War Rooms for IT: More Harm Than Good?
October 23, 2013

Belinda Yung-Rubke

Share this

As enterprise networks become ever more complex, IT teams face a difficult challenge when it comes to diagnosing and addressing technical and operational issues. Modern IT systems are often an amalgam of networks, servers and applications that are managed by largely independent teams with their own processes and tools. That can make responding to something straightforward — like end-user complaints about poor application performance — an involved and vexing problem that is as much about managing group dynamics as tracing packets and pings.

In recent years, the War Room model has become a popular approach to large group problem solving in IT as well as other organizational settings. Sometimes called Tiger Teams or extreme collaboration, the basic approach of the War Room is to round up a group of people who don't always work together, put them in one place and set them to finding a solution to a critical problem. The premise is that in-person interaction and a singular goal will lead to new thinking, and a quicker, more effective solution.

First utilized by software development teams, War Rooms have now become accepted practice for generalized IT teams. Unfortunately, War Rooms may not work as well as advertised, if at all.

As Toxic War Rooms — a recent research paper from Seattle Pacific University — points out, there are four common pathologies that call into question the effectiveness of the War Room approach.

1. They lead to defending and deflecting rather than problem solving

Ask most IT people and they'll tell you they have more than enough work to fill their days. In a War Room setting, they will often be reluctant to take on more responsibilities if it means delaying or neglecting the work that is already on their plates. Since War Rooms are often tense, finger pointing is fairly common. And since each person has their own tools and monitoring systems, it's hard to get everyone on the same page.

2. They make teams less productive

As mentioned above, everybody has their own work to do. When they're in a War Room that "real" work is not getting done. And as the old adage goes: "To a hammer, everything looks like a nail." That means War Room participants often approach problems from their own narrow perspectives, leading to a lack of coherence. With so many individual ideas and voices, it can actually get in the way of individual thought processes.

3. They are reactive and not proactive

War Rooms are often set up to deal with problems only after they've reached crisis stage. The extreme nature of the problems — and resulting pressure to fix them — leads to poor decision-making.

Moreover, by its very nature, the War Room assembles people from different domains operating with limited information. This adds to the likelihood of reactive decision-making in the short term and doesn't help with long-term problem solving either.

4. They promote groupthink

People working in groups can often lose themselves to the group. They start thinking alike, defer to dominant voices and lose their own individual creativity and sense of responsibility.

In a crisis, near-term solutions often crowd out potentially better longer-term alternatives. And in the interest of group harmony, people self-censor rather than challenge the dominant wisdom. That can lead to situations where groups continue to pursue an alternative even when it's becoming increasingly clear that they're headed in the wrong direction.

Click here to read Part 2 of this blog: 4 Alternatives to War Rooms

Belinda Yung-Rubke is Director of Field Marketing for Fluke Networks.

Related Links:


Click here to read the full paper from Seattle Pacific University

Share this

The Latest

August 10, 2022

Legacy systems require a great deal of a prior knowledge, and then significant configuration, for anomaly detection to work effectively. ML and AI are beginning to change that, but it's important to really validate the claims of any NPM solution ...

August 09, 2022

Successful insight into the performance of a company's networks starts with effective network performance management (NPM) tools. However, with the plethora of options it can be overwhelming for IT teams to choose the right one. Here are 10 essential questions to ask before selecting an NPM tool ...

August 08, 2022

Hybrid and remote work environments have been growing significantly in the past few years. As individuals move away from traditional office settings in today's new remote and hybrid environments, many operational issues such as poor visibility into asset status and refreshes, unaccounted assets, and overspending on software are becoming a bigger challenge for IT departments ...

August 05, 2022

MLOps or Machine Learning Operations are a combination of best processes and practices that businesses use to run AI successfully ... While it is a relatively new field, MLOps is a collective effort that captured the interest of data scientists, DevOps engineers, AI enthusiasts, and IT ...

August 04, 2022

The data is in: enterprises are not happy with their managed service providers (MSPs) and cloud service providers (CSPs). According to the latest CloudBolt Industry Insights report, Filling the Gap: Service Providers' Increasingly Important Role in Multi-Cloud Success, 80% are so unsatisfied with their existing MSP and/or CSP, they are actively looking to replace them within 12 months ...

August 03, 2022

The last two years have accelerated massive changes in how we work, do business, and engage with customers. According to Pega research, nearly three out of four employees (71%) feel their job complexity continues to rise as customer demands increase, and employees at all levels feel overloaded with information, systems, and processes that make it difficult to adapt to these new challenges and meet their customers' growing needs ...

August 02, 2022

Investing in employees will always be smart business. And right now, investing in employees means giving people the resources — and ability — to optimize performance ... For pretty much every company, that means delivering the digital tools necessary to facilitate seamless, secure, user-friendly access and connectivity ...

August 01, 2022

Digital transformation can be the difference between becoming the next Netflix and becoming the next Blockbuster Video. With corporate survival on the line, "digital transformation" is no longer merely an impressive buzzword to throw around in boardrooms. It's the ticket for entry into the digital era, a fundamental business strategy for every modern company ...

July 29, 2022

IT infrastructure has rapidly evolved over the last decade, and as a result important specialized tools have been developed and an entire dedicated industry has grown up to serve the need for monitoring these IT systems and services in order to keep them operational and efficient ...

July 28, 2022

At Cisco AppDynamics, we recently conducted research exploring consumer attitudes and behaviors in relation to wearable technology ... In our study, 87% of global consumers claimed that trust is a critical factor when choosing a wearable medical device or application brand. And, 86% expect companies offering wearable technology and applications to demonstrate a higher standard of protection for their personal data than any other technology they use ...