In a blog essay about non-rational devotion to software choices (the author argues it’s inevitable), a quote sprang out at me that reminds me of many decisions I’ve seen made at large institutions, as well as in distributed open source development:
As Neo realizes in The Matrix: the problem is choice. The problem is always about choice. People don’t like to choose, because that makes them accountable. It’s far easier to make someone else make the choice and just follow, creating the delusion that you made a “rational” choice because “the group” validates it.
I don’t think avoiding the choices serves us well. (Or pretending to; there’s always a choice). Even if the choices aren’t going to be somehow 100% verifiable rational or best (and that’s the thing with choices, they always involve some risk). We do our best, also trying to avoid putting more time into a choice than it’s worth.
I’m not sure you’re ever going to teach large institutional administrators that though. Avoiding accountability for choices seems to be good for their careers. Maybe for all of our careers in the current environment, which is part of the challenge. “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM” indeed. Doesn’t mean there was no risk to your mission or purpose in choosing IBM; but perhaps minimized risk to your career.
Eventually going with what everyone else is going with (or what you thought they were), or going with a consultant/contractor to avoid accountability for the product… is going to result in a catastrophic failure. And then maybe things will change. Or it won’t, or not one that harms anyone’s career, and then maybe they won’t.