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US Government Shutdown Lessons for IT and Businesses

by Jack Santos  |  October 11, 2013  |  5 Comments

Just read an interesting analysis by George Friedman over at Stratfor: The Roots of the Government Shutdown.  He ascribes the shutdown as an unintended consequence of the change of the US political landscape from a political boss system to a money-lobby driven system.  And the confusion of principles with ideology.  We have transformed from a principled people, to ideologues.

Everyone disparages Washington DC for this kind of behavior, but my observation from Facebook and other venues is that the behavior of no-holds barred stand your ground on principles and ideology is rampant in our society, fueled by online media (Facebook, blogs), as well as traditional media (Fox News).

Now this is not normal territory for a Gartner Blog topic, but I bring it up because my Research Agenda in Gartner is “Professional Effectiveness”.  Sure, we talk about influence, persuasion, the power of the individual because of the internet, career topics, and the failure of the hiring process.  Anything that can make the IT Professional more effective. For a quick look of our Professional Effectiveness research, go to “” – that provides an overview; any further exploration and you’ll need a Gartner ID.

Professional Effectiveness is not just about your career, or your ability to get the job done.  It’s also about understanding what’s happening in society, and business, that affects how you do your job – like my upcoming research on best practices for online/anytime/anywhere work (which – HP and Yahoo aside – is an inevitable growing trend).  We need to think about our  impact in a world where what you say can be read by millions within minutes of posting, but what that also means to how you do your job, and your business peers do theirs .

As I watch Facebook discussions around US politics (Obamacare, mayoral elections) degenerate into the kind of standoff we see in DC, it occurs to me that our ability to connect is central to how we develop real, impactful business systems – whether it’s how you interrelate with your business partner, or convey requirements to your subcontractor or outsourcer.  How you integrate that latest SaaS  app, whose roots were in a business area “shadow IT” skunk works.  And how you connect with your boss and peers.  What’s happening is DC is just a mirror to ourselves and how we interrelate – at home or business.

And for my international friends, don’t think this kind of behavior is a uniquely American phenomenon (which, if you agree, refutes Friedman’s analysis).  The level of discourse internationally – whether it be about Arab springs, Roma settlements, unemployment, or Olympic spending inequalities, is worldwide.  That’s not to say that human disagreements  has always been relatively civil  up until now — just that it is starting to take a particularly significant  unpleasant turn; my hypothesis is that is a consequence of Internet side effects.

So the  roots of the US government shutdown help me realize that what we do with our professional effectiveness research is, in some ways, understanding how we avoid the kind of  behavior in our daily lives in business that leads to dysfunctional organizations.

That’s what me and my colleagues – Mike Rollings, Jamie Popkin, and others at Gartner that contribute to our research, do.  We are the Corporate Dysfunction trouble shooters, AKA the Enterprise Collaboration Shutdown avoidance team…

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Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on US Government Shutdown Lessons for IT and Businesses

  1. Robert says:

    The web site you point to “” is labelled by Websense as “Potentially Damaging Content”. Has it been hacked or is Websense being overly cautious?

  2. Jack Santos says:

    Interesting, Robert. It’s a forwarding URL. So websense is being cautious. Thanks for the feedback, I’ll just change to link to the actual destination. Thanks for that. I wish our ability to change people’s mindsets and behaviors was just as easy…then again…

  3. Robert says:

    There is one point missing. You make decisions based on the facts you collect, even allowing for unknowns. I do that. The people you work with are similar. There are other people that are belief based in their decision making. Presenting facts are do not matter. If they start listening to the fact based argument they take it as an personal attack and pull their beliefs over their heads to hide. A related group are those that only respond to emotion (sell the sizzle, not the steak). In either case a logical argument does not matter to them.

  4. Jack Santos says:

    Robert – you make an interesting observation. In our professional effectiveness research we developed a graphic and description of how we work and how we can affect ourselves and others – we call it the “perception and engagement diagram”. Basically, one aspect of that is that your mindsets and beliefs affect how you engage the world. We can recognize that in ourselves, and change our mindsets and beliefs, and we can recognize that in others, and play to them – i.e., frame our proposals and ideas that fit their worldview. Labeling one view or the other as wrong, or fundamentally flawed, may be useful to us personally to justify or inform our own worldview, but it doesn’t take advantage of our skills as human beings change and influence. Woe be unto us if that weren’t so.

  5. Mike Rollings says:

    My post about organizational inertia relates to this discussion

    We all operate based on our perceptions and beliefs.

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