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Why Don't New Solutions Solve The Same Old Problems?

To start off with, I notice that not everyone agrees with my opinion, which is cool, my purpose for these columns is to give another view point that you may or may not agree with. Although, perhaps the writing style is really, really, bad and that's why the negative votes, I know I tend to wander through a topic instead of tackling it head on. Oh well, at least people are reading and having an opinion, so on to my next topic.

A couple of topics ago I wrote a long piece about big business and communications and how improving communications, or at least that was the point I was trying to get across, would help improve business. If you have everyone communicating effectively and effeciently within an organization and everyone is in agreement and understanding about the goals, to me it would seem that the business would get done more effectively and effeciently which should improve profits. And I left it there, wondering what the next step was.

I have a found a next step, perhaps, based yet again upon my experiences in the corporate world. What I have been pondering lately, what with thoughts of layoffs, restructuring and such that are going on right now, is how do companies become "bloated" so that they need to become "lean and mean" at a later date?

I really can't picture some manager calling down to the Human Resources department and saying, "Hey, we're doing really well right now, so I think we need to get really bloated with unneeded people for a lot of unneeded work." I feel that in the majority of the cases, most managers are hiring more people in order to become more efficient, not less, yet in a lot of cases, the opposite happens. My question is why? and I think I have some partial answers.

1. The first thing that comes to mind is that people who are hiring are in a hurry and want to get this chore out of the way. The way people are hired in a bigger company can take a lot of time and effort for each interview, not to mention trying to review resumes and get to the ones with a skill set that might actually help. And with the advent of the Internet and computers, it has gotten worse, because there are usually so many resumes for people to review. The Human Resources (HR) department can try to narrow the field down, but for technical jobs, I have seen where this has done more harm than good, so a hiring manager probably has several resumes to review. Than, there is the time for the interviews, not just for the manager, but for other people in the group, and just trying to hire someone really eats into their already busy schedule. So, as a result, the first candidate that looks halfway decent, isn't carrying a gun or talking about the voices in their head and actually has some skills that match the job required is going to get an offer and the hiring manager is going to hope they take it so they don't have to continue with the hiring process.

2. The next thing that comes to mind, is that a hiring manager isn't necessarily trying to find someone to solve a problem within their group, but they are trying to find someone who will reduce their workload. For example, let's take a situation I'm familiar with, where there is a software team, with a person who is normally a good technical lead and who loves to code has been having to do more and more people management because of the growth of the product. This person doesn't like the work that keeps them from coding and he/she manages to convince their manager that it would be a good idea to hire someone to handle all of the paperwork and scheduling and stuff and that they don't necessarily need a good technical background. But is this the right solution to what appears to be the problem, which is the technical lead not being able to code as much as they would like.

I would say, it depends, perhaps the reason there is so much people management and paperwork is because problems are being introduced by the people on the team not having the right skills for the job they are in. Perhaps what is really needed is a re-evaluation of the team and where it is going to as far as supporting the product. Skills that might have been good to have during the research and development phase, such as trying a lot of new things, having unstable code, being quick to react, may not be skills that are needed during the maintenance phase of the code. Or maybe there is already someone on the team that could help out with some of the people problems and do a great job, but due to the "real" job they are supposed to do, they don't have enough time and aren't sure of how to do the job they are really interested in.

This is a simplistic case, what I am suggesting is that instead of trying to hire more people just because you can, perhaps more analysis should be performed to verify what the problem is and whether more, less or the same number of people would solve the problem.

3. Finally, I think some companies get bloated, just because they can. For some reason, the company has lots of money and acts like the situation is going to last forever and it's definitely more prestigious to be hiring instead of not hiring, so they hire more people because they can. And so, the levels of management grow, you get people in charge of moving a stack of papers from point A to point B and a lot of puzzled executives in a year or two, scratching their heads and wondering why they aren't still making a profit.

I guess my opinion on all of this, is that a lot of hiring is done to solve the wrong problem and that no one has taken or wants to take the time to see what type of skills are really needed and first seeing if those skills are in-house. Unfortunately, by doing so, there's an underlying attitude of "our people aren't good enough" in some cases or just a lack of common sense. And even more unfortunate, is that it's not usually the hiring manager who has to pay for the mistakes, it's the people that they hired when things were going so well who have to pay for the lapse in judgement and deal with the New Economy of job impermanence.

Now, off to think of what might be another next step that corporations could look at to solve some of their problems.

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