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Technical humility versus Business (over) confidence

Through the Guardian’s websites promoted links from around the web (Outbrain) I stumbled on this article on the difference between tech and finance people as part of a blog, ontheroadtocode.blogspot.com. It takes about ‘imposter syndrome’ and can be summed up by the Betrand Russell quote it cites “The trouble with the world is that the stupid people are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt”..

In the bloggers case, he’s moving from working in a financial industry that is full of self confidence with a strong belief (or is that faith, given the lack of emperical evidence) that people like fund managers, will always make money through shear self confidence. That the techies, developers, coders etc are full of doubt is a strong generalism, but one that has some merits. As also previously discussed on this site, Jim Whitehurst The Open Organisation provides a number of examples, that when given the right conduit and opportunity, the measured thought of the technical part of Red Hat can have an impact of the whole company.

Like any organisation, Red Hat does suffer from escalation syndrome, where confident people within the sales organisation look to obtain the resources and time they need for their customers (and some might argue their bonuses) from the technical part of the organisation. Sometimes a lack of transparency in the request (leave a few pertinent facts out), stamping of feet and citing ‘this is one of the most important deals/customers’ means that the technical teams are being drawn into a game that they are uncomfortable with. This is one of politics where words speak a lot louder than actions. The key issue is that the responsibility for actually producing something is with the technical teams, not the sales teams who are really the facilitators of what’s being produced. Escalations can get the results wanted by the sales and business teams but at the cost of credibility and trust from the technical organisation, which places this higher than many other areas of work.

Technical humility is part of being authentic; presenting a brutal truth to customers and colleagues is far more satisfying irrespective of the consequences, than covering over issues with a thin veneer.

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