Point of Attack

by Tom Adelstein

Recently, as in last week, I learned a new Texas idiom. A senior executive at a client explained what he meant when he said that I was beating his dog. I didn't have a reference for the comment until he said that if he invited me over for a barbecue and I beat his dog that was inappropriate. "How would you like it if you invited me to your house for dinner and I beat your dog?" he asked.

I had no retort. I simply shut my mouth and listened. I found it strange considering the deliverables given to me at the start of the engagement: Prepare "as is" and "to be" event driven models as if the company deployed an Open source strategy and justify my observations.

If a process has bottlenecks and breakdowns, an analyst should determine and identify those defects. So, in discussing the matter with his committee, the problems morphed into me criticizing him and the criticism morphed a dog beating.

You have experienced this many times though you may not have explained it as beating a dog. When criticized, people use a common defense mechanism:Kill the messenger. Or criticize the person reporting problems and thereby deflect the truth of the report. Whatever you do take the attention off yourself and put it on the guy with the information to convey.

Criminal attorneys use this tactic when they go after the victim. "It wasn't my client's fault, Joe Blow provoked my client and when we bring witnesses who can verify Joe Blow's strange behavior, you will see why my client cut off his legs at the knees."

Back to the Meeting

After the screaming fit about attacking the dog, the crew settled down and preceded to attack their own shop. I didn't have to say another word. I watched the client beat his own dog.

I have also noticed another phenomenon associated with beating the dog. Touch a nerve (push a button) and the emotions sky rocket. You can read a few comments on various news sites to see the escalation points.

I once thought I wanted to become a psychologist. I spent two years in practice and gave it up. I did find two years of dealing with traumatic patients helped me when I worked in organizational behavior. I specialized at that time in post merger environments.

After handling very upset people 12 hours a day and longer for two years, people afraid they would lose their jobs seemed far less intense. I would sit down and diagram a corporate paradigm and see the breakdowns.

Does This have Something to do with Yesterday's Post

Yesterday's title was "Time to Write About Something Besides Redmond". I attempted to make a point about moving our attention from non-productive to productive behavior. The logic or subtext of the article went something like this: Over a two year period I observed indecent documentation in the Open Source community. I also made an appeal to people writing articles that touched everything Microsoft did to stop making a fuss about them and write something positive.

So, what did I see?

Here's a comment I really enjoyed:

"I won't disagree, but that's because I can't follow your reasoning. You worked real hard on a book, therefore it's time to tell others to write about something other than Microsoft? Huh?"

Instead of discussing the real issue, the commenter went after the me.

Here's some further flotsom and jetsome from the same critic

"Your opening lines show that you're not just talking about yourself. You're giving advice to other writers. (Including, I assume, the Editor in Chief of the publication whose blog you're using to plug your book?) But then you fail to take your own advice at the end of your blog entry (apply it to other authors, no?)."

We have a lot of people writing about Open Source and they think they're famous because they are prolific. So, be prolific in a productive way. Criticism of a deeply embedded vendor of software in the corporate world will attract very few, if any, friends of Linux. But, writing productively to help projects work for people wanting to use Open source Software could make a big difference.

At the moment, people who might consider an Open Future turn their noses up as if they smell something foul. They don't have the familiarity or understand terms like Abdabi, XEmacs, glibc, Xorg, bison and so forth. And, they don't have the motivation to find out.

So, point your attack where it will do some good. And that's all I have to say about that.