Be Prepared to be Fired

By Bruce F. Webster  |  Posted 2008-08-21 Print this article Print

Baseline columnist Bruce F Webster talks about what it takes to champion the right information technology project solution. He can’t guarantee that you’ll succeed, but he knows you will have a better shot at it.

Be Prepared to be Fired

About a decade ago, while I was at a software development conference, I attended a session on how to effect change within an organization. I don’t remember his name, but what he said was unforgettable: if you really want to bring about change in your organization, you have to go into work each day prepared to be fired.

Mind you, he was not advocating aggressiveness, foolhardiness, or confrontation – at least, not for its own sake. But his point was clear: unless you are willing to stand up and speak unpopular truths, even to the point of losing your job, you may not be able to change things at all. Why? Because at some point your choices may come down to just that: shut up or leave.

This takes more that just courage, though courage is important. It means quite literally having your ducks in a row so that if you are fired – or passed over for promotion, or reassigned to some corporate backwater – it’s not catastrophic for you.

Note that this applies just as much to consultants as to employees.

I have known (but not worked for) large IT consulting firms that have been less than honest in their dealings with their clients, because they are not willing to take the risk of having the engagement end and all those billable hours go away. I have also known (and worked for) consulting firms that have been consistently honest and direct with their clients about both the problems and the best solutions. The client doesn’t always accept the firm’s solution, at least not at first – but guess who the client usually comes back to when the project goes south?

Establish credibility; build consensus upwards; prepare to be fired (or dismissed). That’s what it will likely take to get the right solution to your troubled IT project put into place when you face resistance.

Good luck.

Bruce F. Webster is a consultant specializing in reviewing and rescuing large-scale IT projects. You can reach him at bwebster@bfwa.com or via his websites at brucefwebster.com and bfwa.com.  [© 2008 by Bruce F. Webster]

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates LLC. He works with organizations to help them evaluate troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects, or to assess IT systems and products for possible investment/acquisition. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan.

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