One image depicts a relatively simple game requiring a basic level of planning to complete in the fewest changes; the other a challenge that stimulates the organizational capabilities of our ability to plan, calculate risk, look for alternative options, consider rewards, take chances and ultimately, complete the solution without losing all.
Both represent a clear outcome – line up the numbers in numerical order, build the highest possible tower without collapsing. But there is so much more and this is why I like the metaphor.
What I love about both of these is that they encapsulate a lot of the experiences we all face – time, risk, chance, luck, gungho, considered, flair, logic etc. And what I love even more is that each has its own peculiar dimension that with the right circumstances can present a real challenge. For example, the sliding puzzle looks easy but if there was a 30 second timer on completion it might be a helluva a lot harder! And the Jenga tower. If one had to complete in semi-darkness with deceptive shadows then the risk of a ill-timed block removal may have really negative outcomes!
The stakes are too high for an IT organization not to realize the change around them, and even for the individual IT pro, the realization that those well hones skills of yesteryear may not hold them in good steed in the future job market.
So I see the metaphor for the Sliding Tile Puzzle representing the IT Department of the 1990s’ and early 2000s’. Each tile represent a building block of the defacto standard IT department – storage, PCs, backup, print, networks, applications, anti-virus, remote access, service desk, licensing and so on. Each had a whole host of challenges, but as we recall we skillfully move the tiles around because we (1) knew the end result (2) we knew what all the tiles were ( key point for later ) and (3) knew that everyone else managing IT or supplying solutions to us knew how the game was supposed to be played.
Just like the game those days were all about predictability. I mean do we remember simple jobs like sizing an email solution. How many users do I have, how many power users do I have, what is my archive policy going to be, what types of data will we store? Once I have all these answers in my calculator I can buy storage and servers and build a new email platform. Boom – pretty easy. Just like moving a tile. I know, I know, I know – I oversimplify but when you reflect it was pretty straightforward. Agree now?
Being an IT manager in these days was a reasonably predictable job. Some would say safe job.Job for life in fact. Once you had selected a technology stack for servers, storage, , switches, PCs, software, printers etc you really just needed good architects, analysts, internal processes and a competent service desk and,you had a fair chance of delivery OK IT service. And you still had change left to still play the pants outside the trouser hero stuff ( even when you had probably screwed up).
* Consider this. To win the sliding puzzle game you just need to use the ‘space tile’ to move the tiles around until they are in numerical order. Fastest wins basically.
* Consider this. To win the Jenga block tower game you can become the victor by building the highest tower before it collapses ( or it may never ….).
The psychology at work here suggests that with the IT manager’s sliding puzzle game there is safer outcome, and whilst it may take longer than people want the outcome is a given. Risk is low but so is reward potentially. The Jenga block game being played by the business offers potentially the best reward because it is challenging many elements and nuances of strategy and planning, it also offers the greatest risk of failure and therefore, business impact
Now of course these are just two analogies I am using but you can have fun here. Imagine this. The sliding puzzle game represents on premise inside your own IT data center, whilst the Jenga tower represents a move to a cloud computing centric IT platform with multiple suppliers of service and device options.
It works doesn’t it?
I know I am having some fun here but the real real truth is that in the heads of senior IT management their challenges just keep on mounting as they juggle their skills to focus on the sliding puzzle ( the basic IT functions ) and the moving blocks ( the business changes ). Every day they are playing both games, simultaneously and inter-operable as they move tiles, and push bricks.
And as we moved into the Connected Worker and Network Economy that promise to transform just about every aspect of how people live and work, the analogy of the games gets more interesting. For the traditional IT worker ‘comfortable’ in the ‘we always did it this way’ sliding tiles around world there is a new challenge. There are more tiles than the game allows. There is no capacity to add more tiles so what do you do? Start another game? Ouch. Well actually this is what is happening. Siloed IT management without foresight and vision, are making huge mistakes by ‘adding more’ tiles to their IT environment without an eye on the prize. These guys typically are disconnected from the business user who is – guess what – over there building there own game out of bricks!
For the modern aligned IT pro who walked over to the business person and has agreed to work with them on the brick tower there can only be success. Sure hard work ( remember the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary ) but because they agree the risks and rewards together ( cloud ), and agree the governance they are going to play game with, they stand the best chance of building a strong tower fit for the future and one that can be built upon. The modern IT worker has the sense to combine their skills and knowledge of how to play the simpler puzzle game ( because they know they still need to do that ) but have also gained business acumen, that has taught them a different way to build an IT business.
P.S. I know the metaphors dont really work because every time I play Jenga the tower collapses but I hope it works up to a point 🙂