03 Aug When doing a good job isn't good enough
Madison, Wis. — You work hard. You’ve developed a lot of relevant expertise. You’ve achieved results that are recognized within your company. And you just got fired. Or laid off or RiF’d (reduction in force) or downsized or bought out. Whatever. The bottom line is that that sweet little professional fairy tale of upward and onward has taken a sudden lost-in-a-dark-woods turn.
I’d like to say this is just a hypothetical situation, but I’m seeing it more and more often. Friends whom I admire and respect professionally, suddenly on the outs at work. People caught unaware by a sea change in budgets or strategy or just simple management approach.
If every technology organization is unique then it would seem that every firing is unique in some way as well. However, this odd progression of events is becoming common enough to suggest some kind of trend or common engine. In information technology, I blame the IT big bang. No, I’m not talking about the dot bomb, the microchip, ARPAnet, the personal computer, or departmental computing, the first 390s or even the venerable ENIAC. That’s all just swirling gases in a blank universe waiting to coalesce and then explode outward with unimaginable force over incomprehensible spans of time.
The IT big bang is just starting, the Dot Bomb just it’s first ripple, a spark if you will. All those glass house, big iron data centers, research parks and comp sci degrees were just random Manhattan projects unleashing forces beyond our comprehension or control. We thought we were doing technology. Turns out we were doing sociology and anthropology on the side and now it’s coming back to bite us.
As the IT big bang drives technology into everything from our jobs to our creative endeavors, our home appliances and even our personal well being (think medical records), the number of variables we technologists have to juggle begins to exceed the computational power (our brains, our time, and our attention) we’ve allocated to manage them. The leading edge is always expanding, roaring out through the universe of our lives with new applications, each one that comes with a tangled forest of new implications as well. Every one of those applications is somebody’s job, some design, development and deployment piece of work. The implications, on the other hand, don’t seem to have been assigned to anybody.
IT folks, ever at the leading edge, are now some of the first to experience the unavoidable turbulence from all that restless innovation. Sometimes that old world ethic of doing a good job being good enough just doesn’t hold true.
On the personal side, we have to be sure that the good job we’re doing is relevant to the organizations we serve. Understanding what’s important to the organization, what challenges it’s facing, what current thinking is about the future for the organization are all necessary first steps. Bring your courage along because you might find answers that suggest a different job in the company or even a different company as the best solution for you and your organization.
On the managerial side, we charged with coordinating all those individual good jobs to address the current business needs. But that’s not enough. When all the puzzle pieces fit together, they have to address the current needs, but they also have to position us for the next challenge, and the one after that all the way out beyond our planning horizons. No wonder good people are suddenly finding themselves without jobs. It’s a tough assignment but not one we have the option of walking away from.
I’ve heard it said that if you’ve never been fired, you’re not taking enough risks. I don’t know if I buy that, but professional adventurer or not, IT is an inherently risky profession these days as we navigate uncharted waters for technology and society. You may never be fired or have to fire someone, but given the chaos at the leading, creative edge of the IT big bang, you might want to give some thought to what you’re going to do when doing a good job isn’t good enough.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.