Through The Looking Glass

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Often, when the business of data management frustrates me, I look for inspiration in what may seem at first glance to be odd places.  For instance, I think the Lewis Carroll "Alice in Wonderland" books offer sage advice for our particular industry.  I mean, how many times have you watched a software salesman grin as he spoke and then expected him to simply disappear the way the Cheshire Cat does?

Which Way Should We Go?

But perhaps that is a bad metaphor.  The Cheshire Cat was actually a pretty smart cookie (no disrespect to salespeople intended)! Recall the passage where Alice comes to a fork in the road and meets the Cheshire Cat in a tree?  She asks, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"  And the cat responds, "That depends a good deal on where you want to go." 

Alice, in typical end-user fashion replies "It doesn't much matter where."  This causes the cat to utter words that we should all take to heart - "Then it doesn't matter which way you go!"

Of course, you could follow Yogi Berra's advice, instead.  He said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" But, then where would that leave you?

Unfortunately, Yogi's advice seems about as wise as some IT strategic planning sessions in which I have participated. I guess the bit of wisedom that we can take from this is that planning and understanding are both required and go hand-in-hand with one another.

If you have no plan for where you want to go, then at best you will just be going around in circles; at worst, you may be going backward. Planning and keeping abreast of the latest technology is imperative in the rapidly changing world of information technology.  As Alice might put it, IT just keeps getting "curiouser and curiouser." 

It Means What I Mean!

Then just when I feel that things are starting to move in the right direction again I invariably stumble across a Humpty Dumpty.  You remember Humpty Dumpty, don't you?  He's that good egg who sits on the wall and spouts off about everything under the sun, sometimes without the requisite knowledge to back up his statements.  Humpty Dumpty is famous for saying "When I use a term, it means whatever I choose it to mean - nothing more, and nothing less." 

Those of us who manage data and databases have to deal with this type of individual all too often. If we permit imprecision like this to be tolerated we kind of get what we deserve, don't we?

There are too many Humpty Dumptys out there ... and too many folks who accept this type of answer, too.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, I guess I can sum up my feelings by quoting another sage who doesn't get the respect he deserves - Uncle Joe from the old television series, Petticoat Junction. When asked his opinion on a dispute his family was having, Uncle Joe replied, "I'm for whatever is right."

Me too! I'm for whatever's right!

I hope you don't feel cheated taking advice from children's books and old TV sitcoms. But sometimes you can find nuggets of wisdom in the strangest places.

In this hectic day and age of economic turmoil, rapid change, and constant downsizing, we sometimes need to be grounded with basic realities. Fundamental principles such as "you need to have a plan in order to accomplish anything" and "you need to have common and well-understood definitions in order to effectively communicate" should be common sense. Try to make sure that they are at your company.

This might prove difficult. Once people get stuck in their ways, they can be hard to change. But it is worth the effort. I guess it is just like my grandfather used to say - "people have more fun than anybody."

Or do we?