Last weekend's Mayweather/McGregor fight was a lesson in many things. But the result, which most experts predicted, took longer than some expected. Ultimately, Mayweather was able to outlast his opponent who, despite lots of preparation, was more accustomed to fighting five rounds, totalling 25 minutes, rather than 12 three-minute rounds. This teaches us a lot about specificity.
We see this all the time. Sprinters are great runners. Marathoners are great runners. But the preparation and natural talents for the two are very different.
And while one type of runner or fighter can train and become very proficient in the other skill, training and innate skills will make that transition difficult.
So, what does this mean for IT professionals?
I've been involved in my fair share of organisational restructures. One of the challenges IT pros can face, particularly when non-IT people are very influential in the reorganisation, is that while many technical skills and natural abilities are transferable, some require a significant investment.
If you think of McGregor entering the boxing ring against a seasoned professional, he trained for many months coming from a base that many lay-people would have thought was eminently transferable. But he was shown as wanting when the fight went longer than his long-term conditioning prepared him for.
Similarly, while a communications network engineer might have many of the foundational skills required to manage a complex storage area network, they lack the specific training and experience to be completely effective, particularly in high-pressure situations - like the tenth round of a prize-fight.
Last night (SPOILERS!) the Mayweather/McGregor travelling sideshow finally ended in the exact way most of us predicted - with McGregor's smack-talking noggin thoroughly derailed by a better boxer. If you missed the fight or were unwilling to line both fighter's coffers with $59.95, you can enjoy the highlights from the fight right here.
IT departments are going through a period of significant flux. We have largely completed the shift from physical systems to virtualisation and are well on the way from moving the bulk of our systems from on-prem data centres to private, public and hybrid cloud solutions. And we are now moving from virtualised to containerised systems.
While many of the skills that were needed in the past are relevant, there are some significant differences. Much of what I'm thinking of is attached to the adoption of Agile development and the DevOps movement.
As departments transition organisational structures to better accommodate these new development and operational processes, there is a need to engage in specific education and training. Applying old ways of thinking to these new models simply doesn't work.
How much of your budget, when you reorganise a department or deploy a new technology, is set aside to support those changes? Do you simply expect people to adapt or do you actively invest in developing the specific skills that are needed to support the transaction and ongoing support?
For an outsider, Conor McGregor's skills may have looked like a good fit for a shift to boxing. But the reality is that for him to compete strongly with Floyd Mayweather, he needed to invest substantially in upgrading his skills and strategy.
The same goes when we restructure a department or adopt a new technology.