Lord be willing and the creek don’t rise. (How committment makes all the difference)
Let me start this post by saying this: “I love my job.”
Now I don’t say this because I want people to think something that isn’t true, or that I am trying to suck up to my boss (because I know for a fact that my boss doesn’t read my blog, that I even HAVE a job still is an indicator of that).
Truly though, I love my job and the work that I do. I love seeing how people in IT work from company to company. I love seeing examples of good IT and bad (in many cases you learn so much more from bad). I live for every new engagement and interactions with new clients because I love to learn, I love the Organizational Archeology required to dig below the surface and understand WHY an organization behaves the way that it does. I love the discovery, I love the chase, and more than anything, I love finding the root cause of dysfunction and shining a big spotlight on it. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to help a client see a problem for what it is and help them put together a plan to solve it.
One thing that has become apparent to me in the last 10 years or so in IT is that the difference between seeing a problem and solving a problem typically comes down to one thing:
Without commitment an organization can never change what needs to be changed. Without commitment, individuals will never get to the place that we need them to be to solve the problems and prevent them from occurring again.
In many cases that I have seen, the difference between a high performing organization and a dysfunctional organization comes down to commitment. Without it, you can’t even start down a path let alone continue down a path when a journey gets rough (and let me assure you, that most journeys worth taking, WILL get rough).
The title of this post refers to an old saying that I have heard many times in rural communities in the US. It is essentially a saying that is typically a response to someone asking if you will be somewhere or will be doing something. At it’s core, it is a personal assurance that barring any unforeseen circumstances, you can count on that person to do what they are telling you they will do. Historically in many rural communities, it was literal too, meaning that in order to get from where they were to where you needed them to be, they had to cross a creek and if that creek was too high or flowing too fast, they wouldn’t be able to cross it regardless of how much they wanted to do what you asked of them. In my book, that is about as committed as you can get.
Commitment is essential for progress in almost any situation, without it you have little assurance that when the journey is tough, that the people you need to rely on will be there to help carry the load. Many times commitment is a two way street also, especially in IT. As IT leaders it is important that out teams see us as committed to worthy causes and to seeing them be successful. Without our commitment to them, it is unrealistic to think that we can ask them to commit to supporting things that we need them to support.
Every high performing IT organization that I have ever witnessed or been a part of has had a high degree of 3 things:
There is no coincidence there, those 3 things go hand in hand and build upon one another. Without commitment, there can no respect. Without respect, there can be no trust. Without trust, there can be no commitment.
Notice no where in there did I say people had to like each other or always get along. The reason for that is that people in organization that have a high degree of respect for one another, often challenge one another and create an environment where healthy conflict can exist without being disrespectful. Healthy conflict and challenge often brings about better solutions, but healthy conflict can quickly turn unhealthy if trust and respect are lacking.
In my career some of the places where I felt the most productive and successful were also the places where I was most challenged and often debated with my peers on how we could deliver the best outcomes for our organization. Through those challenges trust and respect grew, and as a result we were most always committed to each other and the causes we needed to be.
There is a reason why teams can fail even if individuals succeed in isolation. A group of motivated and committed individuals can often accomplish goals that might seem out of reach in other organizations. There have been thousands of examples of this in sports teams over the years, and we as a society are a sucker for rooting for the underdogs.
Long story made short, maybe if we as leaders spent a little more time fostering commitment and a little less time focused on trivial details, we might be surprised with what we can accomplish.