What's great about IT? In today's tough economic climate, in which IT has been especially hard-hit, this may seem like a strange question. We see bad news almost everywhere we turn: layoffs, stagnant IT budgets, reduced opportunities and increased workloads. These conditions make it more difficult than ever for IT professionals to identify and celebrate their strengths and successes, but those who do have found that it makes good business sense.
Identifying strengths and successes can seem like a waste of time, or worse, when you're confronted with a seemingly endless list of problems and crises. But doing nothing but problem-solving can lead to trading blame and finger-pointing. And groups that know how to identify and build on their strengths and past successes often find common ground from which collaborative problem-solving can be more effective.
While some of the data supporting the effectiveness of building on strengths and successes is new, the concept is not. For years, human resources departments have been advising us to tangibly reward success. But even noticing success can be difficult for IT people: As skilled analysts, we're trained to identify problems, search for root causes and explore alternative solutions.
All the same, that analytical skill can be used to build on success. If you use it to identify the strengths and conditions that contributed to a success, then you can increase the value of that success by making it repeatable. The payoff is that recognizing successes, even small ones, increases morale and confidence, especially during difficult times.
When looking for successes, don't stop at the obvious suspects, such as projects completed or milestones passed. One of IT's greatest strengths is its ability to respond quickly and creatively to disaster. I know of a group that was given 48 hours' notice that its Internet service provider was going out of business. This group quickly came up with, not one, but two solutions and ensured that its company experienced no downtime during the transition to the new ISP.
Very few users even knew about this big win; in fact, some of the IT people involved considered it just part of their jobs. Yet this group's manager took the time to acknowledge and celebrate the team members' success, increasing their confidence that they could successfully handle the next crisis.
So to answer the question posed earlier, "What's great about IT?'' I'd have to say, "It's the people." The people who use their strengths to create success out of disaster every day and who maintain their dedication and commitment in the face of adversity (and layoffs). What's great about IT? You are. And it may be more important to find and celebrate your successes now than it has ever been.
- Cathy Hyatt is an independent IT consultant specializing in the human side of technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.