What does technology management with integrity mean?

A lot is said about integrity. Personal, corporate and political integrity have all made the headlines in the last few years. I chose to put the word in the centre of the homepage of this site. It seems worth examining what I mean by it.

A couple of aphorisms spring to mind. I like the idea of “doing the right thing even when no one is looking”, variously attributed to C. S. Lewis, Aldo Leopold or simply Anonymous - take your pick. I try to do this, but my guiding principle is the Golden Rule. It is almost as old as civilisation itself and features in one form or another in most religions. I try to live by its simplest form: treat others as you wish to be treated. 

This is all fairly generic leadership principles though. How do we apply these principles in technology management?

A key part is understanding the different personalities we work with. The character traits that make for a good coder don’t always (often) overlap with the qualities we seek in desktop support, service desk or service management. It is tempting to assume that this is a universal truth, but it is not. Ruling people out of opportunities because of these artificial boundaries is often a mistake. Similarly, implied hierarchies between teams create tension and competition without adding any value. Infrastructure teams may be more qualified than the service desk, but are they more important? From a user perspective, not at all. 

Like many ‘back office’ functions, IT is heavily outsourced in many companies. Let me make this as clear as I can: outsourcing does not mean you don’t have to treat people ethically. The people working for you deserve the same treatment whether you happen to employ them or not.

This links me to the treatment of partner companies. If you are outsourcing because you want someone to blame when things go wrong, I can guarantee two things: they will indeed go wrong; much more effort will be put into apportioning blame than preventing failure. You can outsource the responsibility for doing the tasks, you cannot and should not outsource the accountability.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about difficult conversations. I mentioned my belief that these get more challenging the further we get from our sense of self. If circumstance, economic necessity or demands from above mean you are making demands you are not comfortable, that becomes stressful. Integrity demands that in those situations we stop and think before proceeding.

In reality we all have to do things we’re not comfortable with, if only because we all have rent or mortgages to pay, kids to feed and a thousand other things. We have to swallow it and carry on. How do we do that while maintaining a sense of integrity? A common method is to simply say “I personally don’t like this but the boss insists”. It’s true, but it lacks integrity in the sense that you’re just transferring the issue to someone else. We could keep quiet and take the stress on ourselves - that’s not really integrity, but it gets you through the day. If there is scope, we should try and find a solution that is acceptable to everyone - the partner, you, your boss.