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Volume 24, Issue 25;   June 19, 2024: Rescheduling: the Politics of Choice

Rescheduling: the Politics of Choice

by

When the current project schedule no longer leads to acceptable results, we must reschedule. When we reschedule, organizational politics can determine the choices we make. Those choices can make the difference between success and a repeat of failure.
Stacks of books

Stacks of books. The stacks of infrastructure assets we find in organizations aren't nearly as orderly as are these stacks of books. At the highest level, they do have a column structure, which does justify the stack metaphor. But the stacks of assets are often interlocked, and to a greater degree than is evident in this photo. Moreover, if we include people in the asset base, the interlocking can be extreme.

Image by Sarah_Loetscher, courtesy Pixabay.

As noted last time, our political choices have two kinds of effects — direct effects and system effects. To examine direct effects, we look at how our political choices directly affect other individuals, or how the actions of one business unit directly affect other business units. To examine system effects, we look at how our political choices affect the organization as a whole. Viewed this way, two domains of questions emerge. At the direct scale, when we make political choices in the course of rescheduling our work, our choices affect when others do what they do. At the system scale, when we make political choices in the course of rescheduling our work, our choices affect not only when others do what they do, but also what they do and how they do it.

An everyday organizational problem

To see these effects more clearly, consider a typical scenario.

Modern organizations operate atop a "stack" of hardware and software assets, each of which is subject to periodic maintenance and updating. Think of networking hardware and software, identity and access management software, and the like. From time to time, maintenance of these infrastructure items requires an outage that can have broad and severe service impact. When the Maintenance Team needs to perform a task that requires a "scheduled outage," the organization must choose a date and time for the work. Because some work groups will be harmed more than others, this choice is fundamentally political. We thus have a scenario in which we can examine both direct-level and system-level political choices.

Politics enters into this scenario as the organization tries to determine the timing of the service outages.

Choices that have direct effects

In the Just as there are political choices that advance
opportunities for cooperation, there are political
choices that suppress opportunities for cooperation
course of doing its job, the Maintenance Team has multiple opportunities to make decisions that have political content. Consider, as examples, decisions that require other business entities to reschedule their work. Here are some examples of political choices that are fundamentally cooperative and which have direct effects on other units.

  • The Maintenance Team schedules the service outages for times when they expect to affect a minimal subset of users.
  • The Maintenance Team surveys users to obtain time-of-day, day-of-week, or time-of-year data on which to base the scheduling decision.
  • The Maintenance Team surveys the user population to determine how far in advance it should provide notice of scheduled outages.

Choices that have system effects

The choices above do help limit the need for other groups to reschedule their work. But there are other practices that involve changing the basic approach of the Maintenance Team, independent of the preferences of the users. These choices tend to have effects at the scale of the system.

  • The Maintenance Team adopts a policy of replacing any software infrastructure that is within one year of end-of-life. This enables replacement if possible when downtime is scheduled for some other purpose, thus eliminating the need for a single-purpose outage.
  • The Maintenance Team adopts Blue-Green deployment to drive uptime as experienced by users over 99%. [Fernandez 2024]
  • Management adopts a policy of staffing-in-depth to reduce downtime of assets due to shortages of people with the skills necessary to maintain or enhance critical assets. This policy leads to increases in staffing costs, but those increases are offset by dramatic decreases in the need to reschedule projects due to asset downtime.

Last words

Just as there are political choices that advance opportunities for cooperation, there are political choices that suppress opportunities for cooperation. And among those suppressive choices some can be classified as having mainly direct effects, while some others have mainly system effects. Try to construct some of each. Are any of these suppressive choices observable in your organization?  Rescheduling: The Paradox of Politics First issue in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Additive bias…or Not: I  Next Issue

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Footnotes

Comprehensive list of all citations from all editions of Point Lookout
[Fernandez 2024]
Tomas Fernandez. "What Is Blue-Green Deployment?" Semafore Blog, April 3, 2024. Available here. Retrieved 31 May 2024. Back

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