Blame Perry Mason

Are you a lawyer - a manager who demands incontrovertible proof before approving action? Lawyer-managers require proof. They defend the status quo with Perry Mason-like tenacity.

Management Speak: I guess my thinking at this point in time is that it may be prudent to wait until such time as we could gain a better understanding of where we are going with this issue by studying it a little further.

Translation: I couldn’t make a decision if my life depended on it.

— IS Survivalist Kevin Bevins wants us to study this remarkable phrase a little further.

Responding to a remark about CO2 and global warming a few weeks back, a surprising number of readers pointed out that global warming is “just a theory”, with evidence that falls well short of proof.

The Greening Earth Society, a propaganda machine for the fossil-fuels industry, beats this drum loudly. To the GES and everyone else who rejects global warming because it’s “just a theory,” I ask this: Just a theory? Just?

You might as well “just” write a program.

When writing software, or when developing scientific theories, there’s no “just” about it. The creation of testable (and tested) theories — this one has been affirmed by the National Academy of Sciences — is the essence of science. Proof is for lawyers, which is why I blame Perry Mason.

Whether you accept CO2-driven global warming as reality or not doesn’t affect your performance as an IT manager. Why you accept or reject it just might. So here’s the question: Are you a lawyer — a manager who demands incontrovertible proof before approving action?

Lawyer-managers require proof. They defend the status quo with Perry Mason-like tenacity.

“Isn’t it possible a new and better option will be available next year?” they ask. “How many of our competitors are doing this? Why not more? What problems will we encounter implementing this? What do you mean, you don’t know?” And so on.

No matter what the facts and logic, there’s always some uncertainty. There has to be, of course, because recommendations are about the future — an uncertain period of time — but lawyer-managers don’t care. “We need proof!” they bellow.

Faced with a lawyer-manager, employees learn to give up quickly. Because these managers are also judge and jury, and the appeals process is usually a career-killer, employees with an innovative idea have no way to win the argument. Why even start?

There are other decision-makers: marks, zealots, politicians, scientists, and bridge players. You can decide which one you like best. You might even see yourself in one of the cages.

Bob Lewis is a Minneapolis-based consultant with Perot Systems. Contact him at ISSurvivor@cs.com.

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