Guess It’s the Egg Bowl for Me Now

Are You Ready?

Hell Yeah! Damn Right!

Hotty Toddy, Gosh Almighty,

Who The Hell Are We? Hey!

Flim Flam, Bim Bam

Ole Miss By Damn!

With a daughter now attending Ole Miss, I will be watching with a little more interest when the Ole Miss Rebels face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in their annual Thanksgiving Egg Bowl football game.  Hearing her talk about that rivalry reminds me of the good ‘ole days when Texas and Texas A&M played each on a regular basis – before the Aggies moved to the supposed greener pastures of the Southeastern Conference.

Last weekend, I attended the Ole Miss – Texas A&M football game in Oxford.  It was cold, wet, windy and the Rebels let the Aggies walk away with a win, but it was still fun to cheer on a team playing the Aggies.  While the Ole Miss fans were far more focused on keeping their fancy tailgate tents from blowing away than caring that the Aggies were in town, hearing that awful Aggie War Hymn fired up in the stadium made the hair on the back of my neck stand-up. It also made me realize how much I miss seeing the Longhorns and Aggies face-off on the gridiron.

Almost six years ago, I wrote about last conference game between the Longhorns and Aggies in a team sport. Since then the head-to-head team competitions between these two schools have been scarce:  5 baseball games (Texas leads 3-2); 1 men’s basketball game won by A&M; 2 women’s basketball games both won by Texas; ; 3 softball games (A&M leads 2-1); and 4 volleyball matches all won by Texas.

Sadly, there have been no football games in those 6 years.  Since then I have been forced to watch the Longhorns try and continue the Thanksgiving weekend tradition against the likes of TCU and Texas Tech.  Yes, they are in-state schools, but it’s not the same as squaring off against the Aggies.  Likewise, Texas A&M has tried to make their annual conference game with LSU into a Thanksgiving rival game, but I am pretty sure that is far from the same as well.  I can only hope some day the two schools can agree to face each other on a yearly basis in all sports – especially football.

Until then, I will have to get my in-state rivalry fix vicariously through my daughter.  Hotty Toddy and Beat State!

and here’s my walk down memory lane from May 2012…..

Texas Fight, Texas Fight; And it’s goodbye to a&m…….

Good-bye to texas university; So long to the Orange and the White……

If you are from the State of Texas or have even ever been in the state, especially in the Fall, then there’s a pretty good chance you know these words are from the fight songs of the two flagship public universities in Texas. One lays claim to being the first public university in the state and the other claims to be “the university of the first class” in the state.

I am a proud graduate of the “university of the first class,” also known as THE University of Texas and as expected I have many friends that are as well. But I also have many friends (and a few family members) that attended that other university over in College Station. This scenario of “mixed friendships” and “mixed families” has created an intense rivalry both on and off the athletic field.

Believe or not I did not grow up a hardcore Texas Longhorn fan. I was actually more interested in the SMU Mustangs – growing up back in the days of the Pony Express. It was not until I chose to go to UT that my attention really turned to this crazy rivalry. My first in-person exposure to the heated rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M was in the Spring of 1987 during my senior year in high school. By that time I had been accepted to the University of Texas (I chose UT for it’s top ranked Accounting program, not it’s sports teams) and several of my friends had been accepted to Texas A&M. Somehow we convinced our parents to let us take an overnight road trip to College Station to watch a baseball game – without any parents tagging along. It was not just any baseball game; it was a baseball game between the Horns and Aggies.

I don’t recall the score of that game, but the Horns were pretty good that season so I am guessing Texas came out on top. But I do recall the feeling of being out of place in a sea of maroon and white and having a burning desire to talk trash to my Aggie friends when the Horns made a good play. Needless to say, one exposure and I was hooked on the rivalry.

Fast forward 25 years to the Spring 2012, the last year in which the Horns and Aggies will be in the same conference. And for the foreseeable future, the last year the two schools will line up against each other in any sport. I had the pleasure of watching the final baseball game between these two schools this past weekend in Austin with one of my newer Aggie friends – and a former Aggie Yell Leader at that. Texas A&M had already won the series thanks to two solid victories, but bragging rights for that final game were still on the line. As we watched the game we both talked about what a shame it was for such a great rivalry to come to a halt. The trash talk was kept to a minimum, although I did catch my friend mouthing the Aggie version of Texas Fight a time or two. For that most part we were just two guys watching “America’s pastime” – Texas-style.

Lucky for me, the Horns came out on top of the final game with a thrilling come from behind in the 9th inning 2-1 victory. Much like in football, basketball, volleyball, and softball, the Horns baseball team won the final regular season meeting against the Aggies. The Aggies do get to claim wins in soccer, a Big XII title in golf and more than likely conference championships in track, so there is some balance in perpetual bragging rights.

I found it fitting that the last sporting event I watched in person between these two schools was the same as the first sporting event I watched between them. It started with baseball and for now has ended with baseball.

I for one hate to see this rivalry end. Both schools will survive without it, but a little something will be missing. Coca-Cola has Pepsi; McDonalds has Burger King; Superman has Lex Luthor. It’s fun to have a rival.

One can only hope that in time, the two schools will agree to play each other again. Until then we can only hope for some chance meetings in post-season play and hang onto the memories of past contests. And if we are lucky, this is not the death of the rivalry but merely a temporary suspension. But for now, it is (much like the songs say) “goodbye” to the rivalry.


And as painful as it is to type, Gig’em!!!


The Real Friday Night Lights of Texas

Well it’s turn to face the stars and stripes
It’s fighting back them butterflies
It’s call it in the air, alright
Yes sir, we want the ball
And it’s knocking heads and talking trash
It’s slinging mud and dirt and grass
It’s I got your number, I got your back
When your back’s against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall

The Boys of Fall by Kenny Chesney is practically a gospel hymn in the football (American football for my international readers) crazed state of Texas.  It’s not often that the Hollywood version of something is a tamed down portrayal, but when it comes to high school football in Texas, the Friday Night Lights movie and television show might not fully capture the insanity that ensues each August in Texas.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Texas high school football.  I grew up an steady diet of high school football games in East Texas.  I have fond memories as a young kid riding on the cheerleader bus by dad often drove and standing on top of press boxes helping him film games (with a camera with actual film reals) for the dear old Whitehouse Wildcats.  One of the benefits of now having daughters that are cheerleaders, is that I have a perfect excuse for still watching games every Friday night.  However, unlike many in Texas, I am not watching the mega-schools of the state playing.  Instead I am usually watching schools with enrollments of less the 400 students across all  four grades of high school.

As you may recall, my daughters are Catholic school kids.  One recently graduated from St Dominic Savio Catholic High School and the other is a freshman at the same school. Football at private schools is not exactly the same as  at their public school counterparts.  The number of kids playing is much smaller, so small that on many teams there are numerous players that are two-way starters.  It is iron man football.  The coaching arrangements are also very different, with many coaches having other day jobs outside the school. The crowd sizes are also much smaller, usually numbering in the 100s, not the 1000s.  And of course that usually means playing in stadiums that are a far cry from the palaces that seem to constantly  pop-up across the state.

And it is that difference in stadiums that really sticks in my mind as I visit different places on Friday nights.  St Dominic Savio doesn’t even have a home field.  Home games are played on the campus of a nearby public high school, using that school’s practice field that has never been used for an actual varsity football game for that school.  And most of the teams St Dominic Savio plays have “stadiums” that can usually be described as grass fields with a few aluminum bleachers.  There are no video boards, no permanent concession stands (think pop-up tents with folding tables), no hospitality areas (unless you count the lawn chairs in the gravel parking lots) and in most cases no rest rooms that aren’t a good 1/4 mile hike to the nearest building.

These places are a far cry from the $60-70 million high school stadiums that have recently been built in the Dallas and Houston areas of the state.  I think if you added up the cost of all the private school stadiums I have visited over the past 5 years, they would not even come close to the costs of even one of these taxpayer funded monuments to the Texas Football gods.

Fortunately the lack of posh surroundings does not seem to dampen the spirit and determination of these Friday night warriors.  Nor does it seem to hinder the excitement and passion of the fans of those teams.  In fact I think the back-to basics environment enhances the entire Friday Night Lights experience.  I wouldn’t trade all those nights in the cramped, dusty, muddy, buggy football fields for even one night in one of  those gleaming high school football palaces.

Here’s to the Texas private school boys of fall, and their fans – you are the heartbeat of the real Texas Friday Night Lights.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So ya gotta let me know

Should I stay or should I go?


I am pretty sure The Clash were not singing about career decisions, but the last time I heard this song on The Bat 105 – Austin’s Capital for Classic Hits, it inspired me to ponder a question that almost all people face at some point in their working lifetime.  The question of “should I leave my current job?”

Over my 25 plus years in management roles, I was often asked questions that were in essence “Should I stay or should I go?”  While I never answered the question by belting out lyrics the way Mick Jones did, more times than not I was able to provide some perspective or at least respond back with my own question. In some cases the person asking the question was a direct report or someone from within the same department. In other cases it was a peer in another department or even on rare occasions a person higher up in the organization.  And in yet other cases, the question was posed by a friend that worked for a different company.

In all cases, I am always impressed with the bravery to ask the question and have the discussion. Not everyone is comfortable having a dialogue about potentially changing jobs; so when people engage me on the subject I try and make a true effort to provide valuable insight.  I usually start by asking “why are you considering making a change?”  The answers vary from a desire for more compensation, to lack of career advancement, to too much travel, to boredom, to dislike of co-workers or company, to wanting to make a radical career change, and to long work days or stress eating away at family time.  Depending on the answer to the first question, I might follow up with something like “are you happy doing what you are doing?” or “does your current job make you feel fulfilled?”  or the ever popular “so what do you want to do when you grow up?” These will usually spur more conversation and in most cases that will lead to additional reasons for wanting to make a change or not make a change.

Depending on where the conversation goes, I might even use my own journey from which to pull examples of times I either made the decision to make a change or stay put.  Granted most of my job changes might seem radical to some, but there was usually some point in one of them that could fit the situation.  My first big change from government accountant to Big 4 consultant was driven by a desire to not do accounting, and to lesser extents much better compensation and making good on a “threat” I made to leave the agency I was working in if they moved me on to a team working on what I considered an already doomed project.  My next change to leave the interesting world of Big 4 consulting and land in corporate-America was driven by a strong desire to spend more time with my young family.  The grind of traveling 5 or 6 days every week was too much.  And my latest change from corporate CIO to independent management consultant was driven by the realization the corporate officer role I had chased for many years did not bring the expected feeling of joy.  In short, I was not happy and went back to the role, management consultant, that brought me the most happiness – this time without the extensive travel.

Not once did I look back and question my decision to make a change, but trust me, each decision was not made lightly.  Any time that “stay or go” question creeped in my mind, I stopped and assessed the situation.

What is making me ask the question?

Is my current role fulfilling?

Am I growing professionally?

Is my current job pulling me away from other more important things in my life?

Am I happy?

In most cases I tried to seek out the advice of others.  I also tried to balance that input from others with what my mind and my heart were telling me.  In the end, I always went with my heart because I knew that would lead me to make the right decision.  There were times the heart said “stay” and others when it said “go”; looking back the choice was always spot on.

Ultimately the decision to make a change is yours to make.  Getting advice from others can help bring it all into focus, but in the end you have to make the choice.  You can beg and plead for someone else to let you know, but only you can answer the question “should I stay or should I go?”

Glory Days

I think I’m going down to the well tonight

And I’m going to drink till I get my fill

And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it

But I probably will

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture

A little of the glory of, well time slips away

And leaves you with nothing mister

but Boring stories of

glory days

 Glory days well they’ll pass you by

Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye

Glory days, glory days

If you recall from my last post, my 30th High School Reunion happened recently.  A part of me thought I would walk in to the opening night festivities at the VFW Hall  to something that resembled this Bruce Springsteen song – a room full of upper 40-somethings stuck in the glory days of the late 80s.

I am happy to report that was not the case.  Instead I walked into a room full of people that were genuinely happy to see old friends and in some cases meet new friends.  Sure there was plenty of talk about our high school antics, but there was also talk about families, jobs, sports, the weather, maybe some politics, and many other topics.  Not once did I talk to someone who thought their glory days peaked in 1987.

Due to family commitments (my own daughter was having her senior prom the same weekend), I was not able to stay for all the events of the weekend, but I was able to catch a couple of them.  After the Friday night VFW mixer, about 90 of us came together to walk the halls of our old high school on Saturday morning.  The campus, part of which was originally an elementary school, had been converted into a junior high school at some point after our graduation.  And as part of some upcoming construction projects, all the existing buildings will soon have a date with a wrecking ball.  Thanks to the current school superintendent, a fellow 1987 graduate, we were able to take a final stroll down memory lane through the halls of our school.  We also gathered in the gym to take a class picture and hear some thoughts from a few classmates.

One of my lifelong friends (Mary Olga) had asked a few days prior that I be one of those to share a few thoughts.  Not being one to shy away from sharing my wisdom, I promptly accepted.  While I totally adlibbed things that morning, I did actually have some thoughts jotted down, so I thought I would share those with you:

30 years ago I was given the honor of standing in front of you at Wagstaff Gym to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.  If I recall it was some form of consolation for not being quite smart enough to be our Valedictorian or Salutatorian.  So when Mary Olga messaged me to ask if I would say a few words this morning, I thought “awesome, these people are finally going to have to sit through a speech from me.”  Then she told me I was limited to 2 minutes, so I guess you are still getting off easy.

Being back here on this campus where many of us started and ended our time in Whitehouse schools brings back a flood of memories.  Not very many people can say they attended Kindergarten and Physics class in the same room – but I am blessed to say I did.  Thank you Dr Moran for letting us spend a few last moments here before you call in the wrecking ball next year.

And being in this gym especially brings back into focus my pedestrian, at best, basketball career.   Coach Nix was right, I was too slow and too short for the game. That said, I was able to turn that hoops experience into an impressive 13-10 record in two seasons as a volunteer coach for a  girls junior high basketball team , leaving me just a few victories shy of his win total.

Since leaving here in 1987, I have been fortunate to meet thousands of great people from all over the world, but this place and the people here hold a special place with me .  I don’t make it back to Whitehouse very often and I rarely talk to any of you, but the memories from my first 18 years of life are always top of mind. All of you had a hand in forming those memories –  For that, I say thank you. I sincerely hope you all feel the same way about our fellow classmates.

My oldest daughter just finished up four years of high school cheer and my other daughter will be taking her place on the high school squad next year, so I have become a bit of a cheer dad in recent years.  So, in conclusion I am going to ask for any cheerleaders that are in the house to come on down and join me.

We’re from Whitehouse, couldn’t be prouder, if you can’t hear us, we’ll yell a little louder   (3 times)

I need to once again give Heather and Kelly, my varsity cheerleaders, props for being called out of the stands on the spot and joining me in the cheer.

Sadly I had to bolt out of town back to Austin as soon as we were done at the gym, but I heard that the main event Saturday night was nothing short of awesome.  From the pictures posted on Facebook, it looked to be a party for the ages.  More props to all those that had a hand in planning the weekend.

As my oldest daughter prepares to graduate from high school, I only hope that 30 years from now she can attend an equally fulfilling reunion.

Oh, in case I have not told you:  I’m from Whitehouse and I couldn’t be prouder!

Most Likely to Succeed?

All hail to Whitehouse High School,

All hail to you,

For truth and knowledge,

We will ere be true,

Always in our memories,

Forever in our hearts,

We will remember,

Dear Whitehouse High.


My 30th high school reunion is coming up next month.  Even though I have not seen the large majority of them in many years, thanks to the popularity of social media apps, I have been able to keep tabs on many of my high school classmates.  That said, I am looking forward to attending the event and seeing people that were a huge part of my childhood.

As I started to talk about the upcoming reunion, my daughters had me drag out the high school year book so they could check out the teenage version of dad.  One of the things they noticed in my yearbook was the Senior Superlatives.  Specifically, they zeroed in on the page showing me (along with the awesome Mary Olga Ferguson) as The Most Likely To Succeed.  A few days later, my oldest daughter asked me if I thought I was the most successful person out of my high school class.

I am pretty sure the 18-year-old me thought of success only in terms of money.  I am certain I had visions of returning to my high school reunion by private jet, rolling up to the venue in a high dollar sports car while wearing a very expensive Armani suit. And then telling fascinating stories of my exploits as a retired multi-millionaire business executive.

Thankfully, the 48-year-old me knows that money and wealth are not the measures of success.  I may not be able to point to the perfect measure of success, but I know the size of my bank account is not it.  I also know that the only person who’s measurement of your success that is accurate and matters is you.  If you are happy with your life and content with yourself, then you more than likely see yourself as successful.  Your job title, the size of your house, the type of car you drive, the size of your retirement account does not matter.

So, do I see myself as being successful?  Absolutely.  I met and married the love of my life, have two teenage daughters that act like teenagers, have a dog that thinks I hung the moon (dogs have a way of making you feel loved), have had the chance to coach a  number of kids the basics of basketball and to a lesser extent soccer, have seen some interesting parts of the United States and a smattering of other countries, have attended a large number of concerts, have sang Sweet Caroline karaoke style on a bus going through the streets of Manila while drinking a beer at 7:00 in the morning, have been involved with supporting three different Catholic schools, and have met people from all over the world that I count as friends.  I feel like I have in my own small way made an impact on the world.  Life hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been good. So in my book, I’m marking it down as successful.

Do I think I am the most successful person out of my high school class?  That is a question that cannot be answered.  Actually, it is a question that should not even be asked.  No one can say that one person is more successful than another. One person’s success cannot be stacked and ranked against the success of others.  My hope is that there are 200+ fellow Whitehouse High School graduates of the class of 1987 that all see themselves as successful.  I plan on walking into a room full of successful people – none more successful than the rest. A room full of people in their late 40s that have weaved their way through life’s hills and valleys and are still bringing the good fight everyday.

So for any of my fellow classmates that thought they might see the class Most Likely to Succeed recipient flying into Tyler Pounds Field on his personal Learjet and jumping in a black stretch limo and walking in with a high-dollar slick-Rick suit on, I am sorry to disappoint you.  You will have to settle for seeing me roll into town in my well used 2009 Saab 9-3, maybe with an iced-down Yeti in the trunk and perhaps wearing faded jeans, a Ramones tshirt, and flip-flops with a built-in bottle opener.  That might get me kicked out of the Secret Society of Most Likely to Succeeders, but that’s OK.  I’ll be the guy smiling and laughing while reconnecting with my fellow Wildcats.



The Bloody Project – Another Lesson From the Course

I’m alright and nobody worry ’bout me

Why you got to gimme a fight, can’t you just let me be?

These are the unmistakable opening lines of the theme song to Caddyshack.  As a fan of slapstick comedy and of the game of golf, I have to rate it as one of the classic movies from the 80’s.

One of the  benefits of my recent career changes was to have a little more flexibility in my schedule; a flexibility that would allow me to spend more time with my family.  Last week, I had the chance to exercise that flexibility and booked a round of golf with my oldest daughter and one of her friends.  With my less than spectacular golf skills, I highly suspected there could be a slapstick moment on the course.

It was a typical winter day in Central Texas – sunny, not hot but not cold, not windy – a day my friends in northern climates couldn’t even imagine exists in late January.  After working from the world headquarters of Nice Socks Consulting for the morning, I headed to our home course at Avery Ranch Golf to meet them when they got out of school that afternoon.  I was excited to spend some quality time with her before she heads off to a college yet to be determined later this year.

The course was not busy so we were excited about enjoying a casual round without anyone pressing on us.  As we teed up on the first hole, little did I know that our round would be far from casual.  My daughter’s drive pushed a little right of the fairway, ending up on a slight slope near a small outcropping of limestone just to the front and right of where her ball landed. She was about 120 yards from the green and confident she could be on the green in regulation. Unfortunately, the 2nd shot did not go as planned.  Her ball hit the rock outcropping (yes, she let the club face open up) and bounced directly back, striking her in the head.

At first I was not sure what had just happened.  I was watching for the flight of the ball and when I did not see the ball in the air, turned around to see her kneeling on the ground.  She had her hand on her forehead and when she moved her hand, I saw the blood.  Lots of blood.  I ran to my cart and grabbed a golf towel to apply pressure and slow down the bleeding. I won’t go into the gory details of the next few hours.  However, I will let you know that after 7 stitches expertly applied by a plastic surgeon, she was all good.  No concussion. No life altering injury.  Just a nasty wound that will heal and hopefully leave nothing but a faint scar.

As I am apt to do, once I knew for certain that this incident was not going to result in long-lasting impact on my daughter’s health and well-being, I started to think about what I could learn from this life event.  At first my mind went to thinking about being prepared for the unexpected. However, the more I thought about it, the more I began to see that the potential for a project management lesson to come out of this unfortunate event.  This angle is probably due to the fact that my first consulting engagement since going out on my own is focused on driving a significant solution platform rationalization project.

Most projects start off with a well thought out plan with well-defined milestones and details on the steps required to meet those milestones.  The approach to a round of golf is similar.  You know the par on each hole and know in general where you need each shot to go in order to meet or beat par.  But we all know that not everything goes according to plan on the course nor in the office.  Therefore, you have to be able to adjust as the round unfolds; you have to manage the round, just like you have to manage a project.

In the case of my daughter, she had planned for her tee shot to go up the right side of the fairway and land 100-110 yards from the middle of the green. She then planned to hit a nice easy approach shot into the green where she would do no worse than two putt and make par or better.  Instead her tee shot went a little further right than expected and landed in the rough, on uneven ground, near an outcropping of rock, about 10 yards shorter than expected.  Her second shot then proceeded to hit the rock outcropping and end her round prematurely after two strokes.

When assessing what to do after that first shot, she had five options. One option was to play the ball as is and go for the green to get back on plan. The second option was to chip out onto the fairway giving up distance to have a much better position for her next shot.  The other options (per rule 28 of the Rules of Golf) involved declaring the ball unplayable and 1) going back to point of her first shot and hit again under penalty of stroke and distance per rule 27-1; 2) taking a one stroke penalty and dropping a ball behind the point where the ball lay; or 3) taking a one stroke penalty and dropping a ball within two club-lengths of where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

The execution against her project plan for Hole #1 was off-track after her drive.  In this case, she decided to take an action to get back on plan with one swift action versus incurring an additional stroke.  I had seen her make similar shots  from similar positions on that very hole before, so in the moment I did not suggest she do otherwise. Sadly, that swift action ended the round and resulted in a trip to the ER.

In hindsight, the safer more practical play would have been to give up distance and punch it into the fairway to set-up her 3rd shot or perhaps declaring the ball unplayable and taking a drop with a penalty stroke.  In either scenario, she would have likely had a ball on the green sitting 3 with a chance to sink a putt for par or at worse bogey.

She made a decision to go for the green rather than take the less risky option of taking an extra stroke on the hole. While the reward for going for the green was large, so was the risks. They say hindsight is 20/20, and in this case I can’t help but second guess not suggesting she choose another option.

Those same decision points haunt project managers.  No matter how well-managed, there are usually issues arise that could potential get a project “off plan.”  Many of those issues are minor and can easily, without introducing more risks into the project, be identified and addressed quickly.  But at times the issues appear abruptly and are significant and can only be solved by either taking a risky bold action that could get your project back on plan in one swift action but also introduce risks of incurring further negative impact to the project (i.e. your project ends up in the ER); or taking a less risky action that has some short-term negative impact (i.e. you take another stroke on the hole) but sets your project up for long-term success.

In the early days of my career I was usually inclined to “go for the green” when faced with one of those decisions as a manager.  But as I gained experienced, I learned that sometimes taking the penalty stroke or just punching out to the fairway is the better course of action.  As a project manager (or any kind of manager for that matter) you have to assess the risks presented you and make a decision that gives you the best chance of achieving the ultimate objective of the project.  Sometimes that means going for the green and other times it means taking a penalty stroke.  The main thing is to keep yourself and your project out of the ER.




Flashback: No Slam Dunks In IT

I was looking back through some of my early, circa 2012, musings and came across this gem. I can happily say that I survived my years of managing data centers without ever having to declare a disaster.  However, even with a constant focus on change management processes, I did see my fair share of self-inflicted outages.

I long ago learned that humans are fallible and that all the procedures in the world can’t prevent every mistake.  However, I still believe that following a structured change management process is critical to running a successful IT Operations function and that the key to a good change management process is communication.

While I am currently taking a break from being responsible for IT Operations, if I ever find myself back in that role, I for sure will subscribe to my: ” Plan –> Communicate –> Execute –> Test –> Communicate framework.

Here’s my original thoughts from 2012:

“There are No Slam Dunks in IT.”

That’s a saying I have thrown around for close to 10 years now. But one that I think too many people in technology fail to remember on a daily basis. They get caught up in the urgency of the moment, short cut change management procedures, fail to think about the downstream impact of what they see as a minor, isolated change. All too often the mindset of “the easy change,” “the lay-up,” or “the routine lazy fly ball” ends up as an unexpected outage. That break away slam dunk clanks off the rim and bounces out of bounds. That easy two points turns into a turnover.

As we kicked off 2012, a relatively new to the company network engineer noticed that a top of rack server switch had two fiber uplinks but only one was active. Anxious to make a good impression, he wanted to resolve that issue. It was an admiral thing to do. He was taking initiative to make things better. So one night during the first week of the fresh new year, he executed a change to bring up the second uplink. Things did not go well as the change, and I will not go into the gory technical details, brought down the entire data center network. It was after standard business hours – whatever that means in today’s 24×7 business world – but the impact of that 10 minutes outage was significant. A classic case of a self-inflicted wound from not following good change management procedures.

It was actually a frustrating incident for me, because as we put together the 2012 Business Plan for Corporate Technology Services, we were asked to list the keys to success for our operations and the actions we needed to take achieve success.

THE #1 key for success listed was: Avoid self-inflicted outages and issues that take away cycles from the planned efforts and cause unplanned unavailability of our client facing solutions.

So 30 days prior I had told our CEO, CFO and the rest of the executive management team that our #1 key to success in IT was to avoid such things, yet here I was four days into the new year staring at the carnage of a self-inflicted outage.

Outages are close to a given in the world of technology. Servers will crash, switches will randomly reboot, hard drives will fail, application will act weird, redundancy will fail, and there will be maintenance efforts that we know will cause outages. Given that, every IT organization must take steps to not be the cause of even more outages. Business leaders know that there will be some level of downtime with technology – have you ever seen a 100% SLA? Rarely. It is usually some 99.xx% number. But outages that are caused by the very people charged with keeping things running drives them nuts, and rightfully so.

The morning after that self-inflicted wound, I communicated out the following to every member of the IT organization:

We need to strive to make sure that we are not the cause of any unexpected outages. We must exercise good change management process and follow the five actions listed above. As our solutions and the underlying infrastructure become increasingly intertwined, we must make an extra effort to assess the potential unintended downstream (or upstream) impact as we plan the change.

When making a change we must always follow these steps:

Plan – make sure each change action/project we undertake is well thought out, steps are documented, risks are assessed. If disruption in service is expected, plan for when we make this change to limit the impact of the disruption.

Communicate – communicate each change action/project to the parties potentially impacted prior to executing the change

Execute – flawlessly execute according the plan developed

Test – test to make sure that the change executed resulted in the expected results and there are no unintended consequences from the change

Communicate – communicate to the potentially impacted parties that the change has been completed and tested

To keep this goal of avoiding self-inflicted outages top of mind, we implemented a ‘It’s Been X Days Since our Last Self-Inflicted Outage” counter. Basically taking a page out of the factory accident prevention playbook.


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