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Sweaty on - The Mediocre Emergency by Seth Godin

This is why I read Seth Godin's blog.  It's inspiring.
Link: Seth's Blog: The Mediocre Emergency.
Full Text:

The Mediocre Emergency

Let's say you work at eBay.

Your site goes down. How many people will drop what they are doing and figure out how to get it back up and running?

Everyone from PR to server guys will be on the case.

Or let's say you work at Aetna. A fire rips through a warehouse and destroys a million policy records.

How many people, from the CEO to the actuaries will get on the stick and make something happen?

Now, imagine you work at GM. I know, it's hard, but imagine.

For years, you've been designing, making and marketing stuff in a mediocre way. No one dropped what they were doing to fix the problem. It's not an emergency.

Of course, it is an emergency. It's a bigger emergency than the things you can buy insurance against, because it's endemic, hard to measure and ultimately fatal.

Have a nice long weekend if it's a long weekend where you live. And when you get back to work, figure out where the mediocre emergency lies and stamp it out. Even better, start today. After all, it's an emergency.

July 1, 2005 in Web/Tech | Permalink


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that's ridiculous, but I like the sentiment. I work in an environment where it is my job to drop everything and solve an emergency. As such, it pays to see things before they turn into emergencies.

I use this analogy:
it is my job to see the train coming down the tracks and tell people to get off the tracks, because the train is coming. I tell them nicely an repeatedly to move. If they don't move, I try to move the train, or slow it down. When nothing changes it is my job to jump on the tracks in front of them, and get hit by the train first, and hardest.

It doesn't do me a lot of good when I'm flat to say "I told you there was a train coming."

For I.T. professionals, it is second nature to see a problem coming at you down the road, and to solve it before it becomes an emergency. Good management will allow you to do that, mediocre management will simply watch you get hit, poor management will step on your flattened corpse and say "this is your fault, can you fix it before we fire you?"

a mediocre emergency is a ridiculous term to me because what you're really saying is that it is a low priority problem that may in fact become high priority later.

This is my measuring stick for management:
Good management: avoids frequent emergencies by planning ahead, handles existing emergencies with calmness and resources

Mediocre management: didn't plan well, but handle the emergencies enough to stay afloat, typically can still make progress.

Poor management: emergencies overwhelm them, little to no planning, can't stay afloat, can't make progress as a company.

you need to learn how to survive in all three types of places without being completely consumed by your work.... and then you need to get yourself hired by one of the "good management" places.

Posted by: gimpel aka chad | Jul 1, 2005 4:04:21 PM

I fully see and respect your thoughts and position. You are 100% right on for your situation.

Seth used GM as an example and I really liked the illustration: "imagine you work at GM. I know, it's hard, but imagine.

For years, you've been designing, making and marketing stuff in a mediocre way. No one dropped what they were doing to fix the problem. It's not an emergency."

This illustration speaks to me more than what is actually presented. What bred the mediocraty? Contempt for the customer? Laziness? I believe in this case it was market dominance that bred mediocraty. Now, from an internal perspective (inernal to GM) that's one heck of a large train barreling down the tracks right? Perhaps so large that it blocks out the sun or looks like a mountain that isn't moving. If you can't see it coming, how can you react? My answer to that is one word, humble, we must be humble about our products and services! Why? The almighty consumer, that's why! Consumers are a fickle breed, they tend to want the best value and service for their hard earned dollars. Companies, particularly those that are fortunate enough to dominate a market, get complacent with their seat at the top of the mountain. Remember Netscape? Exactly...

Communicate with your customers. Listen to their desires. Spend the time and money for decent Customer Service organizations. Treat products with the respect and attention to detail they need. Don't try to ride the coat tails of a great legacy. Continue to innovate.

Anyway, great take on the commentary Chad. Thanks for getting me thinking on a Saturday. :)

Posted by: Sweaty | Jul 2, 2005 1:03:38 PM

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