Mandi Walls: May 2009 Archives

It's easy to lose momentum during a change process.  I've only been at this company for five years (I'd be the most recent hire in some groups), but the entire time I have been here there have been discussions on how we have to change to meet the evolution of the marketplace and the strength of the Internet over a walled garden.

Our new CEO is really the first person to take the helm who actually seems capable of doing it.  But along with the promise and excitement that builds around putting new things together is the question of who gets left behind to support the old stuff.

When we migrated my project from a proprietary platform to something new last year, the development team made a conscious decision not to leave anyone to solely support fixes and tweaks to the old system.  It's important to give everyone a place at the new table when migrating and evolving a business or product model.

We don't have any specifics for how any plans might be implemented yet to drag the company kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.  But I fear that there will be people who get left behind, whether by their own desire to continue working on legacy projects or through some consensus that we "need" them on this old product.  We don't "need" anyone to continue to waste 100% of their time on an old project that isn't evolving.  Our company loses a lot of enthusiastic, talented employees who want to move on, learn new things, and innovate. They should be encouraged to do so, pushed off of, and uncoupled from their old projects. 

If a project is important enough to leave running, it's important enough to train a new person on before the subject matter expert leaves out of boredom or frustration.

Where we run into problems is through the natural attrition that occurs in a large company.  We have a huge installed base using products that no one fully understands anymore.  It's one thing to continue to enhance the customer UI of a product, or add features to modernize and compete in a product space.  However, the sad truth of what devastation lies behind that mask has the power to damage the company's reputation with some of its core customers.  Services can be broken or unusable for far longer than they should be if the support structure isn't cohesively and actively managed.  For many of our products, it might be too late to resurrect what once was - the brain drain has been heavy for several years.

 We have to be able to balance dedication and loyalty to the classic brands with the enthusiasm necessary to really move forward, not just pay lip service to the idea.  For some people that means making a difficult decision: 

Do you work here because of the project you are assigned to, or do you work here to do your part to make the company great?  Will you stay and continue to contribute if your product isn't part of the future vision?

There are a lot of brains in the company.  People are a huge resource, but they have to be deployed in a smart way to reap the most benefits.  I don't have any answers.  I know I've lost many of my smartest coworkers to other companies through bad management, frustration, and boredom, and that's sad when we need them to help us be great.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Mandi Walls in May 2009.

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