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Ah yes, but where are the wheels?
October 14th, 1999

The Long Lunches
Rumor is tomorrow we learn the results of the company restructuring we're undertaking with McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm with a reputation falling somewhere between Mack and his Knife. It's hard to get an objective view of the good or the bad of these "reorganizations" since it's hard to recognize the players when they're all covered with blood. You mention "McKinsey" to someone with business experience and you get a knowing look usually reserved for the dying.

I don't think this will affect IT for the moment, but mid and long term it might mean anything. The Paramount Theater on Broadway in Oakland. I can't think how many decisions have been delayed "until we find out". Part of my malaise is this Y2K change of millenium issue that's absorbing half our technical staff. If it isn't related to Y2K it isn't important (and there's a reason for that, of course), but the fun of IT is being technically challenged, in creating and succeeding with difficult projects, in solving problems that lead to a better and more prosperous business. I don't know if we do that anymore. When I was younger I was told the way you make your business succeed is to watch your costs, yes, but better to go out and increase your volume. Better to double your sales than cut paper clip consumption. If the people you work for don't have the knowledge or the imagination it takes to do better, then you're working with the wrong people. If this McKinsey restructuring gets us back on track, fine, worth the cost, but if it's just another reorganization leading to another reorganization leading to another, well then it's time to leave and go play with people who know what they're doing.

I've always worked for smaller companies where it was more obvious what the business was about and how the technical side supported it. I was the guy who initiated the automation of accounting and finance and customer support, who thought about what we did and how we might do it better with more (or less) technology. Today, I'm way down the ladder in a large company with a culture of silence. They don't want us to know. I don't think you can provide intelligent technology unless you know your company's business and how it uses its systems. Nobody gets up in front and says, well, here's where we are and here's where we want to be and this is what we need from you to get us there. A little of that and you learn enough to make suggestions. Contribute. Justify the long lunches.

The banner photograph was taken just off Broadway in Oakland, somewhere around 21st. The photograph of the Paramount Theater was taken on the way to work.