Management and Trust: a Tale of Two Cultures

Briefly: I have a story to tell of two organizational cultures. In one, called Great Leader Financials, management tends to trust people in the company enough to give them great lattitude in how they get work done. In another, called Rigorous Process Financials, trust all around is low and is compensated for by meticulous processes and documentation. Both organizations are large with many thousands of employees.

At Great Leader Financials, our project team decided we needed to put in place a new server to experiment with some software tools to assist with the work we were doing. One of the team members had recently finished with another project and knew that the other project had a server they were no longer using. He simply contacted someone in management, let them know what was going on, and re-configured the server for our team’s use. Within minutes we had effectively transferred “ownership” of the server from one team to another. Several hours later, the server was set up with the new software and we were able to start trying it out.

Regrettably, in a similar situation at Rigorous Process Financials, our project team identified a need for a server to try out some interesting software tools for our project… and then ran into a huge bureaucratic brick wall. It turns out that at Rigorous Process, you can not just re-configure an existing server. One must follow the prescribed process. Unfortunately, the prescribed process requires getting a budget and project approval. And getting project approval involves going through a very lengthy project prioritization process. And small experimental infrastructure projects are always given a very very low priority. Trying “guerilla” tactics would have fared no better. Simply going out and purchasing a cheap computer (say $400 bucks) and brining it in would have only one effect: bringing down the immediate wrath of the IT Operations people as they detected a new server on the network. At Rigorous Process Financials, we do things the right way, or more likely, we don’t do them at all.

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