IT Management

In studying change, a new cognitive science was created—a fusion of psychology and neuroscience. Studies have shown that change is actually painful; it causes physiological discomfort.

New information and new ideas require you to use working memory, which activates the prefrontal cortex. This is an energy-intensive part of the brain, which means that change also can produce mental exhaustion. The orbital frontal cortex sees changes in expectations as errors. Such an interpretation, which you have no control over, can trigger the amygdale portion of your brain, where fear resides. All this happens without engaging your conscious mind; it bypasses rational thought. Though you can’t overcome your physiology, you can understand it. Once you understand how an “amygdala hijack” works, you can then plan to manage your inevitable reaction.

The commons of SOA: SOA implies a share-everything world. In 1968, Garrett Hardin, a leading and controversial ecologist and author of “The Tragedy of the Commons,” noted a problem with resources held in common. He used the analogy of a shared grazing pasture—a common—where the value of increasing your own herd outweighs the “cost” to you of overgrazing. The cost of overgrazing is shared by everyone, where the extra cattle benefit only you. But when everyone behaves this way, the commons is exhausted; in IT terms, capacity is exhausted and performance suffers. A current analogy is the overfishing of the oceans. What incentive does a fisherman or a country have to hold back on fishing without assurance that everyone else will? The core of the problem is a conflict between individual interests and the common good.

Without organizational change, services can become an unmanaged “commons,” where benefit accrues to the line of business that really exploits the services (and more important, the resources backing them), perhaps skewing development to favor the line of business. Who manages and controls the services? How do you charge back? Who watches the watchers?

Long before Hardin formulated his First Law of Ecology theory, Aristotle noted one of the problems that can arise: “That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.” Remember the problems that arose soon after CICS regions became a shared resource? This is a much bigger and more complex problem.

When CICS Multi-Region Option (MRO) took off, business units saw each other as competitors, vying for resources and development efforts. Problems occurring in the region could have an impact on everyone. A looping transaction could stop everyone in their tracks, absorbing all the virtual storage or CPU cycles. It’s human nature to act in one’s own best interest, which makes managing the commons so difficult.

Newtonian organizations: Organizations will have to change if SOA is to succeed. Brenda Michelson, principal of Elemental Links, an advisory and consulting practice focused on business-driven IT, defines SOA as “Siloed Organization Abolishment” and “Seizing Operational Agility,” which speaks to the need for change in this area. Business units can no more “own” a service than they can a CICS region or UNIX server. If they can’t own it, they can’t control it. Who pays? Who ensures performance?

Research with children indicates that silo-busting can begin by bringing groups together to work on cooperative, mutually beneficial projects. This might be the first step toward implementing a new organizational design with a new SOA project. Test the concept by pulling together individuals from different organizations and lines of business to create a new team.

From the beginning, organizations were structured along Newtonian, closed-loop principles—the organization as a machine. This isn’t surprising; the field of Organizational Development (OD) arose from the work of engineers and those who admired them. This model leads to a set of working principles:

• Manage by separating everything into component parts (tasks)
• Influence is a direct result of one person applying force to another
• Plan by assuming the future is predictable
• Assume there are objective measures to describe everything
• All creativity is bounded in the organization
• The world is defined by boundaries that separate one thing (person) from another
• Chaos and disorder are bad things.

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