KIS vs Action Man – a tragic love story

In the high flying world of Big Business there are competing management styles. The 2 that are currently in my mind at present due to a Project I was recently working on, are the Keep It Simple ideology and the Action Man Principal. Both have their proponents and both have examples of successful outcomes but in both techniques they rely on particular character types to be able to be successfully carried through.

Let’s start with the AMP style. This system has the positive of the Project Leader focussing all their efforts on a successful outcome but is accompanied by the requirement that the individual should have a solid grasp of the desired final target. The risk, of course, is that if such a Manager is running a bit short on knowledge, they generally try to cover the shortfall by being seen to be doing something.

Think kneejerk reaction.

Think endless meetings of the Groundhog Day variety.

Think lots of verbal but very little written (hence quotable) directives.

Meanwhile, over at the KIS methodology, the Leader generally relies on the experience of the Team members and is there basically to give overall direction. It is quite acceptable to manage other business when you have the right folk in place. You rely on the team and don’t have to bother with the fine details. The trick here, is to have the right folk in the right jobs and the ability to be able to tell the difference.

A natural result of the KIS technique is to understand that complexity leads to higher risks. Loading up the client with a lot of changes is inclined to sour their experience and when you add software tricks into the mix there is always the chance that one technical feature will automatically stress, if not break, some other technical feature.

Feeling nervous yet?

I have just ended my involvement on a Project that sadly was mired in the AMP format when it most rightfully should have been following the KIS process. To further queer the deal, the contract targets changed frequently and on a couple of occasions every couple of hours. One very memorable occasion involved a change within a sentence which has to be some sort of benchmark but not one trainee managers should aspire to.

Of course the AMP method is a high stress process that destroys rather than bonds the Team and eventually it devolves into everyone covering their backside as their primary aim. The project still ranks of course, just not as highly.

Apparently this style of management was favoured in the States some years ago in the mistaken idea that you get “the best out of your employees”. These days it has been recognised as having a very short term benefit and a real cost in employee satisfaction and longevity.

Of course, here in Oz we like to travel a couple of years behind the US without looking at why particular techniques fall from grace. So we have to go through the long and painful learning process rather than learn from others mistakes. Hey. I have never claimed we are smarter at business than the Yanks.

Sadly the dream is over. The stresses involved in what should have been a straight forward project have taken their toll and I’m back refereeing LaserTag just minutes from home instead of having a 3 and a half hour commute back and forth to Melbourne each week.

Damn, it was fun solving and pre-empting problems,  but in the final wash up, treatment of my staff and the unnecessary complication on a regular basis was too much for the old bod, and health issues took control.

In the end the Project will end beyond it’s target date, the user experience will be more stressful than necessary and shareholder worth will be somewhat diminished, but they will get there. The users will enjoy their new environment and software tools and the business will finally be running unhindered.

But it could have been easier, quicker and a whole lot cheaper and left a lot less collateral damage.


4 thoughts on “KIS vs Action Man – a tragic love story

  1. I feel your pain, Pete. The last few years of my working life were in IT which was also the most satisfying years of my working life. That was all thrown down the gurgler when amalgamations took place and politics determined outcomes. That was when I took redundancy.

    The introduction of new computer systems usually suffers because of the computer illiteracy of managers. Which is frustrating because as we have both found, IT can be a most satisfying occupation, and also a most frustrating one. Too often it becomes the latter.

    Here’s to a more satisfying and rewarding 2012.

    1. It’s a bitch, no doubt.

      If only these chaps could take a step back and have a good hard think. It’s odd because they should be able to relate to being the customer.

  2. I am sorry you got so much grief from this job Pete, especially as you had to commute such a long distance each week.

    I have never been a team player and spat the dummy 30 odd years ago after too much management/bureaucratic interference with my work so I could work for myself. The money’s crap but the peace of mind is worth it.

    Hope everything falls into place for you as it inevitably will.

    1. The weird part was the flare up with my colitis was completely unexpected. I thought I was living the dream.

      But when the arrival of even an email sent me rushing to the Outhouse then the body has taken over.

      As a logistical exercise in both getting myself organised and keeping the Team ahead of our responsibilities, it was terrific fun.

      Bring on the next adventure. 😉

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