The General's Horse
There is an old Korean story my father used to tell me. There once was a great Korean general, who in his younger days, liked to party a lot. He liked to drink, hang out, and carouse with women. Essentially, he was wasting his life away. And there was a certain village that he used to do those things. He would travel there once a week.
One morning, his mother woke, and scolded him as only mothers can about the way he was living his life. He felt so ashamed about the way he was living his life that he swore on his honor that he would never go to that village again. And so, he worked and trained hard to become better, and improve himself.
One night, he came home from training. He was so tired that he got on his horse, and he fell asleep. The horse, being well trained and this being Friday, the day his master usually went to the village, the horse went to the village.
When the general woke up, he realized that he had broken his promise to his mother. He was where he did not want to be. The general started crying since he had broken his promise. He looked at his horse, which he had since he was a child and loved more than anything in the world, drew his sword, and killed his horse.
And my father would ask me, have I killed my horse.
Moral: You may ask what does this story have to do with systems analysis? In American culture, the analogy would be easier to see if the horse was a cow. Change is painful. No matter what the benefit that a change can make, the change will cause you to lose something old, comfortable, and familiar. Old habits die hard, and in systems analysis, we must be aware of this when we create new systems.
The one element that people forget in analysis is people. We are not simply changing computer systems, or software, or whatever cool computer product has come out this week. We are asking people to change their behavior. And people do not like to change. The old way in comfortable, easy, and it is well known. The proposed new way is different, hard to learn, and well, unknown.
These growing pains must be considered in any analysis, and method must be established to ensure that nay change occur relatively smoothly. There is a story once about a business executive that proposed that the new software system be implemented without telling anyone about it. He proposed that the company install the new software over the weekend, and when the workers turn on the computers on Monday, the new software will be there, ready for them. Needless to say, this did not work very well. People hate the unknown, and they hate change.
And finally, the other point of the fable is that anytime that a company seeks to improve anything, the company will have to give up the benefits of the old way of doing things. The company used the old processes because the old processes provided some benefit. When you change that process, you will lose some of the good of the old process, and an analyst must always consider that cost.
These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.