Trust Your Instincts
Although I’ve been in IT for many years, I naturally defer to those I perceive as subject matter experts. This group includes vendors, consultants, and more seasoned co-workers. Over the weekend, deference and my instincts were tested.
An application that I manage expires at the end of the year. Upper management didn’t appreciate the warning message every time a user launched the program. It was a daily countdown till the expiration date. For example, today it would read you have 9 days left before your license expires. Late Friday I emailed the vendor about it and asked if there was anything they could do about eliminating the warning message. On Saturday morning the vendor was kind enough to oblige and sent me an updated license file that extended our license for a few weeks. I wanted to be proactive and please upper management and my users. I renamed the existing license and inserted the new one. The software crashed with a your license has expired message.
I’ve done this a number of times so I didn’t panic. Since I had a backup copy of the license, I calmly reverted back. To my dismay, the same error popped up. My heart dropped. I accessed the software from different workstations and got the same error. I reinstalled the software with no luck. I called the vendor in a slight panic. Thankfully he answered. He was away from a computer but suggested restoring to yesterday’s backup. I didn’t want to disrupt production and I didn’t want upper management to hear of this mishap. I told the vendor I would try a few more things and call him back with an update.
Nothing worked. I called the vendor and he was minutes from a computer. He suggested a reboot, but he seemed unsure. In the past I would defer to the expert. If something goes wrong it’s not my fault. My defense would be the vendor told me to do it. Nowadays I trusted my instincts and pushed back.
I didn’t want to sever active connections. If they are working, why break them? Also I suspected an issue with the new license. I politely declined the suggestion and requested we wait for a few minutes.
Minutes felt like hours and thankfully my phone didn’t ring off the hook with user complaints. My vendor got to his computer and immediately reviewed the license file. He apologized profusely as he saw the expiration year was set for 2014 instead of 2015. He quickly updated the license file and emailed it to me. I copied it to the server. We were back in business and the dreaded license expiration warning message disappeared.
After I hung up with the vendor I breathed a sigh of relief. I was reminded of a few critical items. Don’t panic. Although my heart rate and breathing jumped. Staying calm allowed me to focus on restoring services. Trust your instincts. When the vendor suggested a restore and a reboot, it didn’t feel right. It seemed too extreme for handling a bad file replacement. Stand your ground. Emboldened by angry users loosing connections and upper management upset over an extended outage, I vetoed the suggestions.
In the past I would skirt responsibility and defer to the vendors experience and expertise. If things felt wrong, I didn’t believe in myself. If things went south I could say the vendor made me do it. I naively thought being an accessory to a crime was better than being guilty. I’m glad my new mindset produced in this mini crisis and am confident it will guide me correctly if a similar challenge happens again.
What is your mindset during crisis?