Who Moved the IT Project Manager’s Cheese?

On a rainy Thursday night in October, 1978, Mum is out playing bingo. My eight-year-old self, my sisters, and my pops are watching BBC1. Only three T.V. channels in those days. You had to get up off the sofa and push a button to change the channels — that’s after an argument to decide who would do it.
Thursday nights were usually Tomorrow’s World followed by Top of the Pops. Tomorrow’s World led to a lot of wow moments, while Top of the Pops normally resulted in Dad calling the music acts we loved a bunch of weirdos. We did both agree on one thing: Pan’s People were very artistic.
It was on that night in October that my father said something while watching a Tomorrow’s World episode about industrial robots. Those words have stayed with me. It was the first time I realized that one’s economic well-being depended on being wary of the impact of technology.
Dad said, in so many words, “Don’t do a job a machine could do. Get a job in computers.”
Flash forward to 1988. By now, I’ve learned several computer languages. For work experience during a college course, they send me to the Citizens Advice Bureau. I turn up on that first day and walk through the office with the manager. He points at the P.C. It is mainly used for word processing. He wants to know whether DataEase can be used to store information on complaint forms, rather than using microfiche.
Within one day, I’ve knocked out a prototype. I’ve also developed a few queries to calculate stats that have to be sent to the local council. What used to take a whole working day now takes 10 minutes. The member of staff whose job it was to do these things manually was not impressed.
That was the first time I sensed anxiety and discomfort toward technology from a human being. In my naivety, I kind of expected everyone in the office to go “Wow, that’s amazing!” But they didn’t.
I was too young to understand these “Who moved my cheese?” moments. Why should I care? After all, it was the modern age. I could make a good living from causing “Who moved my cheese?” moments by making business processes more efficient.
Flashback to 40 years prior. Lean Manufacturing pioneer Taiichi Ohno is experiencing “Who moved my cheese?” moments on the shop floor. Something else is happening at the same time as the emergence of information technology.

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