Your Password is Wrong

Some years ago, I spent a week working with the IT department of a major high-street bank's mortgage admin unit.

During my time with them, I helped them to achieve their three tasks for the week.

The first was to set up a new working environment for their new Brighton branch.

We went to a computer in an otherwise empty room, right-clicked on the Blackpool folder, pasted a copy and renamed it Brighton; the task was completed.

Second, I helped them choose the items from eBay they should buy for their upcoming charity auction.

Third, they got a technical query from another employee, whose password was being rejected.

Due to their 'in-person response' policy, we headed off across the site to where this person was located, at the far end of the building and up two floors.

Tech dude: Have you got switched on?
Employee: No. I don't know. What's ?
Tech dude: It comes on by default. It's that green light there. It messes with the number pad. Does your password contain numbers?
Employee: Er... yes.
Tech dude switches off and asks Employee to try again. The password works fine.

In a week working with them, this team of about six degree-qualified IT and software engineers completed those three tasks.

The concept of 'phronesis' might seem to say they were wasted - that one man could easily have done the job. And that's true. But they kept each other's morale up and it was no doubt because there were enough of them that more things didn't go wrong.

As long as what you're doing is working - and you know why it works - there's no desperate need to change things based solely on outward appearances. You know your business better than anyone, and you know what works.

The only real failure was that the woman I was sat next to for the week wore perfume I was allergic to, and nobody moved me or stopped her from wearing it.

A week of constant sneezing later, I'd learned a little about IT for the financial services industry, and a lot about my less-than-perfect immune system - both valuable lessons that have served me well since.