Friday, June 26, 2009


People Don't Think Faster Under Pressure

Ever been a part of a crisis where IT executives are coming out of the woodwork looking to throw someone presumed guilty under the bus? I wonder if this behavior is leadership or simply suboptimal management...

Enterprise Architects see things through a longer term lens than most of IT. Would you want to use or maintain a piece of software designed and written in a state of mind as if under continous attack from a mammoth?

I remember my days in the Coast Guard when Seaman Big Crow used to outrun me with a heavy pack. The pressure to excel physically is guaranteed when under pressure and this tactic has on numerous occasions been applied to the world of sports and other pursuits that involve physical labor. However, it is almost certainly guaranteed to backfire when applied to the world of IT within a large enterprise.

An important time-management and stress-management technique is to set priorities, and then address each task in a focused-but-unhurried manner. You can never do everything you want (or even should), so focus on the tasks that have the biggest payoff. Trying to "work harder" doesn't pay off.

My current state suggests that I am not only an architect but have several others reporting to me which means for me to be a true leader, I have to not repeat worst practices made by others. The first worst practice is in not acknowledging that people think differently when under pressure. They may be more focused, but they're not necessarily focusing on everything that needs to be done. Pressure places people in a specific mindset, and that can have massive repercussions. This is why stupid bugs can get introduced during peak development times, because folks are in that anxious, sharp-minded time when they're focusing on specific things, but not necessarily all the important things.

People can be more productive for a short time when under pressure because they (a) focus attention on the important tasks and (b) ignore low-priority tasks. Of course, this requires us manager types to provide the right support to those in a crisis and help them understand that while everything is important, some things are more important.

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