My Buzzwhack word of the day arrived this morning and prompted me to write.
Egolock: when an exec makes a bad decision, refuses to admit it change, and holds steadfast until the bitter end.
While the term is new to me, sadly, my experience with this condition is not. This post focuses on egolock in relation to enterprise systems.
Most Common Occurrences
In my experience, egolock is more likely to be found in the following places:
Large, mature organizations
Management at start-ups and relatively new organizations is less likely to “stick to their guns” at more agile companies. I am reminded of a consulting project on which I explained to a senior manager at a medium-sized VOIP company that its legacy systems might not be sufficient to support its long-term growth objectives. Much to my surprise, that senior manager said something to the effect of, “I thought so. No worries.” I was floored. I did not expect such a consultant-friend response. Although he had spent years developing these proprietary systems, he understood the limitations of his “babies” and opted to get on board with a more robust enterprise solution.
Organizations with more mature management
Executives more familiar with traditional software development and implementation cycles often fail to grasp with new world of SOA, web services, and open source. In the 70s and 80s, many CXOs of today were cutting their teeth. Despite what they may have heard about some of these new terms, they’re uncertain about translating them into realities at their organizations. They know what works–or at least what has traditionally worked. It’s often too much of a departure for them to grasp the present and future, even if their existing systems have significant limitations. Call it fear of the unknown.
Industries with high profit margins
Executives in government and healthcare (two industries with which I have had a great deal of experience) tend not to look at the world through the same lenses as their brethren in more competitive industries. In telecom or retail, a bad decision–or refusal to act–may result in a company failing. Period. Most hospitals, government agencies, and non-profits do not face imminent threats of extinction. Folks in these corner offices can afford to stick to their guns; their organizations are probably not going out of business anytime soon.
One Potential Solution
I have long advocated that consultants act as true business partners–i.e., challenging poor client decisions and not just rubber-stamping suboptimal system configurations. Of course, executives with the most severe cases of egolock cannot be reached. They will either choose a compliant consultancy from the get-go or replace a “difficult” partner if it tries to steer the organization towards a more practical solution. Lamentably, sometimes obstinate senior managers only realize the errors of their ways after a system or project has crashed and burned. While they may fall on their swords, they always have one convenient scapegoat: the consultant!