One of the dangers in my line of work is to talk about common sense as if it really existed. For example: it is easy to find your car keys: simply decide on a place for them, and make sure you always put them in that place whenever you enter the house. It is indisputable that having a place for your car keys is a good idea. However, as we all know, we are only human, and there is no guarantee that we will always remember the most straightforward of advice.
I am sure it is the same when advising on any topic, though my experience is limited to information technology. Again, it is too easy to offer the most clearly sensible of counsel: know what you have; be engaged with the business; understand the risks. Such principles are absolutely sound, indeed, they are common sense. Once again, however, we are only human: unless I missed something along the way, I believe that most of our organisations are still staffed entirely by human beings., with all of their foibles. It’s not that common sense is not that; more, that it completely fails to take into account this astoundingly obvious factor.
Statements such as these can very quickly turn into platitudes if left unqualified: motherhood and apple pie. So, what to do? All that is required is a slight difference in perspective. A statement such as, “the IT departments must engage with the business,” is often seen as a pre-requisite for success. In reality however, it is an aspirational goals, to be achieved to a greater or lesser extent. As aspirational goals, we can see such statements as they are: we can also see the challenges that are faced in achieving them – like, in this case, the political issues, the general lack of trust, the uncertainty about who exactly in the business IT should be engaging with.
It is no, simple, rhetorical difference. By seeing the motherhood as aspirational and focusing on the challenges, we can also focus attention on finding ways in which the challenges can be overcome – if indeed, the return really does justify the effort involved. Sometimes the status quo, while imperfect, may be the best worst: perhaps, for example, the coat pocket is the right place to look for the car keys. To finish with yet another trite platitude, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.