Working in an IT organization can be challenging. There are exhausting late night emergencies and deadlines, unpredictable technical complexities as well as executive management commonly suffering from extreme ADD.
As this leads to countless hours away from family, friends and your own precious solitude, you find those few who stand out willing to sacrifice everything to accomplish success. "We're saved" you utter to yourself as disaster is averted once again or that cool project suddenly comes together.
Periodically, you parade the special person (or few) in front of staff for recognition and give them financial and psychological rewards. Maybe, you even promote those few into leadership positions.
As you sit in your office reflecting on the organization's accomplishment, you joke; wishing just to have a few more of them.
As you are filled with confidence for the next year, you have no idea: Your IT organization is doomed.
First, (and most obvious): You have created an organization dependent on these heroes.
It is more difficult for heroes to take vacation
It is often more difficult for heroes to grow their career into other roles.
Heroes are more likely to have strained family relationships
Non-heroes often rely on heroes to save the day.
Second, if Heroes burn out and/or leave, the IT organization is significantly crippled.
Third, promoted heroes often make poor managers (options)
Some have unreasonable expectations of their staff (they want them to be heroes too) or
They do all the work themselves
The end result: staff doesn't grow or become successful for the IT organization.
Fourth: Eventually, heroic expectations eventually lead to catastrophic mistakes. This is not only terrible for the organization, but breaks moral and the spirit of the hard working employee you prize.
And you only have yourself to blame. You created this culture, promoted these dependencies and burned out very good employees. From every staff member (as well as their families) who has experienced the bad end of this strategic non-plan, they hope you choke on the bonus you received this year. (Just kidding. :) no - really, I’m serious)
Simply: Heroes ruin IT organizations.
It's a fact and IT leaders who promote this culture are to blame.
But there is a cure.
Good Consultants will promote focusing on good operational processes and lifecycle management. Establish a predictable, consistent system organized to handle complex IT solutions. And they are right. These are commonly called Operational Processes. And they are one of the most important fields for an IT leader to understand.
However, there is a more simple way to understand this. Look at your successes. If it required a hero or heroic activity to become successful, you screwed up. It's your job as an IT leader to find these events and ensure processes and support for teams and empower them without breaking their backs.
Also, operational processes make a much bigger impact on systemic qualities than the actual technologies utilized in the solution. Security, Scalability, Availability, Manageability, Reliability are usually more impacted by the quality of an organization's operational processes than the technical choices made.
For example: at Microsoft, we are building many of the world's largest datacenters. Just at one datacenter, we deploy tens of thousands of servers a month. Very few websites face the security threats and intensity that Microsoft manages every day. All while running some of the most energy efficient datacenter environments in the world. And what is the secret ingredient: focused operational discipline. Without it, there would be no massive cloud capabilities today.
I interviewed many teams at GFS (Global Foundations Services) under Michael Manos. This is the group that owns all the datacenters in the world for Microsoft. They have some of the highest retention rates in the company. no-joke: professionals at Microsoft continuously beg (no exaggeration) to work for them. Secret ingredient: good leadership that promotes world class operational discipline.
Good IT Operational Processes: the cure for Hero addiction...