Sunday, June 14, 2009

Currency Exchange

The concept of currency exchange is as old as time. However, it is not about the currency it is about the exchange. Before we had currency we still had exchange. Some would argue it was better before the advent of the money makers.

What I find so difficult these days is that we have all forgotten about fair exchange. The recent demise of our great, or not so great, manufacturing and finance giants says more about bad business than about some sudden change in the world.

When did making a good product, at a fair price loss to corporate management? I must not have gotten that memo. Oh wait, it might have been an email disguised as corporate direction. All kidding aside this is a serious issues and one that affects us all and especially us in the Information Technology field.

We do not always deal with actual currency but we trade with other currencies every day for most every decision. I build trust and relationships with the same respect a farmer does for his crops. I know that if I follow the process respectfully and I watch the crops to ensure no weeds, bad soil and such disrupt the planting then I should be granted a good crop to barter for other needed things.

This takes the shape of having people trust you when you say your project will be completed on time and on budget. In the event of slippage you may have to give up some of your non-cash assets to offset your project issues. This is not a light issue. I am astounded at people who just come up with dates as a placeholder and then say “oh well, missed another one”. These are the same people who whine “why are we not respected?” What did you do to garner that respect?

I am a senior Information Technology guy who has built a career fostering and building relationships. In fact I take great pride in them. In doing so, I have been able to exchange with these relationships things far more valuable then currency. These relationships have allowed me to very successful and to provide many rewards to the other parties in these relationships. It is a constant spending and saving exercise.

I have a penchant for seeing dumb people and bad ideas. When faced with this I get very agitated and somewhat cold. I make no apologies. If you profess to be in my craft you had better be prepared, be focused and be knowledgeable. This is not a challenge but a position of what I call mutual respect. I give you the respect of listening; you may want to give the respect of speaking respectfully. If you think a currency exchange will right this wrong you are sadly mistaken.

If you are a young Information Technology professional and you are starting out in a new position this condition will arise. One day you are going to witness your boss having a social meeting with another department head or a vendor. This can be viewed several ways. The first is of envy and you think “must be nice” the other more pragmatic way is “what are they talking about and how can I learn”. Now if your boss is the laughing stock of the company, the former response is likely valid. However, if your boss is highly respected you are likely witnessing a valid currency exchange. What you are witnessing is the natural give and take of negotiations. Most negotiations are built and over before the formal process begins.

This currency exchange can be between family members, lovers, friends, vendors, suppliers, customers and the like. If all you have is money to exchange then your relationships will be short lived and not very meaningful. It will be fast food approach to life and business. Rarely, in a professional world does the one with the money wield the power. Typically in the technology field the one with the knowledge is in the stronger position. Good business executives latch onto this and make sure there is more than just money in the exchange. Sadly as I look around, I see the old trappings of perceived wealth abusing the hard working. This will end, but it will take everyone remembering a fair exchange is derived from trust, respect and grounded in a common valued system.

You might be asking what spurned/spurred this email. Well it is like this. In the scenario above my new hire to our team did not take the time to learn what relationships I had built and as such destroyed the working relationship between our firm and three of our trusted advisors. One is completed lost and only my personal friendship is left. That one is a great loss to our firm. The second was easily explained and the third with be like the first. I will be able to sustain the third but only through friendship. The real loss here is that the individual still has not learned the value of the real currency exchange. One might asked why they are not fired. Sadly, spineless Human Resource departments prevent the right thing from happening. The only saving grace is that since my new team member will have it more difficult to complete their tasks with these advisors absent makes a good case for poor performance. It will be long road for us all since the basic rule of relationships was lost.

That is why in the Information Technology field some users and departments get things done ahead of other ones. Chances are an informal currency exchange was being adhered to and that is not a bad thing.

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