ManagementSpeak: I just need a minute.
Translation: I just need a minute to dump several days of work on your desk.
This week’s anonymous contributor describes a typical work assignment procedure.

The passionate middle wins.

I’m not talking about the presidential race, although we should all be so fortunate. I’m talking about PC policy. The consensus of my correspondence seems to be that to lock or unlock isn’t a binary choice. There are levels of openness. How open each system should be depends on a variety of factors, including how rigidly or openly defined the job is, the regulatory environment, and how much risk with how much impact a particular compromised system can create.

I’ve written columns about leadership, process, SOA, application methodologies, the late and unlamented network computer, and muscular client architectures vs the misnamed “thin-client” architectures.

Lots of other topics, too. Only a very few others generated as much correspondence as this series on whether to lock down or open up the desktop. Windows vs OS/2 vs Linux vs Macintosh was one (of course), religion in the workplace was another, although there are those who would say these are one subject, not two.

Certainly, how a CIO handles leadership, application architecture and methodology, and the nature of process in the enterprise has a much bigger impact on profitability. Why did PC policy generate so much more response?

The answer, I think, goes back to a point made by the column that opened this series, “The portal,” (2/25/2008): That we in IT … and many corporate executives of all stripes … have an obsolete, 1950s industrial view of employment. In this Leave It To Beaver world, work is a place people disappear to for awhile to earn a paycheck. Work/life balance means emulating the Cleavers.

Increasingly, though, work/life balance doesn’t just mean leaving the office on time so you can attend your daughter’s soccer match. It also means you experience a sense of fulfillment from achieving difficult and important accomplishments for your employer. It means you attach the same significance to friendships in the office that you attach to friendships outside of work.

Yes, that’s right. If your life is a 1950s sitcom, it’s more likely to be Dick Van Dyke, where Rob, Buddy and Sally’s work life was as real as their home lives, and got as much screen time as anything else on the show. Work/life balance? They had one life, not two. No partitions.

In 2008, you take care of personal business at the office just as you think about and solve business problems when you’re home, or out and about … and stay in touch with colleagues on these subjects during off hours. Blackberries, anyone?

Smart employers value this. It means having employees who are, to use the now-tired joke, pigs rather than chickens (the former have the bigger commitment to a bacon-and-eggs breakfast).

Employers want employees who are committed to their work. What they haven’t always done is to explore the consequences of having them.

The TANSTaaFL rule applies: There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Want committed employees? Show some commitment to them. Recognize that in 2008, much more than in 1958, if you want someone to sleep in hotel rooms half the nights of the year, then maybe you should let them download music into their laptops and sync it to their MP3 players, not to mention letting them check personal e-mail.

The big work of IT … the work of implementing and supporting enterprise applications … is about supporting the company’s efforts to be more productive and efficient. It’s where profits live.

PC support is different. It is, as the name of the device implies, personal. That means it’s where IT defines its relationship with employees at all levels throughout the enterprise.

In companies that practice blanket PC lockdown neither your intentions nor the business logic matter one bit. IT runs the orphanage; employees are Oliver asking, “Please, might I have some more?”

There are, for that matter, companies where the IT staff provide no training, actively dislike power users, and prefer employees who “leave IT to the professionals.” Some advice: Arrogance isn’t a sound foundation for productive working relationships.

IT at the other extreme isn’t any better. While employees might like a wide-open environment, they won’t respect IT that provides no protection, ignores widespread software piracy, and in general shows no professionalism.

Professional IT provides training, education (not the same thing), support and encouragement. It protects the enterprise while respecting its employees and understanding their circumstances.

Why is the PC so important? Employees work in the enterprise applications you manage.

But they live in their PCs.