risky things are the only things that are really worth doing. So, for instance, if you're considering a project to bring package-switching technology into the air traffic control arena, you look at this and you say, "Boy, it's really risky but it has some tremendous advantages." The tremendous advantage is that the packets can do basic accountability. You can always tell if a packet hasn't arrived, and accountability is a real important thing for conveying information back and forth between aircrafts. So, it's a risky project because it...it gets involved in this very delicate matter called air traffic control, but the risk is there and packaged up with an important benefit, that you'd have some accountability for information flow back and forth between the aircraft and the tower.
I made that example up, but I made it up in such a way as to demonstrate a basic truth, that risk is always packaged with opportunity, and the choice not to do a risky thing, "Gee, let's not mess with the air traffic control system, it's so fragile and so much work; there's so much risk associated with it, let's not do it," always means that you forego the opportunity, the advantage, whatever the reason is, that you might build a system to benefit, you forego it if you do risk avoidance.
Today, there is risk avoidance going on everywhere. When you hear of a company like AT&T, that during the '90s laid off, you know, a third of its workforce, IT workforce, just before the IT people became almost impossible to get and AT&T was still laying them off. During that time, they were letting go people that could have solved, for instance, their Year 2000 problem...
CAROL: And I'm going to stop you right there.
CAROL: We are going to take a short break. If anyone would like to call in on our toll-free number and talk to Tom DeMarco, the number is 866-277-5369. And we'll be back after these short messages...Welcome back to Quality Plus E-Talk! and this week's guest is Tom DeMarco of the Atlantic Systems Guild. We've been talking about risk, risk avoidance, risk management, and just before we went into the break Tom had started to tell us about the situation at AT&T in the '90s.
TOM: And many others, Carol. Companies that laid off people, very often laid off people that were CMM Level III, and the amazing thing is how come they invested so much in these people and then when it came time to tighten ship they had to lay off these very high-priced people who had been process improved. Part of the reason was that they were, I think, part and parcel of their whole business of becoming CMM Level III, they had stopped doing really risky projects. You know, if you're really under the gun to improve your CMM Level, one of the things you could do is do easy projects, and so when the tough choice came, they looked at this group of people and said, "Yeah, they're very good at what they're doing, but what they're doing isn't very valuable to us." Again, because they were avoiding risk; they were doing easy projects. Everywhere I go, I see people doing, you know, dumb conversions to a 105th conversion of a database, mainframe database, to a Power Soft client distributed system, and they could do those in their sleep. What they're doing is avoiding the tough projects that really are worth something. So, risk avoidance is not the solution to risk.
CAROL: And is it similar to