Workplace Warfare: the Myth of Information Management

During my lengthy-albeit-rambling stint in the professional workplace, I’ve been a data jockey of some sort or another.  Titles like drafter, designer, administrator, specialist and analyst may seem to describe diverse roles but they all had at their core a need to translate one person’s vague vision into another’s crystal ball.

When I was promoted to fired-up but naive product data wrangler for a US manufacturer, I had this stupid idea that creating a reliable, robust information management system would have grateful department heads erecting statues in my honor.  But when it came time to put some rubber to the road, I met a resistance to process improvement more powerful than any force known to nature.  Once managers learned my new role, I found myself persona non grata at– of all things– information strategy meetings.

And it’s because, deep down, people really don’t want their information managed.  And they’ll fight to keep it that way. 

Blasphemy! you say.  Surely we’re not all Lords of Chaos?!

Maybe not consciously.  But look at how we approach daily work.  Overworked programmers dig in and resist when they are asked to document their works of art.  Disengaged analysts lob massive spreadsheets like hand grenades at unsuspecting managers.  Fascist fast typists take advantage of slow readers by bombing them with epic emails.  It’s a passive-aggressive assault of bureacratic madness.

At the root of this craziness lies a basic human emotion: fear.  Allowing one’s chaos to be brought under systemic control means giving up control.  Our value, we fear, lies in being the sole proprietors of mission-critical stores that go where we go, thrive (and die) on our own lifecycles.

After all, information IS power.  The Internet has made that abundantly clear.  We want to keep ours.  So we fear the pesky business analysts and their poking, prodding ways.  These shiners of the proverbial harsh light of scrutiny.  IT fights to keep them from mining critical data stores.  Managers scoff at their assessments and suggestions.  The analysts have a scary knack of cracking open seemingly impenetrable stores of lore and scattering the nuggets of gold far and wide.  We can’t have that.  We’ll lose our power!

In  a perfect world, analysts would be lauded for shedding light on dark secrets and freeing information for the use of all.  In a perfect world, those threatened by such a release would perhaps discover they had more to offer than being a simple walking, non-talking data vault.  Silence, after all, isn’t always golden.

5 responses to “Workplace Warfare: the Myth of Information Management

  1. Ah yes, the locally experienced people. Nothing written down. Nothing documented. Nothing made into a process. Nothing to be saved if that person departs for any reason!

  2. Hear, hear.

    Some time ago through backstabbing, treachery, etc. got access to data which were previously hidden to anyone but directly responsible. Improvements in workflow were such that that access was granted universally to all employees.

    Should I be champion of such openness? Of course but only when it applies to other people data, my own “secrets” I keep close to my chest🙂

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