Avoiding Disaster: Get Your Team to Plan for Configuration Management

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In her Personality Matters series, Leslie Sachs examines the personalities and people issues that are found in technology groups from cross-functional, high-performance teams to dysfunctional matrix organizations.

Summary:
Poor planning is the root cause of many problems. Planning for configuration management can significantly impact your organization's productivity and effectiveness. Many teams live in a constant treadmill of responding to emergencies that could have easily been avoided with a little bit of planning. Some people just don't have the ability or demeanor to create an adequate plan, while others don't even want to. In technology, many professionals excel at responding to crisis after crisis and become known for their skills in "saving the day." At the other end of the spectrum are professionals who plan and plan but cannot find the right balance between planning and action. Fixating on creating a plan is just as deadly as having no plan at all. Technology managers need to be able to recognize the personality traits that make for good planners in their team and provide leadership to get the job done in an effective way.

How much planning do you need?
Some people just plan way too much. They plan and they plan and they plan and never really get to the place where they can effectively execute the tasks that need to get done. Analysis paralysis, as this phenomenon is commonly known, does not improve or help achieve desired outcomes. This tendency to be overly analytical can be exhibited in many forms. I have seen people who listen attentively to a plan and just keep coming up with objections to why it is not yet complete. Although attention to detail is usually considered a good trait in an employee, some members of your IT team may need coaching in focusing more on "the big picture".

Creating objections for fun and profit
Some people always see the negative side of things. I have had colleagues who managed to come up with objections to almost an viable plan. Sometimes this involved pointing out essential risks that needed to be mitigated. Other times it seemed to be simply a way to create an endless list of objections. It can be quite challenging to deal with a colleague who acts as if his worth is somehow measured by his ability to point out other mistakes, It takes a very savvy manager to keep his team alert for errors without inadvertently encouraging those who like to be seen as clever for their talent in this area. Planning sessions can get bogged down and practically sabotaged by those who seem to only see objections to other's plans.

Cutting corners
Some people seem to be mired in always cutting corners. Any type of planning seems like a waste of time to them and getting their cooperation in the planning process may be difficult indeed to achieve. These corner cutters can sometimes be very creative in finding ways to completely ignore and bypass any process including established plans. In addition, some people are just drawn to the thrill of rule breaking. Such personalities, while often bright and otherwise valuable team members, just can't resist the urge to feel like they have "fooled the system" every now and then.

Rightsizing a plan
Rightsizing a plan means that you balance legitimate concerns (e.g. risks) with the prudent execution of the tasks that need to be completed in order for you to achieve success. The plan needs to meet your goals within the timeframe allowed. Some personalities are better suited for this task than others. A good manager will elicit observations and suggestions from all, but look to the more decisive individuals on his team to steer the plan to the best trade-offs.

Conclusion
Taking a pragmatic approach is always best. This means that you need to consider what and how much planning makes sense within the context of the project that you are working on. CM planning and planning for CM are essential to the success of any project. You will achieve more effective planning if you are able to recognize the people factors that make for good and bad planning. Incorporating such awarenesswill significantly enhance your management IQ. The next step is to lead your team to success by creating practical and effective plans that help you meet and exceed your goals!

About the author

Leslie  Sachs's picture Leslie Sachs

Leslie Sachs is a New York state certified school psychologist and the COO of Yellow Spider, Inc. (http://yellowspiderinc.com). Leslie is the coauthor of Configuration Management Best Practices: Practical Methods that Work in the Real World, Addison-Wesley Professional (http://cmbestpractices.com). Ms. Sachs has more than twenty years of experience in the psychology field and has worked in a variety of clinical and business settings where she has provided many effective interventions designed to improve the social and educational functioning of both individuals and groups. Ms. Sachs has an M.S. in School Psychology from Pace University and interned in Bellevue's Psychiatric Center in New York city. A firm believer in the uniqueness of every individual, she has recently done advanced training with Mel Levine's "All Kinds of Minds" Institute. She may be reached at LeslieASachs@gmail.com, or link with her http://www.linkedin.com/in/lesliesachs.

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