What comes to mind when you hear that word?Predictable, Regular, Procedural?
or maybe,Monotonous, Mundane, Tedious?
I’ll confess, for me it is the latter. I’m an IT guy but most definitely a projects guy. So I need my challenges to have a start, middle and most importantly an end. I need closure, a result, an outcome, something to look back on, hopefully with a proud sense of achievement, but at the very least to feel that I’ve learned something.So when I took on running our IT Operations and Service Management team I was a little nervous about how well I could cope with shifting my mind set. Running an operations team requires one to value the positive side of routines, recognising the importance of stability and repetition, rejoicing in the bliss of calm normality.
Three years on and I’m still in awe at the professionalism and passion that I see from my team every day in tackling numerous challenges in the knowledge that there will be more of the same the very next day. They work tirelessly, often at unsociable hours, with the only measure of success being that no one really notices anything different. Then on one cold Tuesday morning in January my new life of successful normality was shattered. Clicking through my regular news feeds I came across an article that ruined my customary bowl of muesli. Our data centre provider had entered into administration. This was not predictable, certainly not normal, and far from maintaining any sense of stability.During the week that followed a bad situation developed into and increasingly worse one as it became clear that the administrators were struggling to find a buyer for the business. This culminated in a demand for their top 20 clients to each pay a substantial fee to keep the data centre running for just one week. Clearly an unsustainable position, and so a plan was required - this was certainly not going to be routine.
Rather than bore you with the technical details, impressive that they are, I will save that for another day and for another blogger to articulate the complexity of what we achieved.
Instead, I would like to focus on the phenomenal teamwork that I observed over an intense 48 hours. I saw everything from utter despair through to complete joy. Individuals often diametrically opposed on pretty much everything working tirelessly to help each other into the small hours.Tensions rose, patience wore thin, moods plummeted, but never for long. Such was the enormity of the task at hand that no one was under any illusion that in order to succeed an extraordinary effort was required. Individual brilliance had to be coupled with selfless support of others in order for the goal to be achieved. There was a plan, in fact there were many plans, but these were constantly re-written as the complexity of the task required quick thinking to adapt to emerging challenges, regroup and then move forwards.
The team, which was spread across several sites, became united by a common goal, and demonstrated that, given the right resources, good communication and a positive attitude, anything is possible.What I personally learned that weekend is this: I know routines are absolutely necessary to get through life. They provide structure and certainty to an otherwise chaotic world. But they are largely over-looked. The teams that deliver the flagship projects are in the spotlight, living or dying by their results which are there for all to see. I know. I’ve built a career on it.
However in a crisis, when all seems lost, when plans are constantly being torn up, it’s not the project guy that you need, it’s the operational one. They know that nothing is routine, nothing is quite what it seems. Plans are good but rarely last beyond the time it takes to write them down. Expertise, teamwork, speed of thought, perseverance and determination, these are all qualities that help you in the small hours to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try and find another way forward.To succeed a great company needs great products and services, created by talented, innovative individuals. But equally it needs these to be delivered on a daily basis without fail by exceptional, assiduous but most of all reliable teams.
TDX Group has both, in abundance.
By Martin Shaw, Director of IT, TDX Group