Raising the alarm on organisational fires

Last week was the last time I accept my professional opinion being ignored, or gently pushed aside, in the workplace. Like many others, I was raised to avoid conflict, remain amenable and accommodate other people’s differences (sometimes even to my own detriment). Usually good advice in many respects, unless you are in a direct harm situation, or perhaps employed for your specific expertise, which is then repeatedly ignored irrespective of the consequences.

At some point, choosing to remain silent starts to take on a moral and ethical dimension. What should you do each time your professional advice is presented, accepted as valid, but subsequently set aside? What should you do when you see the direct human and professional consequences of not taking your professional advice play out, over and over again? What would the Institute of Engineers say about your conduct if you were ever summoned to explain?

What to do if you see fires up and down the software development lifecycle, and these fires affect your direct ability to work, but management doesn’t have the desire or expertise to put them out, and after a while, your concerns fall on deaf ears. Seriously, what is the right course of action? The situation is made a lot harder if you’ve been brought in on a too narrow remit, without the authority or support to introduce the changes required, and yet the issues are deeply rooted in the organisational culture.

It sounds like a pretty dire situation, and certainly not very autism-friendly. Unfortunately, system thinkers and neurodiverse individuals often find themselves in such situations, seeing the world holistically and being able to make connections in ways many others can’t. But at what point does it become okay to turn up, mentally check out, and simply collect a paycheque while the fires burn around you?

As a lifelong consultant, I believe it’s never good professional practice to become normalised to the organisation’s existing level of maturity. Irrespective of the reason. Ultimately, being unable to work at a good professional standard, certain the organisational dynamics were way beyond my capability (if still a little unsure of the exact root cause), and having tried everything I could to improve matters, I decided to serve notice and leave.

Consulting is about bringing change and new growth to the client beyond what the organisation can achieve itself. It’s also why I’ll never remain silent in the face of organisational fires, regardless of how big or small they may be. However, the organisation does have an obligation to act in good faith and meet us consultants halfway.

Hopefully, strong principled behaviour like this will remain a key reason clients continue hiring Better Software UK and Frank Ray, lead consultant.

Woking, Surrey, GU22, United Kingdom