“If I would have known how difficult it is to get NSX up and running, I never would have recommended this solution.” – Sonny Mendoza, System Engineer – Architect, Lanvera
One of Lanvera’s major achievements in 2018 was crossing the finish line with the deployment of VXLAN and VMWare’s NSX. Although, NSX was not simple to deploy, easy to troubleshoot, nor kind on your patience.
In fact, in 2018, I attended a Palo Alto event where I sat at a table and talked about NSX. Others overheard and came to our table to talk about it. One gentlemen claimed he was on his third attempt to deploy it. Another said it broke several parts of the network and IT deemed it a risk. The other said it’s deployed but not in production, fear of it breaking.
All of these concerns are not unfounded. Here is a few of the take-aways we ran into that marred/aided our deployment.
5. Hiring A Consultant Does Not Guarantee Success. After the consultant left, our NSX solution was technically up, but moving VMs between datacenters didn’t work as expected. Routing didn’t work as expected. And many phone calls to VMWARE ensued to work on the small whoops that the consultant didn’t catch. Consultants often expect their clients to know what to look for and with something like NSX, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
4. NSX Training Does Not Guarantee Success. At the behest of our sales engineer, they highly suggested we attend VMWARE’s NSX training, which we spend credits on. My team reported that the training was problematic, from lab’s crashing or freezing to unable to run the content. Many phone calls to support dragged it out by weeks, if not a month or two. After the technical leads were trained, they found the training really didn’t prepare them for the challenges of the deployment. “Thank goodness we had the consultant”.
3. Attending VMUG Did Not Guarantee Success. Although, my team would say it helped. In fact, Sonny took over a session at the DFW VMUG to talk through our NSX deployment with their subject matter experts. Explaining our behavioral problems. Lots of stumpers unsolved. All that said, I am an advocate of VMUG. I feel user groups are important to attend for these kinds of reasons.
2. Reading VMWARE’s Books and White Papers on NSX Did Not Guarantee Success. Forums and communities would highlight these reads, so we absorbed as much as we could. However, the books contradicted what sales engineers and our consultants told us. When we shared our sources for the matieral, “Well, that is technically true, but I don’t recommend it” is what we got back. Conversations got really suspicious. What is the agenda here? Sell more VMWARE licensing or actually get NSX running in a workable state.
1. Having a VMWARE Lab is the Biggest Recommendation We Can Make To Improve Success. We didn’t have a lab, but the entire time either we made comments, consultants made comments, or people at VMUG made comments. Testing these technologies in lab is far better than going straight to the production network. VMUG is an excellent resource on lab licenses for the VMWARE IT pro. Competency of the product is paramount, especially when encountering anomalous behaviors.
Let me give you an example: In my healthcare days, hospital nurses often have downtime in the overnight shifts. Nurses often loaded games and streamed videos on their workstation, which was against company policy. When we approached hospital leaders, they asked for a technology solution: Block the nurses from loading games and streaming videos. I argued overnight managers should keep an eye on nurses and keep them busy. Technology solutions shouldn’t replace people management responsibility. In the end, technology solution won. And in the long run, this technology hurt that hospital’s culture and relationships with IT as an enabler.
Our SOP for these detection’s should be to report these incidents to their leader and HR. Let people processes work and govern themselves.
Jonathan Merrill, 2018
Technology solutions shouldn’t replace people management responsibility, but it does. And often. And not much as changed in 10 years, other than information security awareness is now a mandatory thing. Which should have changed the conversation. But it hasn’t.
My advice on firing is simple: Treat that person the same way you’d want to be treated if you were in that situation. They’re still a good person, just not the right fit. So how do you help them move on in a productive way that allows them to maintain their dignity? – Mary Barra, CEO, GE
Letting people go is uncomfortable, creates anxiety, and often a dreaded part of people management. It’s not surprising that it’s often done poorly. Here is my advice for leaders who face this difficult task.
Don’t do it on Friday at 5pm.
Have a plan. Assemble a team.
Keep it short. And respectful.
Unsurprisingly, EntreLeadership has the best advice for this subject:
FBI’s volunteer organization InfraGuard is a wonderful resource for cyber security. Connectivity is not just federal, but a community of people who contribute to this group. Highly recommended.
The FBI released videos on YouTube covering the gamut of security topics. Although, targeted specifically on organizations running political campaigns, much of the content is applicable to any organization.
Ask any military leader the difference between winning and losing on the battlefront is effective battlefield intelligence. Hiring for culture is no different. This is why EntreLeadership lessons focus on extending the recruiting process, creative interviews, and not making decisions purely on skill.
For years, I’ve advocated either DiSC or Style of Influence (SOI) in lieu of the Myers-Briggs. I’ve taken all three in business settings and I would say each has strengths, but all three focus on approaching communication and collaboration. I found something different.
On September 21, I attended Security Advisor Alliance‘s conference. Arguably, one of the best conferences for information technology leaders in 2018. One particular break out session caught my eye: Using personality analytics not just for culture, but learning capability.
Here is the front page of my report:
Nevertheless, I was and still am throughly impressed by this tool. Not only did it eerily get me as a possible candidate, it perfectly got my strengths and weaknesses as employee. Things managers need to know as they give role and responsibilities, including things to look to ensure performance.
Cabling is important. Its need to be good enough. The problem I have with cabling is that people spend way to much time fussing, fretting and fooling themselves that having nice cabling actually has value.
You should be spending time in meetings, writing scripts or buffing up your excel skills to work out the software subscription licensing costs.
Q. Want your advice on a cabling colour scheme for our new data centre ?
A. I DO NOT CARE. IT JUST HAS TO WORK. NO REALLY. I JUST DONT CARE
I read Greg Ferro. I have read his blog for many years. I feel his pain and acknowledge it. And, although this argument is well written, it is worthy of comment for those who choose to think different.
You see, I do fall in the camp that cabling is important. It’s representative of many things that exist in Information Technology that are under the covers. Cabling determines how serious you are, how disciplined your IT show is, and the attention to detail your team has. Yes, cabling says all that. And when you invite me over to see your data center, it’s what I am thinking when you show off your hard work.
“Network cabling usually only represents 10% of the total technology spend.” – Bill Atkins, during his time at Panduit
Yet, we run the production IT show on that cabling.
“Sometimes you have to do IT two or three times to get it right.” – Former CTO (Name Witheld)
Ouch. Doing the same things two or three times is not cost efficient and often indicative of culture. Did you hire the right people and put them in the right seats? Did we listen to our wiring experts or follow the misguided advice of “this is how we’ve done it for 20 years”? Two or three times in the wire business is great for the manufacturer and installer, bad for the organization writing the check.
Why Cabling Should Be Important To IT People
I didn’t say critical. But there should be a standard to hit, as IT craftsmen. A guide to follow. Here is my top 5 things I recommend peers to consider when cabling.
#1. Wiring should be easy to understand. Color codes and design. BICSI. ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-A, Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings, or the updated ANSI/TIA/EIA-606-B documents these standards.
#2. Wiring should be easy to troubleshoot. As-Builts in all data centers and cable plants. Consistent labeling throughout the facility. Velcro over zip-ties. Basket tray versus cable tray. Combined wire with slack vs. just letting it hang.
#3. Quality versus Crap. Mid-grade wire versus minimally compliant. Wire for the 20 year plan vs. no plan. 1GB is often plenty. 10GB is overkill if your back end can’t support it. Think hard about plenum vs. non-plenum.
#4. Manufacturer and installer proud. When the manufacturer wants to show your work to their prospects, that’s a good sign they’ve done it right. Choose certified installers. Ask the question. Then choose quality products that align with your team’s standards.
#5. Wire once. Your ROI is far better achieved when the installer comes out to do the big job versus coming out multiple times over 2-3 years. Multiple times often equates to two times the labor cost. Your not saving money and the chances of mistakes are actually higher. Wire once, if at all possible. And then ask the manufacturer to QA your job during your walk through.
Today’s blog is from the mailbag of notables. The context of this email is when I was “leading by walking around” and overhearing a few employes not wanting to go to CAB. Not wanting is putting it nicely. CAB is “Change Approval Board”, which is mostly a call to talk about the changes happening to the production environment.
From: Jonathan Merrill
Sent: From My Desk
Subject: Why You Are Being Asked To Be in CAB
Just overheard “Why do I need to be at CAB. I don’t have changes”. Not the first time this has been said. And it’s not unnoticed those team members who don’t show up. Before you say, “busy”, I know everyone is busy. We are all busy. Nevertheless, here is why I encourage you to be at CAB every time:
1. If you do have a change, you need to explain to CAB what the change is, what it will impact, and allow architects and SMEs to chime in. We’ve had one over-ride since we started CAB, which saved us from an embarrassing situation.
2. You listen in on what’s changing in our environment. Operations teams must have the pulse on what’s going on. If you don’t know, how can you react? Putting things together is a skill, just like listening and comprehending. All three should be applied in CAB.
3. Opportunities to sharpen your saw putting in changes. Once we get some consistent muscle memory on non-standard changes, let’s talk about standard changes. Until then, let’s learn from each other and ensure we understand the why about change management. I’ll need your help to train other teams once they get incorporated into our change system.
If you’re working on a critical ticket, production outage in flight, or anything affecting a client ability to process, then your at least armed with what changed.
If your actively engaged in a production issue, clear it with your manager and let him or another team member represent your change in CAB.
Any other reason… eh, no. Knowledge culture, folks. Root word is “Know”. We need you to know. I need you to know. This is the culture we are building. Please participate. Everyone…
“Jonathan, you need to stop reading books. They are hurting your career. Read the email I just sent you.” – Name Withheld (Obviously)
I would bet in any career field, you run across people who say things that are incredibly damaging in multiple ways. Causes pause for how toxic or caustic people get into leadership positions. Nevertheless, the most outrageous comment I’ve ever been told is to stop reading books.
If you know my leadership style, then you know I perpetuate the knowledge culture, which is heavily based on DevOps’ CAMS (Culture, Automation, Measuring, and Sharing). Working with other teams who don’t embrace that philosophy can and does create friction. Which is where education is applied. Culture is critical, we all agree.
So, if your wondering what the email said, I’ve kept it in my personal journal. Sharing it’s entirety to you editing out business bits:
From: Director, Information Technology Sent: Long Long Time Ago… To: Jonathan Merrill Subject: Communication
I wanted to tell you something I learned a long time ago. What you did yesterday or last week or last year is almost worthless. I too have won [people] awards. They mean nothing. The business world is focused on what have you done for me now. The growth of teams is far more important than most anything else.
One of the main things that I desire is that I would rather make progress than simply prove that I am right. As long as the progress is in the best general direction then it will likely make things better. In time possibly it will convince people (that aren’t under me) that it was a good idea. Maybe it shows how it wasn’t. But I don’t try to emulate anyone.
The people you list (Leonici, Maxwell, Wooten) are mostly wrong in any approach they suggest. Each approach has to be custom tailored for the situation. I find that most of the books people write all say basically the same thing. Many of them are worthless and if they are good I take only a few points from each of them that I have found worked.
For example I remember when everyone said emulate Jack Welch and his leadership style. I started reading about him and it sounded impressive. Then I started learning that it wasn’t uncommon for the company to lay off people all the time just to improve stock price. I found that his words lacked practice. So he said the right things but practiced a form of management that basically resulted in turn over at all levels (forced or not forced). In time I figured out that in my opinion he was just another useless manager who had some good ideas but his ideas likely only worked one time in one situation and me saying I would use them was highly suspect.
So really I hate to say it (good or bad) but I don’t study anyone. I keep a list of things I have learned and try to put who taught it to me. Outside of that I don’t worry about it. Graduate school taught me that for the most part. Good management is 50% how you treat people and how they perceive you and 50% of your ability to define what you want. Combine those and you likely get progress.
Sounds seat of the pants I know but how I work.
Let’s dig into a few of these statements, as parts of his email is peppered with logic, and where it goes off road.
#1. What you did yesterday or last week or last year is almost worthless
Leaders are always judged positively by their achievements. Finding the achievement pattern leads to good hires. Not tracking your achievements nor having a track record of your achievements is a professional miss in self-development. I argue all people, from help desk to VP, IT should actively track achievements. Marry them up with your personal and professional goals. Minimally, present them annually during the evaluation process so the organization understands what your about and the value you bring.
#2. As for selling on approaches or styles I rarely if ever do that. Nor will I start.
Managing a team on democracy and goals is good, but if the culture isn’t set to create the operating context of expectations, then that team is no different than a mob. People want great cultures. People desire to know the boundaries so they can freely do their job. I would argue effective leaders have a style and actively sell/mentor approaches to their people. Ineffective leaders do not try.
#3. The people you list (Leonici, Maxell, Wooten) are mostly wrong in any approach they suggest. Each approach has to be custom tailored for the situation.
How can you argue with the results of those leaders who study and embrace good leadership principles versus those that do not? We take what is learned and apply it to any situation. Most situations require customization as no one things fits. I argue studying principles of success does far better to educate versus only depending on your last leadership experience.
#4. I remember when everyone said emulate Jack Welch and his leadership style… I found that his words lacked practice.
I too have read Jack Welch and found many things that didn’t align with my leadership philosophy or brand. I don’t advertise leading this way, but learning how he led isn’t less important. We should not read any book and apply it to our life prima facie. Books should educate us, challenge our thinking, and give us opportunity to change us, make us better, or just entertain us. I argue practicality alone shouldn’t be a reason to not read books about leadership.
#5. I don’t study anyone. I keep a list of things I have learned and try to put [into practice] who taught it to me. Outside of that I don’t worry about it. Graduate school taught me that for the most part.
I would argue that going to college should just be the beginning of your life long learning journey. Not the end.
#6. Good management is 50% how you treat people and how they perceive you and 50% of your ability to define what you want. Combine those and you likely get progress.
Of everything said here, this statement rings most true. And worthy of underscoring as working with this leader for over a year, I can say he wasn’t intentionally “toxic”. He was a grounded guy, with a family, bills, car, and problems just like us all.
However, looking back on what he got accomplished during his time, he achieved very little. Not many strategic things got done. He touched no one. Influenced little. And was quickly forgotten as he left. Does anyone enter a leadership gig with the desire to leave no legacy? I would argue no.
I ran across this comic today and it reminded me of that leader and his email.
If anyone knows the author of this book, please let me know.
“If there’s a big problem in corporate America, it’s that we say ‘Yes’ too much at times. There’s a whole lot of yes going around. The problem? Only about 1/2 of the “yes” responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made. That’s why you need to say ‘no’ more.” – HR Capitalist
You haven’t experienced all the fulfillment of service delivery management until your told something that is so foreign, so alien, that your first reaction is bewilderment. With a dash of astonishment. What the heck did this guy just tell me?
What could anyone say that would create such a reaction? When someone says someone represents the culture of no. Traditional help desk, engineering, and information security has thrived in a culture of “no”. To be accused of perpetuating the culture of no. Seriously? Let’s break it down…
“We have all met that wall. And when those walls exist, people find ways around them. The workarounds make their lives easier. They implement what they think is best. Their efforts are not intentionally destructive but can lead to unintentional vulnerabilities and, potentially, harm.” – Article from DZone
Let’s unpack the why…
First, is to acknowledge no one in management wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to tell 10 people no today”. Talk about a crazy goal. No is a often considered an emotionally negative word, so delivering it is avoided. Sometimes, at all costs.
Second, is often ‘no’ is grounded in policy and standard. Especially if it’s a politically sensitive subject. In my early career, I’ve been directed, a couple of times, to refresh my memory on a policy as the no was delivered.
Third, Leaders are often asked to get creative to say no without saying no. Wordsmithing ‘no’ is a career maker for many leaders, especially in the public relations functions. I’ve been told this falls into the “interpersonal savvy” characteristic, which is a sought after leadership trait.
So mix all that up in a information security or systems engineering context, and you have an explosive mixture pitting IT against business units and developers alike. It’s not surprising there are movements like DevOps to correct the cultures behavior.
Again, all that said, the why of the problem is commitment delivery and lack of clarity that is so succinctly described by the HR Capitalist’s quote above. It’s far easier to just slide into corporate ambiguity versus a clear response. Yet clear responses are sometimes not appreciated by types of leaders.
So, Who Is To Blame?
Many employees who are described as being a part of the culture of no are often swimming to stay alive in a toxic company culture. DevOps won’t solve that problem, nor any other service management framework. If CAMS represents DevOps’s core values, start with the first letter: C = Culture.
If your organization is mired in the culture of ‘no’, look hard at your company’s culture and how you are affecting it. This article isn’t about saying ‘no’. It’s about having the right culture so ‘no’ is not political, but academic.