A lot of my correspondence comes from people who think their employers should do more — or at least anything — to make their workplace more enjoyable and fulfilling.
They’re right. The correlation between treating people well and a higher-quality workforce is not exactly controversial, and even with a cooling economy good employees have no trouble finding other work.
When the shoe is on the other foot, though, a lot of you seem far more interested in keeping your headaches to a minimum than in creating a quality work environment for everyone else in the company.
Yes, it’s mailbag time here at the IS Survivalist Institute, so we’re going to defer our continuing exploration of the integrated IS plan until next week. This week we’ll deal with the mail I received following my column describing how IS botched the introduction of the PC and still hasn’t learned from its mistakes..
The mail I received split demographically into writers who lived through the introduction of the PC and agreed with my recounting of events, and those who didn’t and didn’t. A question: If you weren’t there, how come you’re so willing to disagree with eyewitnesses?
To those readers who pointed out that as company resources, PCs shouldn’t be under end-user control, you make a good point. And since that desk you’re sitting at is a company desk, you won’t mind when internal audit goes through your drawers, file, and interoffice mail on a regular basis, will you?
Besides, IS often causes far bigger problems than individual end-users. When it’s your installation, though, you blame the vendor instead of accepting responsibility for poor planning and testing. (Yes, vendors could make it a lot easier, but they don’t. Deal with it.)
The mutual finger-pointing that goes on between IS and end-users starts with you blaming them. If Dell can build millions of PCs to order, you can do better than delivering a one-size-fits-all minimalist PC configuration and then complaining when employees individualize their systems. Here’s the program:
1. Segment your user community: Talk with a wide variety of end-users and their managers, and define five to 10 logical groupings, such as basic users, travelers, power users, mentors, and heads-down data entry staff.
2. Determine work habits: You may be surprised at the complexity. Consultants, for example, sometimes have network connections, sometimes use modems, and sometimes connect to client networks. If you don’t carefully craft an appropriate work environment, they’ll be in Network Neighborhood every couple of weeks. And you’ll blame them for goofing up their systems.
3. Determine resource needs: For each logical grouping, draw a picture with a member of the group in the middle. Around the periphery draw the resources they need access to. Then figure out how they’ll get that access.
Don’t assume. Ask — and be prepared for surprises. That group you thought was a candidate for NCs may not be, for example, because they send and receive e-mail with Microsoft Office attachments. Don’t argue, either. For example, I refuse to use Outlook as my personal information manager, because I rely heavily on Ecco Pro’s outlining capabilities. I’m willing to use something else, but not to give up capabilities I make extensive use of. Don’t argue: I know how I work better than you do.
4. Plan configurations: Tailor standard configurations for each group. Design them. Show them to group members. Test them. Assign people in your group to try them on for size. Push, poke, and stretch them. Find out where they break and where they develop DLL conflicts. Fix what you can fix and train the help desk on what to expect.
5. Roll them out: You have some retrofitting and training to do, so plan the roll-out carefully to minimize disruption. This should be fun, though, because almost without exception you’ll be improving employees’ work environments in a recognizable, tangible way.
6. Keep it current: Review your standard configurations at least annually to see if there’s anything you need to change.
Sound like a lot of work? Maybe, but it’s both less work and more rewarding than responding to the problems and complaints you get now.