In a February newsletter, Yukon Teachers Association President Katherine Mackwood reportedly used the term “autocrat” to describe the Yukon Government in its efforts to force a new computer system onto her membership.
While I wouldn’t disagree with her assessment and description of the current political regime as such, in this case I think a more precise term to apply would be technocrat, in regard to the specific subset of public servant responsible for implementing new technologies within the government. And it could be argued that, although the technocrats are technically subservient to the “autocrats,” they wield more power simply by the nature of their control over the system that support the organization’s overall operations.
I’ve written many times about the dangers that organizations face when they let their geeks usurp operational control through their secret knowledge of its arcane, technological underpinnings. It’s all too prevalent, however. I’ve know system administrators who have intentionally obfuscated their role in an organization to ensure job security and to provide themselves with the leverage to win any argument that threatens their technological reign. I’ve known high level managers and public servants terrified to deal with their organization’s geeks because they recognize the power they hold.
The evolving first rule of management in contemporary society seems to be: don’t piss off the geeks.
Too often, as a result of this, business decisions get made based on the artificial constraints that internal technocrats enforce based on their interests in the systems they govern, rather than the organization’s interests in its constituents.
As portrayed in a story in the Yukon News (Teachers protest new computer system), the current plight of Yukon’s teachers seems like the classic case of such: the technocrats are attempting to enforce a system with little regard for users (in this case, the teachers) or even the integrity of the organization itself.
It’s alarming how, time and again, technocrats fail to consult with and win buy-in from end users prior to implementing new systems. The typical end result is a simple: suck it up or we’ll just turn it off, leaving you disabled.
It’s nice to see, in this case, a cohesive group like the Yukon Teachers Association fighting back against the technocratic mentality that threatens to imperil the rights and abilities of teachers to perform their work.
I wish them luck and look forward to their success.