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To Get Results, Bring The Pain

March 27, 2014


That’s the number of badge readers I have to pass through to get from my car to my desk. I work in a very secure building.


That’s the number of badge readers I have to pass through to get from my desk to my car.


I work in an area where if you forget to badge out, you set off an alarm. AND you can’t get back in until security fixes your “out-of-sync” issues. (Although, actually if you get someone to let you back into the secure area you can badge yourself out and get back in sync.

Our building is in the process of being renovated. We are moving people around and repurposing space. That has played havoc with our card readers, especially the “we WILL lock you out” ones in my area.

We also have some very important client information in our building. The clients have insisted that we not put their name on our building, or even tell people that we are working together. Our training rooms have both physical security with the “you’ll set off alarms, if you don’t badge out” doors, but they also have extreme network security. The workstations are locked down pretty tight.

So, security is something we are VERY concerned with.

Here’s a challenge, the easiest thing during the reconstruction would be to block open our secure door. Then, we don’t have to worry if the card readers are being reprogrammed. But, how do we convince our risk analysts to allow that?

People are motivated by a lot of different things. Fame, power, money and pain are just a few. We don’t like pain. . .well, most of us don’t and those that do, scare me more than a little. We don’t like physical pain, of course, but we also don’t like emotional pain, often called stressed.

I don’t like confrontations!
~ Rex the Dinosaur in Toy Story

One of the ways to get people to do what you want, is simply make it easier to do it your way than to not do it your way. I once led a group of engineers who had a reputation for “a lack of engineering discipline.” That doesn’t mean they were bad engineers. In fact, they were all very talented. The problem was they didn’t think through their changes at times. They tended to go out of process to fix things. I could have imposed some sort of penalty for failing to follow the process. I probably could have forced compliance. But, they would have hated it and me.

The challenge was rather than motivate them by fear, to motivate them by pain. I didn’t expect them to gain a testimony of the necessity of following our proscribed process. That would have been too much to hope for. Instead, I was hoping to make it more painful to NOT follow process than to follow it. There are several ways of accomplishing this. The most common is to design your process so that exceptions require more approvals and documentations. (Engineers HATE documenting things.)

My process was simple:

If you get your change requests to me before the deadline, I will fill out the change request form and get all the approvals for you. If you don’t get them to me in time (or by implication if you don’t fill out the form) then you have to go get approvals yourself and do all the paperwork yourself.

An amazing thing happened. I started getting the change requests before the deadline. The engineers were doing more work than they had been before, in giving me their changes, but they were doing LESS work than would be expected of them if they put in changes themselves.

Bring the pain. Make doing the right thing easier, faster, cheaper, or cooler than doing the wrong thing, and watch people RUSH to comply.

Back to our door problems at work. How did we get the security analysts to let us block open the door? We didn’t. We got them to do it. The analyst happened to be closest to the door. When someone had a problem with the card reader, they’d knock and he had to get up out of his chair and walk over and open the door. After a half dozen times of doing that, he got sick of it and propped open the door. Problem solved!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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