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10.5 People

The paradigm shift is not just a technical change but also a sociological and organizational change. You need to be aware of the people issues surrounding an open, COTS-based systems approach and to be committed to dealing with them.

10.5.1 People Issues

Issues that managers need to take into account and deal with before they become problems are

  • People's jobs and job security

  • Staff's comfort and stress level

  • Training and education

  • Performance evaluation and incentives

  • Organizational changes

  • Bases of managerial power and influence

People need to understand that evolving to an open, COTS-based acquisition approach does not necessarily mean that their jobs are in jeopardy. But people may be asked to perform tasks that are unfamiliar, break old habits to form new ones, or gain new responsibilities or be asked to relinquish previous ones.

For example, someone who is used to working alone may see being asked to work on a team as a sign that he or she has not been doing a good job. That person may also resent the interference or have had bad experiences working on teams. These experiences are not unique to an open, COTS-based systems. However, effective teaming is very important to success.

It is important to look for opportunities that provide "skill portability" whenever possible. For example, a person who has done testing for an in-house development team has important skills, but they may need to be augmented with new skills for black-box testing of COTS products.

When people are asked to change the way they do business, it is natural that they may become stressed or uncomfortable. Managers need to recognize these tendencies and create a nonthreatening work environment.

Think of a person, sitting alone at their desk, who has not had to interact with others, happy in the world of development. In the open systems world, this person is told to look up and look around. The person does so and realizes that this new world cannot be controlled in the way that the earlier environment was. With time and familiarity, not to mention training and management support, this person's stress should start to abate. This situation presents a prime opportunity for managers to demonstrate real leadership.

Training and education are vital for a successful transition to open, COTS-based systems. Managers need to provide or point out opportunities for learning terminology and concepts and how to complete certain tasks. For example, a few courses teach the basics of open, COTS-based systems, and organizations provide information about standards (see Section 6.7) and COTS products and vendors.

Managers also need to devise ways to evaluate staff performance and to provide incentives for a job well done. This is a challenge because using open, COTS-based systems is a new way of doing business; old measures may not apply. For example, how do you rate someone's ability to evaluate alternative standards and to select one?

Organizational changes resulting from the change to COTS products and open systems are another issue that managers need to consider. Someone may be promoted to management and inherit problems from a previous manager. This person may have to report to someone who has no understanding of open or COTS-based systems and their importance or who may be lagging on the learning curve. Downsizing, budget constraints, and shortened schedules can all result in or be the result of organizational changes. Examples are the elimination of a maintenance group or the initiation of a market research group.

Bases of managerial power and influence should not be downplayed, and they too can be the victim of organizational changes. You need to lead by example, knowing that others look to you to set the vision and the tone. The people networks on which you depend may change with the corresponding changes for open, COTS-based systems, so power structures and relationships change. You need to be prepared for this and make appropriate plans.

As if this degree of change were not enough, the change to open, COTS-based systems usually does not occur in isolation; other disciplines are likely to be introduced and used at the same time. Examples of these other disciplines are reuse, reverse engineering, reengineering, process improvement, and concurrent engineering. These disciplines are mostly synergistic, not in conflict, with an open, COTS-based approach. Rather, an open, COTS-based approach can be viewed as another improvement in tandem with some of these examples. But this introduction of additional new disciplines increases the stress of change.

Up to this point, you have been reading about all the new information you will have to know before you can take advantage of open or COTS-based systems. You are already equipped to deal with a large number of open systems and COTS product issues. We cannot emphasize enough that the transition to open, COTS-based systems is an evolution, not one big change. Ask yourself whether you are ready to make judgments—or to oversee others who are making those judgments—about the maturity of standards and COTS products. Are you prepared to take a team approach, including your contractors, when you are planning and scheduling the use of an open, COTS-based approach? Your affinity for flexibility and willingness to deal with change will be important attributes you want to foster in both yourself and your staff.

10.5.2 Addressing the People Issues

There are general ways to alleviate some of the concerns resulting from the change to open, COTS-based systems. Ensure that everyone involved in the effort understands open, COTS-based systems; they need training in these areas. Use a team-based approach with explicit, open, and honest communication.

Resistance to change is a natural human response, and managers need to deal with it. Resistance indicates that a person either disagrees with or is uncomfortable with a situation. Managers need to recognize that everyone has a personal frame of reference, based on experiences. Once again, explicit communication is necessary to dissolve resistance and to promote cooperation and enthusiasm.

Management Style

The magazine Inc. surveyed top executives and asked them to identify films that influenced their management style. The top ten films were

  • Twelve O'Clock High

  • 12 Angry Men

  • Apollo 13

  • It's a Wonderful Life

  • Dead Poets Society

  • Norma Rae

  • Bridge on the River Kwai

  • Glengarry Glen Ross

  • Elizabeth

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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