When subversion doesn’t get you promoted

Many resources for up and coming go-getter managers tell managers to subvert or go around processes in order to get things done.

Let me tell you a story about that strategy backfiring.

We have processes for building servers at work. Part of the process is an initial security scan. If the server is clean, we wave it through. If the server isn’t clean, we don’t.

The server needs to hit the ground running clean, otherwise it’s vulnerable until our patch deployment system finds it and patches it automatically.

I’ve built and rebuilt a lot of processes over the course of my career. It does several things, including ensuring that someone else can fill in when the regular process owner is out of the office, and it also does a lot to ensure consistency. Get the process down so that it’s consistently good, and quality becomes automatic.

In my case, I was filling in on the server scan process one day. I only do that once every two or three months, so I’m not as quick as our regular. This guy tried to subvert the process, and then, when I didn’t respond after 10 minutes, tried to escalate.

What he didn’t know is that I’m the normal first stage for escalation. My choices were to escalate to myself, or get my colleague in our Minneapolis office involved. He’s a busy guy, so I chose to escalate to myself.

I had to dig to find the status on his systems, because none of the information I needed was in the normal place. Then, when I couldn’t find that, I had to call the person who normally does the work to find out what she knew. I had to write back and say I was researching the issue, but since none of the information was where I would normally find it, I had to make a phone call.

Had the person followed the process, it would have taken me perhaps five minutes to pull the scan report and send it to him. Since I had to dig and make phone calls and dig some more, a simple request to scan servers took a couple of hours. That’s two hours I could have spent working with his sysadmins, if need be, getting the servers squared away.

Going around the process slowed things down.

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