Friday, 2 July 2010

Confidence vs Arrogance

I like to think that I am pretty confident, and generally for a good reason. Over the years, I've proven my skills many times - I've managed my teams, my budgets, some big projects and delivered real measurable benefits to the various companies that I have worked for. When I am in a particularly good mood, you may hear me say that I can fix anything, given the time and resources.

In fact, at one previous position, I was known as the "go-to guy" - if they had an issue, the first name that came up was mine. Where was I. what was I doing, could I be moved to take care of the problem. My direct manager loved to use football metaphors -he told me that whenever someone fumbled the ball, they looked to me to pick it up and run with it.

Having said that, I recognise that I don't always know the answer. Sometimes, it is necessary to fully analyse a problem, and look at alternative answers before choosing a course of action. It's often necessary to look to other people for advice and support - and sometimes even relatively junior members of staff can have good ideas. It's foolish to ignore these just because of the status of the person, but a lot of people will do just that. And I'm more than happy to accept that I've made a few bad decisions at times - but I always try to learn from these so that I can prevent them being made again.

The problem is that sometimes, confidence can cross the line into arrogance. I would suggest that a couple of our consultants have crossed that line - and one guy in particular stands out.

When we first started the project, some 3 years ago, we were given a series of resumes of the people that would be working on the project with us from the consultancy. These looked really good, with a group of people that had all had at least 6 projects and and an average of 8 years working with SAP.

Unfortunately, none of these people were ever "available" to actually work on our project, so we had a group of people that we knew little about. What became clear was that in most cases, they had limited experience - an average of 2 or 3 projects with at most a couple of years experience.

However, the one particular guy was uber confident - if you listened to him, he had almost 20 years experience of SAP and had worked on literally dozens of projects. He certainly seemed to be the one that the others looked to for advice whatever the problem.

As it happens, I met someone that knows this guy from a previous implementation. It turns out that he actually only has had coming up for 6 years experience, and our project is the first one that he has worked on for the whole lifecycle. Of the other projects he worked on, not one was for more than 5 months, and several of them were jobs that were being done at the same time and he was only a minor player in each one.

Added to that, the reason that his colleagues look to him, is that he makes changes without telling anyone or documenting the work - if someone has an issue, they check to see if it is caused by something that he has done. As for him being the one with the answers, it turns out that he has a direct line to some people that have a great deal of SAP experience, and whenever he hits a snag, he calls them - but then he presents their answer as his own.

Now to be fair, the guy has worked hard on our project - he has listed more days work than anyone else. He has dealt with complex requirements and produced some really good work, things that will eventually mean that we can get more out of our investment in SAP. It has taken a while but we are starting to see some of the benefits, and if we persist, I think that we will eventually have a system that we can be proud of.

The problem for me tho', is that it has taken a lot longer to get where we need to be, and that his over confidence has not helped us. A big issue is that he doesn't want to share his knowledge - he likes to do the work himself. This may be quicker in the short term, but it is clear that a key requirement for success with SAP is knowledge transfer, getting people to learn how to do things for themselves. It's also very frustrating when he makes decisons without sharing the reasons behind them - and particularly when subsequently they prove to be wrong, so that the work has to be re-done.

What really worries me is that now it has been agreed that this guy will be staying on to assist with carrying out a software upgrade instead of one of their basis guys being made available. I did ask him if he had done this work before, and he became quite incensed by the question, accusing me of not trusting him. Well it is quite simple - I can't trust him as he has been proven wrong several times with fairly serious consequences. The upgrade is a major step, and he has never even installed the software before, yet he seems to be utterly confident that he can do the upgrade work without a hitch.

Well we will see.


  1. 向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

  2. I've found that a consultant's arrogance is indirectly proportional to their true experience. They can't justify their recommendations with any logic or system examples/descriptions so they just hide behind phrases like "it's best practice" or are rude. It is a negative by-product of the consulting industry... I think a lot of consultants that recently left their long term jobs to become consultants, are eager to live up to this stereotype if only because of what they've witnessed from the arrogant consultants who worked on their project. It's all they know.