I think I must be one weird dude.

When I think about what my career has been all about, I imagine an unending (at least until I am sacked, leave or die) series of projects that are intended to bring value to my company because that’s what they pay me to do. I like to believe that I give a fair day’s work for a fair pay. I actually try to live the Zig Ziglar sales mantra — Give ’em what you promised, and a little bit more.

What makes me weird I suppose, is that I really hate to work on the same project more than once. I really want to work on something, make it work, make it work forever and then move on to the next challenge. Yeah, I know, that’s a bit unrealistic, but believe it or not I have a lot of role models.

I have been fortunate to be acquainted with really, really, good programmers that write software once. The requirements for most of the software they have written have changed if not at all, then very little and their software still runs today years after they deployed it to production. Really. And for true.

There’s not a lot of those guys around, but there are a few and to you few, I tip my cap, raise my glass and say, “Job well done boys!”.

Like every rainbow however, there are two ends and this entry is about the other end of the rainbow. It’s not about the boys that studied their craft, applied their skills, researched the requirements, tested their software, honed their techniques, but those who apply a slightly different approach to software development. It’s an approach I’ve come to term “IT Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome”.

Popular culture has exposed me via “The Sixth Sense” and “Law and Order” episodes, to at least two examples of this quite heinous disorder in which (typically) mothers deliberately keep their children sick in order to bring attention to themselves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchausen_syndrome

Not to make light of this, but I believe we can now coin a new syndrome “IT Munchausen by Proxy” based on the following observations:

  • IT professionals that are viewed as “the go to guy”, “responsive”, “always there when I need him”
  • IT professionals that are the SMEs (subject matter experts) and the guy who “knows where to kick the boiler in order to get it to work”
  • IT professionals that get things into production faster than everyone else. They “jam that puppy in there”, “get ‘er done”, “make it happen” or whatever euphemism you want to use for circumventing good practices.
  • IT guys that are always willing to make that mid-day production upgrade to “save your bacon”.
  • IT buckaroos that have the “workaround”, “fix”, or “patch” amazingly ready in their back pocket.
  • IT folk whose motto is “we don’t have time for your stinkin’ process, it’s easier (faster, cheaper, insert appropriate word here) my way”.
  • IT support people that you think are great, because you can always count on them and call them on the phone to fix your problem.

Here’s a newsflash Chief. They caused the problem.

That’s right. Instead of building systems that are solid as a rock, just keep rockin’ cause they took the time to “do it right” by following the instruction manual, they got it into production as quickly as they could, knowing that they can now reap the cerebral serotonin created by answering the phone and solving the problems that they created. Interesting huh? Without problems there are no solutions. Without problems to solve, I can’t be the hero. Or can I?

Short term versus long term view

In my mind, in my career montage, I’m a hero when the body of work looks compelling, not when I solve 1 problem. I can solve more problems, add more value to the company and extend the reach of my impact by doing things once, and only once…and them moving on to the next big thing.

Wow! Interesting concept. That means nobody will remember who wrote, designed, or implemented some system that just friggin’ works. But they’ll remember the guy who fixed the problem at 2:00pm today and got our production systems kicked in the ass!

So I have to accept that fact in the short term. I’m no super hero. I am just a guy that wrote software one time.

Recognition today will not help the company in the long term. I get it, but I’m not sure management does.

IT Munchausen by Proxy is when you start groovin’ on that feeling of helping fix the same problems YOU created! Instead of groovin’ you should be figuring out why you mucked it up in the first place dude! Was it a bad design? Bad implementation? Bad planning? Whatever. Figure it out and fix it once, then move on to something more worthy of your talents. If, that is, you have any.

We want depth and breadth to our impact. Not just depth or not just breadth. I can do a lot shoddy, do a little well, do a little shoddy or do a lot well. I’ll take the latter.

You can only do that when you recognize IT Munchausen and nip it in the bud. It may make your stakeholders hate you because you don’t give them something lickity split, but in the long run…and that’s what matters…it’s worth it.

Senior Delivery Manager, EPAM

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