1660601330987 Editorial12

Team building is key to IT/OT collaboration, successful cybersecurity

Dec. 30, 2019
Facts and a few kind works can grow groups as well as individuals.

Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but the same undercurrents keep coming up in my reporting and stories. You know the drill. Multiple people echo each other, and I start to think it's more than coincidence.

This month, it's several sources saying that process engineers and other operations technology (OT) personnel must talk and collaborate more closely with their IT, business-level and management colleagues to get better cybersecurity protections in place, and achieve that much-desired united front against the constant downpour of probes, intrusions, malware and attacks. However, almost every story lately says IT and OT must come together for one goal or another.

Like I said, a broken record. Probably pointless, too, because people and organizations willing to communicate and cooperate with each other are likely already doing it. Those that aren't willing to collaborate likely don't want to learn about useful experiences, let alone act on them. It sounds better to say facts aren't real than to admit we're so immature that we can't bear to hear them.

However, I also have to sympathize in some ways. There's so much glad-handing, self-serving baloney coming in from all sides, all the time, that fingers-in-ears can seem like a sane response. I've spent much of my career wading through this slurry, while trying to snag and convey a few of those facts. I didn't get it in school, but when someone pulled out a copy of the play No Exit a few years into my professional life, it was suddenly, viscerally frightening. Its most famous line is, "Hell is other people," but I'm also convinced it's the inspiration for the famous Eagles lyric, "You can check out, but you can never leave." (As usual, YouTube has easy access to all references, though I'd advise daylight hours on the drama.)

So, what's the best way get through all the hot air and waste streams, and reach something helpful and constructive?

First, I always seek and start with specifics, which are harder to put together than easy, vague generalizations. This is the famous show-don't-tell rule, and also the reason why talk is so cheap.

Second, a few kind words go long way. A little sincere encouragement has always been rare, especially when it includes specific details and nothing is sought in return. I think it's scarce because many organizations, managers and employees I've covered seem reluctant to let their staff or each other know that they value them. Maybe it's because they're so transaction-based that they fear giving out praise will lead to a request for a raise or another concessions. Perhaps they're concerned that kind words won't be returned, or will make them look weak, just as it's apparently impossible for many people to say they're sorry.

I'm no expert, but I try to deliver complements and apologies when warranted. However, its hard to know if they'll be viewed as too much and seem phony, or if they'll be seen as too little, grudging and also insincere. Again, I'm hoping facts will be more credible. However, my personal motivation is that I believe making human connections is the only game worth playing.   

Third, truly build teams, which will enable everything else. Just as individual efforts often aren't acknowledged, many groups also don't get the encouragement and support they need. Everyone talks about partnering and team building, but I haven't run across many examples to point out.

In fact, most of my examples are fictional. I ran across one when I realized awhile back that I like early parts of the classic movie Casablanca more than the main drama and redemptive romance. I enjoy the interactions between Humphrey Bogart and his staff because they all seem to have real affection for each other, apart from working well together. When I thought further, I realized there were dozen's examples of these teams from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood to classic Star Trek to the Avengers and most of the other recent Marvel movies.      

Teamwork may be a whole subdivision of popular culture, but I think it reflects a thirst for the real thing. Luckily, all of the communication skills expressed here apply equally well to recruiting, organizing, inspiring, managing and maintaining teams. Just be brave and give it a shot. 

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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