Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Begging the question by giving questions

I try not to make it a secret that people usually don't use the phrase 'beg the question' correctly. Smart sounding people use it all the time, 'that begs the question that...'. For the record begging the question means that someone is assuming that the answer to a question has been provided.
The word beg in modern English usage almost exclusively means to ask for something or to plead. Nobody would confuse a beggar for someone who wildly assumes things.
This brings me to the point of my post, which is when one begs the question by providing a questionnaire. I believe that many answers to questions were begged, or assumed, by my company's management when they formed the questions of a company wide survey last year.
It was no secret that those of us in development roles did have a career path beyond our current roles.
It was no secret that we were calibrated in a closed door cabal like meeting, which was rumored to be more of bout of managerial influence than an objective discussion of the relative contributions of peers.
Managers did not provide much in the ways of career counseling or mentoring. We received feedback on how we were doing.
When a questionnaire was issued asking about these topics we, the employees, answered truthfully. To no surprise, we learned what we already knew.
As a result of our answers*, we found out that we would be working differently. Many initiatives were created to correct these deficiencies. A set of career paths were made by our HR department. Also, calibration was going to be more objective. Managers would take a more hands on role in helping to develop their reports. Training would become a priority. Many of the things that the company wasn't is what the company would become within the year.
To many of us it was a complete over-reaction. It's like how Lewis Black described airport security before and after 9/11. Before our attitude was we're not doing anything and then after 9/11 the attitude was we've got to do everything!!!! WARNING: Details of the overreaction ahead, skip to Monkeyshines to avoid griping.
To the affected, my peers, we learned that new roles were defined with swim lanes. We saw a path that could lead to at least one grade higher. As a developer I could be promoted to a senior developer position and enjoy the same pay grade as my manager. If we swam fast enough we could reach the pinnacle of the non-managerial IT positions with a senior director pay grade. Pretty sweet.
What we also learned was that our roles would be changed. A concept of a Center of Excellence would be the paradigm for our division. Our center of excellence focused on development. We were divorced from our previous projects, instead we were internal consultants who developed applications for different areas of the business.
Our peers, who took ownership of our former applications were to no longer develop applications. Their role was only to design applications and lead developers.
As part of the center of excellence for development, we'd establish and present standards and best practices in parallel with our other projects. Our projects and tasks in general were all paralleled, instead of having a few things to work on, we had many things. When a project ramped down, we were put on another project that was ramping up. When an employee was needed on a new project a contractor would be tasked with cleaning up the mess with the old project.
Ok, I hope I've communicated that big changes were carried out for the sake of meeting the gaps that were reported in the survey. We knew that these measures were from the survey because the managers and HR people who presented these changes reminded us that they heard us loud and clear. Some of us even questioned whether they were trying to communicate that if we were to report any future shortcomings that another overcorrection would be forthcoming.
What was not asked, but what was later begged, is whether that system was so bad that we should scrap the whole thing. What wasn't asked, but what was later begged, is whether this 20/70/10 Jack Welch system, i.e., reward and remove; rank and yank; calibrate and eviscerate; praise and phase(out); pick and kick; salute and boot employees was such a good system after all these years.
It feels like the changes were a foregone conclusion and the questions were written to make us feel empowered after the fact.

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