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A Voice in the Dark

In AD 2101 war was beginning. What happen? Someone set up us the bomb! We get signal. What? Main screen turn on. It's you. How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us!! You are on the way to destruction. What you say? You have no chance to survive. Make your time. HA HA HA HA.... Take off every 'Zig' You know what you doing! Move 'Zig' For great justice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Handbaskets

There's a critical time in a company's lifespan where it needs to decide how exactly it is going to grow. For the past several years, it has been a little ship, threatened at every turn by much larger ships. Now, having somewhat better funding and more security, it needs to decide how it will expand and protect itself from these larger ships.

The average company decides the best direction to go is to get a bigger ship. When you run a big ship, you usually have this big gun that strikes terror in the hearts of your competition. Unfortunately, it takes three people to load it, two people to unload it, and a good long time to cool down between firings. And if you go sailing this big ship with its big gun into someone's harbor, you're probably going to cause a panic. Unless, of course, they already have a bigger ship with a bigger gun... in which case they don't care about your big ship anyway.

A better strategy is a small flotilla of ships with light weaponry. You send one into the harbor, and you pose little threat. You have a little parlay, and you bring in more ships when your hosts are comfortable with it. If they start to get nervous, you send some of your ships away, and have a little patience while trust is built. A big ship also has a really hard time sinking lots of little ships, because it's designed to sink big ships. Maybe the little ships can't sink the big ship, but they can change direction a lot faster, and the big ship simply can't keep up.

Consider the defeat of the Spanish Armada at the hands of the English in 1588. When you examine the casualties and setbacks of the Spaniards, you find that very few were the result of English attacks. They were primarily the result of poor planning, mismanagement, and failing morale. Now, I am not a historian, and neither am I an expert in military strategy or tactics; however, having a certain fundamental knowledge of these subjects, I attribute the victory of the English to one decision made by its commander:

Lord Charles Howard of Effingam, having only limited knowledge and experience of naval warfare, gave control of the fleet entirely and unreservedly to his subordinate - Sir Francis Drake.

We may not know the name of Lord Howard as readily, but had he insisted upon commanding the fleet, we would probably know it in connection to a vast and cataclysmic failure... which would have been rather a Pyrrhic victory.

Which leads me full circle to the title of this article. Occasionally, you will be in a contractor or consultant position during this stage of a company's growth, and you will come into the office one day to see the company leadership dutifully packing your project into a handbasket. When you point out that most handbaskets tend to end up in pretty much the same place, they will often respond that you are merely temporary labor, and that if you expect to have some control over the project's direction... you need to get into the handbasket.

Sometimes you really like that project, and you really do think it could be something great. But when your Charles Howard outright refuses to give control over to his Francis Drake, it's usually better to let the project go on its merry way. There's always the chance that the basket will come back full of fame and fortune, but the chances are much higher that it will come back full of hellfire and damnation.

Some people say this is cynical.

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