September 10; Paying For Nothing
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Nine: Finance; September 10

Seven days from now

I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights,

and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.

Genesis 7:4

Paying For Nothing

The Y2K Bug

Y2K_bug_credit_Hannah_YoestThe world was coming to an end at midnight 31 December 1999.

We had planned for it for years. It was, as one techno-wag said, “a disaster with a deadline.”

The Year 2000 roll-over was going to be big; world wide. No escape. Like the flood, we knew it was coming.

We knew this would be no mere technology challenge to be solved with exceptional American ingenuity. The Year 2000 was problematic with unknown unknowns.

No Internet connection. Cell phones dead. The power grid dark.

Armageddon.

***

In the late 1990?s one-half of the world’s Internet traffic passed through the Commonwealth of Virginia, thanks to America On Line — AOL.com. And maybe another Northern Virginia entity in Arlington: the Pentagon. I think that was a secret.

Your Business Professor had the Y2K responsibility for Health and Human Resources, a $5 billion enterprise in the Virginia government. The boss, Governor Jim Gilmore, a former military intelligence officer, knew what was possible—and not—to do to combat the Y2K Bug.

There was a lot we couldn’t do. And it wasn’t all technology.

***

It was a condition of continued employment that there was to be no interruption or adverse incidents to the citizens of the Commonwealth and the rest of the World.

(We worker-bees could not get it wrong. The world ends AND get a bad employee appraisal. A sub-par job performance would not be a simple career-ending/world-ending mistake. Going out with a bang, so to say.)

Business literature notes the adrenaline rush of the “peak experience.” The Office of Governor of Virginia had this as he had The Whole World In His Hands.

The web had to run for the wide world and more: Virginia’s hospital doors had to remain open; the prison doors closed. Fresh water and waste water valves had to direct flow in the correct and desired directions.

Local first responders had to be able to coordinate communications across jurisdictional silos. Governor Gilmore was among the first to realize the importance of seamless radio traffic between Fed-State-Local law enforcement. (It still wouldn’t be fixed years later–as documented in 9.11.)

There were lots of challenges beyond government resources. So Gilmore hired the biggest IT consulting firms on the planet and bought their solutions’ packages. In my weekly staff meetings I had a dozen of the smartest experts in the business. I was not one of them.

They let me think I was in control at the head of the table. And maybe so. But these consultants wouldn’t let me, a mere bureaucrat, make a mistake.

But there were some mistakes the professional tech-gurus could not save me from.

***

Virginia spent $215 million and nothing happened here or in the rest of the world. There were some problems in Nigeria. We now think it was some kind of scam.

Nothing crashed. Except for that super-secret three-letter-agency satellite…and some defibrillators. Not my fault. No one died.

The lesson learned was that managing technology was the easy part. The cost is high and penalties severe when deadlines are missed. The real challenge is in managing projects –through people — on time and on budget.

It always is.

Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made. Genesis 7:4

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