I first heard this phrase from my good friend and sometime mentor, Danny McNulty, when we worked together at Cable & Wireless. You may have heard of the book What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School by Mark H McCormack, well, just like McCormack, Danny is full of tried and tested management techniques and homespun allegories that just cut straight to the point and deliver.
Danny is old school IT Operations, no nonsense, get the right people in the right jobs and execute flawlessly. He is a big gruff, Scottish, Glasgow Celtic supporting and staunchly Catholic Scot. An ex-IBMer, who had spent his entire working life on huge IT outsource projects (and he was good at them). Danny had changed sides and was now working with Square Mile Sourcing to help us insource a hugely expensive and badly broken IT outsource. That in itself is a story for another day!
We were sitting together working through a plan when our pagers went off in synchronization with the latest outage (you can always tell IT Operations guys, they have this haunted look that comes from waiting for bad news by pager). Without even stopping our conversation, we scanned the page message, it was very bad news. The message was one of a series about a failed batch process that needed a fileset to be restored, the latest news was that the Operations guys had been unable to read the tapes and that the fileset restore had failed.
Knowing the financial and business consequences, I felt sick and looked up at Danny, he smiled and said:
“Never mind laddie, Management by Consequences, when you take that backup subsystem business case back to the Capital Approval Committee next week, I rather suspect you will get the funding this time.”
Similar events have happened to me many times in my career and I have been able to use Management by Consequences to drive change. In another role I received a distressed call from Malcolm my Head of Operations, telling me that network protection had picked up worm activity and that it led back to some mid range support guys machines. These complete idiots had compromised the virus protection and personal firewall on their workstations so that they could watch pirate videos on the night shift. An Operations Managers worst nightmare.
Before my time mid range support had been outsourced with a sub-optimal contract that did not allow us to manage performance closely or terminate the contract for convenience. This was Management by Consequences at it’s best, the entire unwanted mid-range team was left standing outside the Command Center in the snow at the next shift change. Malcolm went from severe distress to jubilation in a heartbeat as he grasped the significance of my Management by Consequences reply.
Management by Consequences is the IT Operations equivalent of Every Cloud has a Silver Lining. In the many years since that day, whenever a similar situation occurs, I have felt myself mutter under my breath, Management by Consequences and felt slightly better for it. Just occasionally, failure is a cause for celebration!