IT Management

My short collection of DBA proverbs has been one of my more popular “z/Data Perspectives” columns. With that in mind, I decided it was time to share some additional quotes, sayings, and proverbs that apply to database administration.

One of my favorites comes from famous behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner, who said, “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution; it is that they can’t see the problem.” How many times have you had to deal with people rushing off to find a solution before they even understood the problem? Happens all the time in IT.

If you can’t see the problem, then you’ll never formulate a workable solution to that problem. This one applies to vendors, too. How many times has a salesperson tried to sell you a "solution" when all he really has to sell is his product? You can’t sell a solution if you don’t know what the problem is, folks!

Disagree with that? Then I offer you another couple of quotes; the first comes from French author Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, who said, “It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.” I see evidence of the truth of this quote every day.

And then there’s Thomas Edison, who said, “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.”

Both quotes speak of our inherent laziness. Quite often, we start to argue before knowing what it is we’re arguing about. Or we get so caught up in our own position, we don’t stop to listen and hear what others are saying. I admire people who change their minds when they’re confronted with different facts or a changing ideology. If you believe the same things today that you did when you were in college, then it’s likely you aren’t very bright.

The Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland books offers sage advice for our particular industry. For example, we can all learn from the Cheshire Cat. Recall the passage where Alice comes to a fork in the road and meets up with the Cheshire Cat for the first time. She asks him, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” And the cat responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to go.” Alice, in typical end-user fashion, replies, “It doesn’t much matter where.” Causing the cat to utter words we should all take to heart, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

Of course, you could follow Yogi Berra’s advice, instead. He said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” But then where would that leave you? Unfortunately, that seems about as intelligent as some IT strategic planning sessions I’ve sat in on. The bottom line is that planning and understanding are both required and go hand in hand. Those of us who practice the discipline of data management and administration understand the rigors of planning; but we also understand the benefits that can accrue.

If you have no plan for where you want to go, then at best you will just be going around in circles; at worst, you’ll be going backward. Planning and keeping abreast of the latest technology is imperative in the rapidly changing world of information technology. As Alice might put it, “IT just keeps getting ‘curiouser and curiouser.’ "

Perhaps one of the most applicable quotes for software vendors comes from American psychologist Abraham Maslow, the man who invented the hierarchy of needs that we all learned about in school. Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” To that, I would add this one from historian Thomas Fuller, “A bad workman never gets a good tool.”

Matching tools to problems can create solutions, but this can happen only if you have the right tools. And finally, one of the world’s brightest sages was W.C. Fields, who said, “The world is made up of only three things: oxygen, nitrogen, and baloney!”

Remember that one the next time you’re knee deep in a data modeling session and you might be able to reduce the number of data elements you’re dealing with.