Challenging “Can’t”

It can’t do that.  It’s not possible.  There’s no way to make it happen.  Don’t bother, there’s no way to do it.

I hear statements like this all the time.  In many cases, I hear the words before work has even started.  Which always leads me to ask questions.  Why won’t it work?  What have you tried?  Who did you work with?  In variably, the answers lead more questions.  Frequently I find that the challenge was handled in a “bubble” without drawing on the resources that could help.  Problem solving is a core competency for most Information Technology professionals; more than half our time is spent trying to figure out how to make new ideas work or fixing something that suddenly stopped working.  IT is all about challenges, opportunities, a chance to learn, a chance to do something amazing.

IT Professionals have to keep on top of the latest in their field, and as a result they should be in a constant learning mode.  I believe that the ability to continue learning is what makes an IT Professional go from good to great.  Those same IT Professionals will freely share what they know and surround themselves with other “learners” seeking advice when necessary.  You will rarely, if ever, hear the word “can’t” from them.  These are the guys that have worked on systems designed to cooperate that sometimes took persuasion and every now and then stopped their cooperation altogether. They support and configure systems that were not designed to work together but were adapted to do just that.  They make it happen when others have said it couldn’t be done.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are IT Professionals that are very good at what they do, but when a problem exceeds their skills, the impossible happens.  Whatever it is, it cannot be done.  Everyone has run into these guys.  They don’t ask questions, are happy with the status quo and rarely break out of the box (if ever).  I call the people I hear this response from “slugs”.  Nothing irritates me more than hearing a can’t statement and then recognizing this as the source.  I’m not going to rant, I surely could – but what good would it do?  The people that read my articles, certainly sympathize with the difficulty slugs cause.

Is there a time to say, it can’t be done?  I don’t think so.  There does come a point when the cost, time and or effort exceeds the value of what you want to do.  So then the answer is “We shouldn’t do this right now.”  It’s not a matter of can’t, it’s a matter of cost.  Which, in business terms is the Return On Investment (ROI) and is a whole separate discussion.    Having said that, I know plenty of projects postponed due to cost, that have later returned.  The “learners” spent time (one could call it obsessing) on the challenge and found a way…

For any IT Professional that is or wants to be great:  The word “can’t” should be a challenge, never a surrender.

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