked with both parties for several years, so although the emotion in the room was real and escalating, I was never really concerned that we wouldn't be able to work something out and leave the meeting room as friends. It's a reasonably big project for both parties, but the sums of money we were debating weren't that large and I was confident that everything would be okay. I sat between both parties, listening to each side and intervening occasionally, but generally waiting for the storm to blow itself out so that we could move forwards.
At that point, however, I looked up to see the other two people in the meeting room. Both have played important roles on the project, but both are also relatively new to the company and are in their early-20s. They both looked a touch concerned by the direction the meeting was taking and clearly weren't quite sure what to do next, not quite daring to say anything. It took me a moment to realise why the two of them kept shooting anxious looks in my direction, but it then suddenly dawned on me that they were looking to me to take hold of the meeting and to calm everything down. It was an insight that brought two thoughts tumbling into my head: the first was to remember how relatively inexperienced the pair of them are and how the meeting might be quite unsettling for them. And then, hard on the heels of that thought, I felt like the oldest man in the world. I'm grey enough as it is; I have no wish to be anybody's éminence grise.
Don't these people realise that I'm the young iconoclast?
In my own head, if in no-one else's...... I'm not quite ready to be Solomon.*
* Get me. As if I've ever been a young iconoclast or will ever be considered a Solomon....