Cohn's Comments

Protect Your Employees From Year 2000!

New Year's Eve can be gruesome. I know, since I spent the most of the last one with my head in a wastebasket. And while I'm not the world's greatest prognosticator and futurist (e.g., I told my brother-in-law to cash-out of the Dow at 6,300), I sort of suspect this coming New Year's Eve will be rather frightening, indeed.

Y2K could be a bunch of hooey, or it could be really rough. Rough on employees. Rough on their families. Rough on their bank accounts. While it may not be all that appropriate to stock up on cans of creamed corn or kerosene lamps, it may be up to us to protect our employees from some of this Y2K fall-out such as legal action, industrywide panic or creamed corn (gosh I hate that stuff).

How bad will Y2K hurt? Why not step up and take care of your people now, regardless of the outcome? Don't let your folks suffer from Y2K-itis. Don't let them feel vulnerable and insecure (at least no more than usual). Prepare for New Year's Eve. Plan ahead. Protect your employees from:

Your staff is working their fingers to the bone. But they know that one wrong move, one keystroke, one more, "I-could-have-sworn-we-were-compliant" response to the SEC and they're in litigation-city.

So if they miss one YY, or one embedded system, or gum up the factory floor for a month or six, you have to take care of them! Let them know you'll indemnify them for their actions, that they'll be protected, that they'll be surrounded by lawyers if they screw up...just don't tell them whose lawyers.

While your folks are busy fixing millennibugs, technology marches on with e-biz and ERP and Java and Jini. How can your co-workers keep up with big-buck cyberskills when they've spent the last 18 months changing MVC statements in Assembler?

Tell your people you still love them! Promise them education, new skills and a long post-2000 future. Besides, there may still be months (or even years) of Y2K cleanup ahead. So make sure your folks know that even after 01/01/2000 the company will use them, work them and train them...although unfortunately, very much in that order.

What if no one could communicate? What if the phone system was down? If pagers, faxes and the Net were belly up? Wouldn't it be great if your people stocked-up on cell phones? Or if they didn't work, two-way radios? Iridium phones? Carrier pigeons?

Be creative! Protect your people by devising a way to make sure your employees communicate on January 1! Now if you only could find a way to get them to communicate today, then you'd have something.

How bad will it be? Will homeowners be without heat for weeks? Will traffic lights and gas pumps be on their backs? Just in case, what about reserving a dozen hotel rooms near work? For staff working round-the-clock to take a nap. For employees, or even their families to have hot water and a hot meal.

I think your folks will be ecstatic if the world is a mess and they can still take a hot shower. Then again, I shared a cubicle with a DBA for three years and I don't think he showered more than once.

Don't forget, 'tis the holiday season. For once, give them gifts they can really use. Can openers. Candles. Spam. Skip bottled wine; go with bottled water. Or best of all, imagine their delight if you present them each a 12-pack of toilet paper because I'll bet by then the shelves are bare.

Mike Cohn is a Year 2000 consultant and will be carefully monitoring the Year 2000 rollover...from a hammock in Costa Rica.

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