Sunday, November 11, 2007

Alternate Realities

No, this is not a sci-fi post. It actually has to do with a recent (and past) frustration I'm facing.

You know how some people cannot be talked to? And I don't just mean "can't be convinced". I'm talking about people who'll argue that a square is round and that 1 + 1 == 3, until they're blue in the face. People who'll not accept your opinion, if God himself descended from heaven an pointed at you.

Let me tell you about one such occurrence in a company I worked for in the past (obviously I cannot discuss present experiences smile):

2 team leaders decided that our current infrastructure and communication layers were poorly written (as opposed to buggy or inefficient - which I could understand). They wanted to insert a new technology (untested and open sourced) instead.

Me and a fellow team leader did our best to convince them otherwise. We explained that it would hurt our delivery schedule, add a lot of bugs and noise to the existing system and that rewriting something from scratch would throw our hard-earned stability out the window.

To no avail. They've convinced the Dev manager, explained that it would all be refactored nicely (and boy, do I remember the hundreds of white boards full of UML diagrams) and scalable.

At that point, it seemed like logic left the building. They've turned every discussion into a personal argument. Those who haven't sided with them (and by this time, a group of developers voiced their concern as well), were deemed ignorants and fools. It has become a personal issue.

I, of course, blame the Dev manager. Even in 1-on-1 discussions with him, he'd listen to my arguments politely, but you could see in his eyes his mind was elsewhere. It was as if his brain was counting the seconds until I left his room.

The results were dire. We missed the release date of the next version by several months. The application crashed several times - at customer sites (sadly, with me at one such deployment). Rewrite upon rewrite followed, with a lot of money spent on consultants who "mastered" that technology. Finally, the Coup de grĂ¢ce: our largest customer asked us to please downgrade him to the previous version, as he feels it was more stable.

We lost that customer soon after that and several others to boot. The Dev team entered a cycle of rewrites upon rewrite - all unnecessary. Those who suggested moving back to the old infrastructure were summarily shot (kidding razz - but it came pretty close to that). Good people left. And several months later the company went belly up.

The point? Beware people who "live in their own universe". People who will not be dissuaded by reality are dangerous. If you can't convince them using simple, unchallenged facts - avoid talking to them. Bypass them, if possible - or just look for some people who live in your universe for an assist.

As for me, whenever I'm on a phone call with one such "visionary", I mute my phone and carry on talking. It has the same effect biggrin.

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