Book Review - Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century Information Technology by Bob Lewis
I enjoy reading the newsletter that Bob Lewis puts out each week... Keep The Joint Running. Therefore, I was very interested in reading his new book Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century Information Technology. A dose of cold reality without all the fluff and politics involved. So many leaders and management in IT could learn much by reading this book... :)
Section One - Conceptual underpinnings: There are no best practices, only practices that fit best; To optimize the whole you must sub-optimize the parts; Bad metrics are worse than no metrics
Section Two - Putting process in its place: Relationships precede process; Relationships outlive transactions; Don't confuse documentation with reality
Section Three - The nature of the IT enterprise: Before you can be strategic, you have to be competent; Big solutions that work start as small solutions that work; Customers are external, Internal customers aren't; Don't run IT as a business, run it in a businesslike way; There are no IT projects
Section Four - Being smart, and something important to be smart about: Digest with intestines, think with brain; Every employee is irreplacable
Lewis starts off early in the book by proclaiming there's no such thing as "best practices". That should get noticed... The six variables of business (cycle time, throughput, overhead cost, unit cost, quality, and excellence) are different for all businesses, so there's no "one size fits all" approach to doing things "right". So learn from everyone and let smart people figure out solutions that work. So now that Lewis has taken a direct shot at one of the most universal "truths" of business, what else can he do? Plenty...
For me, the most important chapters (or at least the ones that resonated with me) were the ones dealing with relationships. It's common to look at IT as a number of technical issues and discrete transactions. But it's really a matter of personalities and relationships. Reading about the "Process Distrust Loop" solidifies what I've been unable to pin down over the years as to why well-designed processes can so quickly break down in practice. And relationships in business? It's the only way you can get things done. Transactions that build trust make it easier to get others to help you going forward. Using a win-lose mentality in your interactions will guarantee that others will be looking to sabotage you when you most need their support. Definitely a case of winning a battle but losing a war.
After you've been told all the conventional wisdom about running an IT department, you owe it to yourself to get a different look at the reality of it all. Manifesto is not a long read, but it's filled with no-nonsense advice and wisdom that can make all the difference between success and failure.