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Are You Managing the Person or the Technology? – By: Chris Gebhardt

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Author: Chris Gebhardt, Director of IT at Air Medical Resource Group

As an IT Director and Manager for many years, it is not unusual for a request to come in asking to terminate a certain technology, block some websites, or otherwise disable access to specific technology.  My response has always been, “Why? Can’t you manage the person?”  Let me explain.

When given a problem, there really are only two options to consider in resolving it (from the 50,000 foot perspective): the technology is at fault (failed hard drive, malicious website, etc.) or the person involved is at fault.  For those issues where the technology is clearly at fault, we replace it or take other measures to ensure reliability. But what about the person?

I always ask about the person because it is easy to turn off the technology but that does really resolve the problem.  If the person is truly the problem, eliminating the technology will not solve the underlying issue and most likely, the problem will manifest itself in a different form with that person.  So, did you manage the person?

Examples are enlightening.  I was managing a deployment for a police department of new laptops.  When I asked the police chief how locked down he wanted the laptops so officers could not “mess them up”, he told me this: “We give them a firearm with the authority to take someone’s life if need be; what harm can they really do with a laptop?  Let’s deal with the issues on an individual basis rather than punish everyone.”

On another occasion, I was asked to block a social media site.  When I inquired to the reason and logic of doing so, I was told “because some of my people are spending too much time on it.”   My response was, “Are you managing the people?  Set the expectation and then monitor the usage.  Discipline those that are abusing it.”

It is easy to manage the technology. It is indiscriminate and doesn’t fight back.  It doesn’t complain.  It doesn’t make the manager feel uncomfortable.  But by doing so we, as managers, are doing a great disservice to our employees.  The problem person does not get the needed critique of their work while the non-involved person gets punished because of the actions of others.

Be sure to ask yourself is the problem a person problem or is it truly a technology one?  The answer will cause you to confront your leadership and management style!

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