Opinion

Your department has a virus: ditching the 'negs' is the cure

The CEO, and board-level peers, are important power bases for the IT director to be aware of, and act on. But there is a force nearer to home that demands equal, and just as urgent, attention.

David Taylor

Inside track

It is a group of people who make any CEO look like your best friend. Collectively, they have the ability to bring others down, to radically change our careers, and at an extreme, to destroy IT departments.

I am, of course, talking about the "negs". Or internal terrorists, as some prefer to call them.

We all know who the negs are. They are the people who love to find something, anything, wrong with an idea. They will always point out (with great glee) how things will not work, and are doomed to failure. Every company and IT department has them.

Taken as individuals they are little more than a disparate group of unhappy individuals who skulk around in corners, moaning behind our backs. Together they form a powerful, collective force of negative energy.

They are the disciples of doom and gloom, they are a virus and they must not prevail, whether in IT departments, companies or our industry.

I am not suggesting their views are suppressed, or that we all walk around being positive and optimistic for no reason - rather that people's views must include, from time to time, some constructive suggestions and alternatives. That is the important distinction between negativity and objective contribution.

As IT leaders we have to put aside the option of negativity and an outcome of failure. We have to put in place a compelling vision based on success and achievement.

It is time for us to apply constructive, creative and positive energies so that we can move forward. We must start to achieve steady, stage-by-stage progress.

We can do that through openness - listening to, and involving people.

By involving people you will achieve their buy-in and support. The negs will have no excuses, as their most powerful argument is that they are never consulted or involved.

As leaders, we must also put in place a compelling vision for our department and our people. The negs cannot cope with open leadership, or a positive future.

The disciples of doom have had it their way for too long. It is time to stop them. Involve and encourage them - if they don't play ball, then take them on. Just leaving them to one side does not work - they will ambush you when you least expect it.

Focus on a powerful, positive and passionate agenda in your IT department, and the negs will fail. Those that are not converted will crawl back under the rocks from which they came.

Hopefully they will leave you, if they do not, you must simply part company with them. You cannot allow the negativity of a few to drag down the positive visions of the many. The negs must fail, for you to succeed.

  • David Taylor is president of the association of IT directors, Certus. His collected columns, David Taylor's Inside Track, is out now, published in Butterworth-Heinemann's Computer Weekly series. Contact 01865-888180.

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    This was first published in May 2000

     

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