Thursday, December 10, 2009

50 - 238: The Holiday Moratorium

Monday starts an annual event at work. For three weeks, lacking executive management approval or a system outage affecting customers, we can't move any changes to production. This is a self-defense mechanism implemented by the European parent corporation, a reaction to the sheer number of people taking time off from the job. The reasoning goes, "Where is the production support coming from, if a change breaks something?"

While I enjoy my Christmas vacation as much as anyone, I've been on-call during the holiday period, and I've handled work calls on Christmas Day before, so I just can't imagine a purely American company operating so.

This is simply one of a myriad of cultural differences.

The most prominent difference is that the parent culture prizes consensus, the prolonged decision making where everyone is welcome to question and to provide input, up to the point that the group realizes a decision has been reached. At that point, everyone is expected to conform to the group decision and not rock the boat.

American culture prizes individual initiative, giving the one who takes the lead the freedom to rock the boat, as long as the path taken works without exorbitant costs in either money or process.

In the current structure of my company, this difference is exacerbated by a recently completed reorganization. Here in Greensboro, we used to act like the internal IT department for our largest local client company; we're under the same corporate umbrella. Now, the parent company's mantra is that we work with common methods on global solutions. Further, over the next few years, the company will be creating centers of competency, thereby locating specific functions at one or two sites, each serving the entire corporation. This means that jobs will be rightsized to a rationalized cost structure.

Because I have a good deal of contact with my customers, because I have accepted the function of maintenance manager for multiple applications, and because I already work on a global application, I'm not really scared of losing my job. At this point, I'm more concerned that the nature of my job is going to change into something that is less enjoyable than what I do now.

Be that as it may, I have a job that I am reasonably well compensated for, that lets me support my wife, that lets me pay my share of the college tuition for my two oldest children, that provides shelter and clothing and a few luxuries for my family. I have programming challenges that keep my mind engaged, customers that I generally keep happy with the support I provide, and colleagues with whom I enjoy mutual respect.

And oh yeah, quite a few genuine friendships at work that I treasure.

So, how's the holiday moratorium going to affect me this year? Well, I got the last of several required user approvals on a package of enhancements to my global application this morning, IT approval to implement this afternoon, and tomorrow right after the end of the business day, I going to move this set of changes to production. Good for me.

There's a change to one of my web services that I'm working with a European consumer on, and we've had coordination problems for the last month. I've already started the process to get executive approval on a moratorium exception on this one, since project funding runs out at the end of the year. There's still testing to do, but I'm optimistic that this will work out.

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