Make a mess to clean a mess

April 1, 2011
As a youngster I spent some time working in a grocery store's frozen-food section. My job was to keep that part of the store well-stocked.

As a youngster I spent some time working in a grocery store's frozen-food section. My job was to keep that part of the store well-stocked. The bad news: I spent a significant part of my day in the freezer where the inventory was kept. The good news: There was ice cream in there.

The other part of my job was to make sure the freezer that held the inventory remained neat and orderly. The thing was, before it could remain neat and orderly, it had to become neat and orderly. On my first day, the area was in a pretty chaotic state. While organizing the freezer, I found it necessary to remove some items from it and temporarily place them in piles outside the door. At one point my boss gazed in my direction and asked what in the world was going on. Didn't I know the frozen goods had to actually stay in the freezer in order to remain frozen? About five words into my explanation that I was trying to organize, he nodded his head knowingly and said, "You have to make a mess to clean a mess." He knew the place had gone to pot in the weeks before I started working there because the task of stocking the frozen foods had been taken up by a different person every day.

It looks to me like cable management in many telecommunications rooms is treated similarly; it's not anyone's primary responsibility. No ownership.

Recently in a blog post and in a discussion within our LinkedIn group, I said the recent contests that seek the worst-looking cabling messes cast our industry in a bad light. Most of the comments I got back saw it differently. One said, "The problem is not the installer most of the time, but the IT personnel ... I have photos of beautifully done racks and cabinets we have installed. Two weeks later it looks like a rat made a nest in it." Another pointed out, "I honestly don't think it gives a bad name to installers or the contractors cleaning up such projects. I constantly post before and after photos of our jobsites."

One agreed with me when I got my back up about Cisco Systems poking fun at messy cabling. Here's what he said: "There is a saying, 'Those who laugh at others should laugh at theselves first.' The way some active devices are designed, it makes the task of the installer so difficult. It makes moves, adds and changes a very challenging task. Imagine reading the label on a patch cord, trying to identify it on this densely populated switch port."

Many don't have to imagine; they live it every day. To all those who make messes in order to clean messes, I salute you.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
[email protected]

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