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  • Writer's pictureJosh

Gaps, Bridges, Just-The-Tip, and New Kinks: Why Only Going Half-Way Will Fuck You

Updated: May 25

Saturday night, I get a frantic call from a mentee of mine. He’s just lost two and a half years of paperwork required for an upcoming audit because he deleted an account of an employee that hadn’t been with the company for over 18 months.

The CEO rang him at home and asked why he could no longer access the governance audit folder. After some back and forth he realized, the governance audit folder was attached to the account he deleted. Deleting the account appeared to delete every file and folder that was managed on the account's one drive.

While a good mentor would have calmed him down and let him know that nothing is ever truly deleted and that reaching out to Microsoft more than likely would allow him to recover the files, I was more interested in how the hell such important documents were being held in a single dude’s one-drive. Seriously, how the fuck does that happen?!

Let me share with you the batshit insanity that this company did to manage important documentation up until 2018. They had a “library system.”

A single spreadsheet was created that had every audit document that existed. When it was needed, and data was updated on the audit document, an email would go out requesting the document. The spreadsheet would be updated to reflect who the most recent person to download the document was, so the next user knew who to reach out to if they should need the document themselves. This was done because it was similar to how things were done prior to incorporating technology.

Request a document from an admin, take the document to your desk, work on it, and put it in your file cabinet. Someone else needs the same document?

Request the same document from the admin, get sent to the first person’s desk, ask them for it, they work on it, let the admin know, and put it in their file cabinet. They liked it because it worked for them (I should put the largest sarcastic scare quotes around worked, but I’m lazy, so just pretend).

Since they eliminated the gatekeeper admin, the spreadsheet was passed around in an email. This (direct quote) “streamlined the process significantly.” The email would be sent to the same leadership every time changes were made, or documents were needed. The email was known as the 15-338 chain. Why? Because that’s how many emails allegedly were on the one chain before moving to having it saved in cloud storage.

Lack of Commitment is Royally Fucking You

My first question was why an organization would just try to recreate the shitty manual process in paperless/digital form, rather than coming up with a solution that made the entire process better. Who does that?

Well… turns out a lot of organizations. Taking on a new process, new software, or new structure is scary, it costs money, time, and resources; you don’t want to just blindly jump into something and discover that it doesn’t quite work for your needs, right? That would be a total waste. So instead, they “bridge the gap” and go with a cheaper solution now, with the intention of expanding later.

Well, the new bridge is implemented and what happens? It’s the new process. Your shitty bridge to move towards a less shitty process is now the new shitty process. Down the line you revisit the shitty process and discuss a potential solution to the shitty process and what do you decide on… bridging… the… fucking… gap.

Yeah, the other side of the bridge is on fire, but at least it'll be warm

I’ve heard every different analogy for why a company can’t just make a drastic change, and why it’s important to slowly wade in, dip your toe into new technologies, and feel things out, but I have a better one. It’s like barely sticking the tip in. You might think it’s the greatest thing ever, but others are left frustrated, and forced to fuck off and do it themselves, or cry in the shower while thinking of how they can get out of the shitty fucking situation.

What’s worse is Mr. Just the Tip doesn’t have the self-awareness that would help them realize that things aren’t working for everyone else involved, and that makes them a shitty person.

The Bullshit Treasure Map

Apologists for bridging the gap argue that the process of improvement is less like a road trip, and more like a treasure map. The belief is that a road trip is direct, you know where you are going, and you take the best possible route to get there. A treasure map, on the other hand, is winding, and confusing, you never really know if you are on the right track, and you just trust that the path you are taking will eventually lead you to the treasure (regardless of how strange it might seem at the time).

The argument is so trite, that I honestly feel that it should end with “the true treasure was the agile we did along the way.”

It’s insane to me, that anyone would entertain the treasure map argument. You are gleefully accepting that you are wasting time and resources taking the longest and most frustrating path. Accepting that you will be dealing with bullshit like “when the sun and mountains give rise to the phoenix, the dark tree points the way” instead of, “the treasure is buried in this cave in a somewhat hidden cove.”

That’s too easy though, and will always be met with hostility and pushback from those making the decisions because…

Why Do Tomorrow What Can Be Put Off Today?

“Look,” I hear managers say. “We can’t just drop everything and go through a full vendor, risk, cost-benefit, and security analysis, we need a solution now. Getting the proper solution means that we would have to wait for 3 to 6 months to implement a proper solution, so we’re just going to do what we can now and focus on a better solution at a later time.”

I have really bad news for you. If you don’t have time to do all that shit today, you aren’t going to have time to do that shit in the future. You either do it the right way now, or you will never do it. Yes, that is a very bleak way of looking at it, but nevertheless, it is true almost every single time.

There’s a quote by beloved basketball coach, John Wooden: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over.” I argue that this should be how every meeting with decision-makers should start. Some people start meetings with a joke, a quick discussion about what everyone did over the weekend, PMs should start it with the Wooden quote.

“Come on bruv,” you say, why can’t you just accept that the bridge we’re building is because we need a solution now, the right solution can come later.”

I hear this a lot.

If You Have No Process Now, Then Having No Process in the Future is Just the Status Quo

There are very few instances where a team can’t survive without a solution right this fucking instant, and even fewer where the current lack of process is actively harming the organization (at least if we’re being honest). So, then the question becomes, what is the real potential loss here? If there is a shitty process now, but it’s not causing any real problems, then why not take the 3 to 6 months to do it the right way?

On paper, it appears that the just-the-tip method provides a quicker return on the investment, but the figures presented lack a certain nuance that I’m sure all PMs are aware of… the learning curve.

One benefit of doing the 3-to-6-month process, especially if it is implementing a third-party solution, is the hand-off process. Most companies have a robust hand-off/training/UAT process that ensures that the users will be able to hit the ground running. The bridge-the-gap bullshit means that you need to provide time for everyone to become accustomed to the new process, and hope that any bugs just work themselves out.

Popping in a new process, piece of software, or business strategy as a stopgap for a few months, means you are probably never going to overcome the learning curve needed to have a proper return on investment.

Ask Yourself Why

One of the strangest things I’ve encountered in all my years of business is how many top-level managers never stop to ask why they are making the decisions they are. Whether you call it narcissism or (in some cases) Machiavellianism, the root problem is the same: they are extremely short-sighted.

It’s not as simple as that, however, they are short-sighted while arguing long-term goals. Take for example a company that wants to grow its clients by 15%. A new customer engagement software has been selected, but it’s going to take 4-6 months to implement. So, they decide to implement a stop-gap solution because doing so will help them grow by 15%. You see the problem there? The stop-gap isn’t going to grow their client list by 15%, but it’s being phrased in such a way that the stop-gap (and implementing it right away) is going to be what pushes them up over that 15% goal.

It won’t, though, because if it did, then it wouldn’t be a fucking stopgap, it’d be the goddamn solution.

As a member of a project team, partial solutions, stop-gaps, and failure to commits put you in a very difficult position. Projects mean supporting the company, but at the same time, means calling out bad direction if you see it. This, turns out, is a controversial concept. Many PMs have said that it’s never their job to push back against bad projects. Whatever the company wants, the company gets.

My defense of PMs pushing against bad decisions relates to your local friendly pharmacist. Let’s say your doctor prescribes a drug that (unbeknownst to them), has a fatal interaction with a medication you are already taking. Your pharmacist knows this. Would you rather have a pharmacist who fills it because “that’s what the doctor wants,” or one that pushes back because they don’t want to see you die?

This is especially true if you work for a company that provides services to other companies. You know your product better than the people who have never used it. Tell them they are being stupid if they ask for something that is bad.

Also, as a PM, you’ve more than likely worked with people in the company outside of the bell-end asking you to implement this bullshit stop-gap half-solution. You probably know or can find out, what the ramifications are on this beyond the limited vision they have.

As decision-makers, you need to stop being stupid, and as PMs, you need to step up and start pushing back against these wasteful practices.


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