Smmry: Harvard Bsns Review, etc. - 'Connectivity and Control in the Y2K & Beyond' : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread


This is my first posting here. I am very impressed and encouraged by this salon. I've been in computer design for 16 years (10 years in Silicon Valley where I still am today). I seriously began to consider the social implications of y2k last February, after Doug Carmichael had gently yet unsuccessfully to bring y2k to my attention for 6 months until then. Within a week, I began full time volunteer work on helping to co-create better y2k responses- community and otherwise. Now, I'm looking for creative ways to fund this necessary y2k prep work. Tom Atlee forwarded me Cynthia's mail on this salon and community fiscal planning a while back. In her message, Cynthia tried to encourage her mayor to prepare, but he said not to worry, IT has everything under control. This is an often heard response.

The current issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR-jul/aug 98) has a good y2k article for increasing business leaders awareness and strategizing, especially if they are new to the problem. It often mentions that if you think your IT department is handling everything, you have a problem. It'd be cool to get a similar article of 14 people working in communities on y2k into the mainstream, maybe in Time or Newsweek? HBR, of course, focuses on senior managers, but once in a great while hint at breakthrough, especially when they speak of what opportunites y2k provides. It's 12 pages long, and worth checking out at the library or newstand. I typed up some interesting quotes in hope that they help us bring in the players:

The article is entitled 'Connectivity and Control in the Year 2000 and Beyond' The introduction is by author Richard L Nolan, William Harding Professor of Management of Technology at Harvard Business School

Interesting quotes include:

'Managing in the new millennium will mean managing through uncertainty and perhaps managing through disaster.'

...y2k 'is turning out to be much harder to address than most people thought, on several levels. Why? Because the problem is more pervasive than it appears, and too many companies have failed to recognize that fact for too long. It's one thing to correct code that is readily visible- in payroll systems, for example, or in distribution and sales tracking programs. But what of the code embedded in the tens of billions of microprocessor chips installed in automated teller machines, elevators, process control equipment, global positioning systems, and the like?'

Then follows a story on a raw sewage plant that thought they were fully y2k compliant, but in testing by setting clocks to Jan 1, 2000, they were surprised to find raw sewage pumped directly into the harbor.

'It has become apparent that there will not be enough time to find and fix all of the problems by January 1, 2000. And what good will it do if your computers work but they're connected to systems that won't? ... How will you prepare your organization when things go wrong?'

Next a story about swiping a bankcard with a year 2000 expiration date in a big store and all checkout terminals shutdown. 'I believe such incidents will multiply, triggering chain reactions that will waste a startling amount of resources. And while such direct costs are huge, I think that the indirect costs are higher.'

'And make no mistake about it, y2k is not an isolated problem. Rather it is the leading example of a class of issues- a new kind of uncertainty brewing as the world becomes more connected electronically-that senior managers are going to face with increasing frequency. Which is why we have asked 14 individuals, each expert in a different aspect of the y2k problem, to discuss the issue and offer their ideas on how senior managers should think about connectivity and control in the year 2000 and beyond'

(part 2 follows)

-- Mary Ann Gallagher (, July 30, 1998


(part 2)

Jack Brennan chairman and CEO of the Vanguard Group in Valley Forge, Penn.

'It's frightening that there are still pockets of ignorance among key constituencies at corporations- especially since each one is another way the y2k problem could remain untreated, leaving vulnerable even those who are most prepared. Y2k presents senior managers with a serious problems and an immutable deadline. (if you have not yet begun to address the problem, you are indeed in trouble.) But the issue also present senior managers with an opportunity to look at the bigger picture. You can- and should use the y2k issue as a way to create awareness among board members, senior managers, and employees throughout your company of the risks and opportunities afforded by technology. Ultimately, we all want to make sure we begin the next millennium with vibrant functioning organizations. And the way to do that is to treat both as an issue unto itself and as a catalyst spurring us to think about the broader issues associated with our rapidly increasing reliance on technology.

... Are your various teams fixing each affected system individually and, if so, how are you making sure that those individuals will function collectively when the time comes? Time may be short, but fixes in many different places are not the answer. You need to be certain that all of your systems can - and will- interrelate as they should.

...I think most organizations should be spending time conducting dry runs and planning for possible scenarios. Call it constructive paranoia, if you will.'

...How will you cordon off any affected areas of your organization so that they have as little negative impact as possible? Who needs to know what and when?

... We're all used to planning for growth; not many companies are equally adept at planning to weather a dry spell or at mitigating crisis-related damage.

... I can't see another problem as broadly based or as firmly fixed in time as the y2k crisis is. .. If nothing else y2k will ... help us to understand exactly how it drives our businesses.

Kevin Coyne, Stephanie Spong, Jeffrey Spar at McKinsey and company:

The millenium bug-it's still more than a year away and already you're tired of it. Besides the CIO's do their job and fix the critical code, then the rest of the senior managers can ignore the issue and keep focused on the core business, right? Wrong. Even if your CIO has already fixed every line of code in your company, every senior manager has a lot to do, and soon.

... As a best case, experts anticipate that only five out of six errors will be fixed on time in the US and only three out of four in Europe and Asia. That leaves a lot of bugs.

Debra Speight- CIO and VP of IT at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

'The y2k problem is also one of communication. To date, few companies are working together as consortiums to spread awareness of y2k issues and to put pressure on vendors and other critical organizations to fix the problem.

... Many consumers reading about the y2k issue in the press believe that naysayers are vastly overestimating the scope of the problem.

.. we have failed thus far to communicate our knowledge effectively to the public, both directly and through the media. The problem is complex and pervasive, and if we are unable to reverse the general mindset that the problem is overblown, a good many individuals are going to be blindsided...

...Finally, y2k is going to challenge what we currently acknowledge to be best practices. Companies that we now recognize as being particularly good at managing alliances, for example, will truly be put to the test. The more integrated businesses are around the globe, the more at risk they are of a y2k-related breakdown in their operations. And what was once a strength may now become a weakness.

Deborah Gilotti CIO of Starbucks:

' Those companies that make remediations a strategic, enterprise initiative- one that the entire senior management team feels responsible for- will probably be the most successful in mitigating the risk.

... The y2k issue has highlighted the need for managers to have a broader and deeper understanding of their business... to be more aware aware of how our organizations are tied extricably to other constituencies.

Ed Yardeni , chief economist, managing director at Deutsche Bank Securities:

' A disruption in oil supply caused a global recession in the 1970s; this time the cause will be a disruption in the flow of information. Even worse is the likelihood that the information that does continue to flow could be corrupt.

Business leaders are about to lose control. They must, however, continue to lead. It is time to prepare for failure. The sooner our business and political leaders start to face that concept, the sooner we-as a world of interdependent, interconnected organizations-can begin to rebuild and recover from the coming crash.

... Most systems will be fixed in time-no doubt, many readers are thinking 'my organization has this think well in hand'- but some vitally important ones simply will not be ready. In a domino fashion, those systems are bound to disrupt, corrupt, or crash other, compliant systems.

Now is the time to identify the weak links on our just-in-time world and to build just-in-case buffers.

y2k will force a better understanding of the drivers of business in the future.

-- Mary Ann Gallagher (, July 30, 1998.

Hi Mary Ann,

This is just a test posting in the forum: I don't know if that last posting (part 2) came through to you as a solid block of text or not, but that's what happened when I posted it. Caused by that HTML idiosyncracy I mentioned earlier (I indadvertently put in a carriage return tag - out of habit? - at the end, and poof! - there went the paragraphs).

So I fixed it, and now am just trying this to check something else...

And hello to anyone else who's got an alert set. Be sure to drop by the Millennium Salons forum and put an interesting post or two in here. Maybe we sould give away a pretty good woodstove or small solar unit for the "most interesting, informative, or useful" posting of the month.

Anyone know anyone at Vermont Castings, Sierra Solar, or Propane Porsche?

Good night,


-- Bill (, July 31, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ