Control (loooong)

Subject: Control (loooong)
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Techwrl-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 18:29:15 -0700 (PDT)

I've been thinking about something somebody said in response to the Client From
Hell thread.

Not that long ago I read a story about virtuous cycles. This article described
how the best and most productive organizations have one unifying aspect:
freedom. The people and participants in these organizations are free to
interact and communicate with peers and external sources with little to no
interference from any controlling entity.

This metaphor demonstrated on overly controlling governments, notable those in
Iraq, Iran, the former Soviet Union, and modern China. Inevitablely these
places must open up and work freely with their internal resources and external
neighbors if they ever want to rise to a world power. There is a reason the US,
Japan, South Korea, and western Europe have huge, productive economies:
democracy and freedom.

It seems that many companies think the only way to be successful is to tightly
control and regulate information and internal resources. Hence, contractors and
employees are treated not like people, but machines that must be hammered into
shape and controlled to ensure they remain inline with corporate objectives.

This tyrannical model is always doomed to failure as it is contrary to what
drives the entire "information revolution." The power and value of the
Internet is not because it is tightly regulated and managed, but because it is
NOT controlled or regulated. Freedom is more than something worth fighting
for, it is an economic necessity in today's market place. Freedom is the basis
of ingenuity and creativity.

Yes, the price of freedom is often crime. There is a trade-off between control
and crime. Yes, the freer an environment is, the more likely some will take
advantage of that fact. However, the western democracies have clearly shown
that with a modicum of laws and common sense, crime can be kept in check while
others can communicate and exist freely.

I see a lot of people (tech writers especially) falling victim to the "control
methodology": tighter control = productivity. In the short term, control can
have a significant impact on productivity. Without any dissent, people can get
a lot done. But ultimately control fails because it doesn't reward forward
momentum. Control rewards sameness and adherence to policy. As the world
outside of a controlled environment changes, the internal workings are less apt
to interact with other entities. Thus, a productive, tightly controlled
environment slowly becomes less and less useful as it cannot adequately
interact with other environments.

So, in a long winded response to Gwen Thomas who felt any contractor (such as
me) who altered the security system of her network was worthy of instant
termination - the problem is not contractors hacking networks. The problem is
organizations that are so tightly wound, the contractors (and employees) don't
have access to the resources they need.

What is more "acceptable" 1) to hinder a person from his/her job 2) to punish a
person who disobeys for the greater good?

What if Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Mikhail Gorbachv, or that dude in
Tienamen Square had stayed in their house and said "well, the rules don't allow
me to make a difference. I think I'll stay here and pro-actively leverage my

No organization should be rewarding tyrannical pricks who hinder the ability of
the organization to communicate, invent, and evolve. If I had a network admin
who avoided repeated requests for access for no other reason than he was too
lazy to do the work - I would be marching the network admin out the door - not
the contractor who is just trying to do his job.

It is easy to slap down a law and apply it to everybody. Murder may be wrong,
but is killing somebody who is about to rape you wrong? Of course not. There
are times when rules should and must be broken if things are ever to move

It is easy to see guilt and disobedience in hindsight. But when a job has to be
done and money is on the line - is the convenience and comfort of a few tyrants
really more important than getting the job done?

Control often SEEMS like the correct, responsible thing to do. But it rarely
achieves the ends the controllers want. Control cannot stop the forces of
nature. Ingenuity, freedom, and passion will always spread - like a virus.

Andrew Plato

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