For you cynics out there who think strategy is nothing but BS, take heart. You have a point. \n\nThere\u2019s something missing. Strategy, as a practice, is so hopeful, so assured, so quixotic that it\u2019s easy to dismiss it as pure hyperbole. \n\nStrategy needs a counterpoint, a yang to its indomitable yin. I\u2019d like to submit the concept of inertia. \n\nJust as a company or IT department should understand its strategy, it should also understand its inertia, the peculiar characteristics of the company that, combined together, affect its ability to get moving or change course. Things like: \n\n\n\nRisk Tolerance--Consider all the companies you\u2019ve worked for and you can rank them in order of their appetite for risk \n\nJob Preservation--Some companies have a hard time firing people and others do it all the time \n\nSecrecy--All companies keep secrets, but some are really serious about it \n\nDecision Making--Some companies have that old-time, top-down style and others have the collaborative, flat thing going \n\nEthics--You know whether your company handles ethical issues with the following: "Whatever we\u2019re told to do, we do--or else." \n\nCost--It can color every decision a company makes, or it can be frighteningly irrelevant. There are other characteristics that determine a company\u2019s inertia. Give us your suggestions. \n\nHere\u2019s why I bring up the inertia theory. I found a really scary posting on Slashdot the other day. I was looking into the problems that caused Comair\u2019s systems to crash just before Christmas, stranding thousands in the Mid-West. Press reports and the posters on Slashdot speculated that the problems were caused by a very old application used to assign crews to planes. \n\nIn its own statements, Comair does not get into specifics, but says bad weather and the holiday rush combined to overwhelm its computer systems. There was also speculation that Comair planned to replace the ancient system early this year. \n\nBut then the Slashdot discussion took its scary turn. People began speculating why a company defers replacing a system that lacks necessary capacity that is critical to its business performance. \n\nWe need to reserve that judgment in Comair\u2019s case. The Department of Transportation has said it is conducting an investigation into what happened. But whenever I do stories about problematic systems, the question inevitably arises: Why didn\u2019t they do something about this sooner? \n\nThat\u2019s when someone on Slashdot, seemingly a consultant, offered this: \n\n"Occasionally, however, the head IT guy gets over-ridden by management or by available finances. I\u2019ve been there, saying, \u2019We need to spend money on this\u2019 and having to make do with much less money, or even with a cut in funding. You need to document the problem in advance to cover your ass, and get it in print and saved offsite to protect yourself from that kind of mistake. I\u2019ve done that, too. It helped protect me from a nasty lawsuit because I demonstrated where I had told a consulting client, in print, when the systems would start failing and the resulting legal liabilities, and gotten it signed by the company notary." Yikes. Again, we don\u2019t know what went on at Comair, but the discussion exposes the real dangers of inertia. More importantly, it shows how people can make themselves comfortable with it--even create the illusion of safety--while the company teeters on the precipice that dooms everyone. \n\nHave you experienced a situation where you had to sit on a tinderbox of a system, waiting for it to explode for lack of money or interest?