A mechanical engineer, a systems engineer, and a software engineer are in a car driving down a steep mountain road when the brakes fail. The driver desperately pumps the brake pedal, trying to control the speeding vehicle around cliff-edge bends, while others do their best not to panic. As the car hurtles towards an impossible corner, the driver spots an escape route into a haystack, where the car eventually grinds to a safe stop. The three engineers get out, shaken, relieved, and take turns to assess the situation.
'Hmm,' says the mechanical engineer, 'It looks like a brake line was leaking - let's repair the split, bleed the brakes, and we should be able to get on our way..."
The systems engineer thinks for a while and says, 'Maybe we need to contact the manufacturer and the dealer to confirm exactly what the problem is..."
The software engineer slowly climbs into the driver's seat and, gesturing for the others to join him, says, 'How about we get back on the road and see if it happens again?’
Technology can rid us of many problems – make us run faster & leaner, enable reach & connection and above all democratize access to information. However, it can’t be a replacement for the actual decision or the culture it is intending to create. Have you ever wondered why two companies in similar industries implementing similar technology can have very different outcomes? Or two companies, one with technology and one without can still meet their goals?
The best technology systems are contextual and focused on delivering impact. And there lies the nub – the context of company or their definition of impact is not portable. What works for one, may not for other and if you are implementing because it is in vogue, then think again.
In the heat of the moment, don’t forget first principles
What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- Is this problem worth solving?
- What will happen if we don’t solve the problem?
- Who are the customers (internal/external) experiencing this problem?
What are the different ways this problem can be solved?
- What are cost/resource/time estimates for different approaches?
- Why is one approach better than other? How will we decide that?
- What changes, if any, are warranted in other systems/processes?
How will we know if have solved the problem or in other words, what is the success criteria?
Did we create new problems / expectations along the way?
- Do the new problems / expectations require solution? (and the cycle starts again)
Despite the advancements in technology and the rise of the machines, the more complex the decision, the greater is the role of the person making that. The job of the human is to ask questions and leverage technology (or other means) to find answers. For example, what should be our compensation philosophy? Why should candidates consider my company? What is our approach to talent management etc.? Expecting technology to ask questions and provide answers on its own is akin to having your boss swap role (and pay) with you!
Technology is an enabler for business and HR and not the other way around. Don’t bet the house without understanding the context for you may lose much than a few chips!