Jessica Joy Kerr in her blog post titled “Open your eyes to the nonsense” has a great anecdote from a friend, about the software development process at a utility company:

“We make power, not sense.”

But she goes on to make a wider point about evaluating the existing culture and processes of institutions.

Culture doesn’t make sense, to anyone from outside. Culture is common sense, to anyone embedded in it. To understand and work with a large organization, let go of trying to make sense of it. Observe it and see what’s there. After that, logic might help in finding ways to work skillfully inside it, maybe even to change it.

This applies to organizations of any size and in every industry, although the nonsense obviously increases in complexity as they scale, as all things do.

Far too often people expect consultants or an "expert" to come in and tell them  how to make things perfect. In the past I'd only work with customers in a very narrow window, typically to implement one or maybe a handful of technologies. Best case I'd get repeat customers and learn more about their business requirements, and how they operate as an organization and how they make decisions. But more often than not I'd offer recommendations based on general experience and hope that there aren’t unforeseen consequences in the environment.

I’m also more interested in seeing what everyone in the room has to say about their requirements before I offer what could be an otherwise ignorant or unconsidered opinion. It's not that I'm necessarly afraid of being wrong, but different people from different backgrounds in different departments with different goals often see things... differently.

One of the things I particularly enjoy about my role as a VMware TAM, is that I get the runway to have these conversations and collect information with the customer, to advise over the long term as opposed to some two day "best practice review" and then run off to the next project.

Once in a while, companies can adopt technologies in greenfield environments where you can take everything about the vendor’s best practice and apply them. But more often than not, you have to find a way of blending the two. The trick, I suppose, is knowing how much of the old ideas and processes are actually still required and why. You rarely get that in an hourlong conversation. In order to do that you need to understand more than just the business and the technical requirements.

You have to understand the culture in which it will operate.

Nonsense Awareness