How do we draw attention to an absence?

Published by Tony Quinlan on

Monday reflections on a fascinating previous week, including a great all-day session on Thursday with EU DIGIT, weaving together outputs from a SenseMaker® project, the Cynefin framework, safe-to-fail experiments and some methods from the Cognitive Edge trainings.  (It's always good to work with a good team lead by a leader who's willing to take calculated risks – I got to present results from the SenseMaker® project that hadn't been seen by anyone in advance of the session.  That takes some guts!)

One of the elements that came through as part of conversations on Thursday as well as at a conference earlier in the week is something to which I don't yet have an answer.

If part of your job is preventing something happening – and you succeed – how do you let people know so that they value the role you play?

The risk is that they only notice the times you fail – and something unpleasant happens. They never see (or at least never understand) the times you succeed because we rarely notice an absence in our lives.

I don't notice the absence of electricity supply most of the time – and yet lots of work no doubt goes into maintaining it.  I only notice when it fails.

For IT departments, it's the same. Successful, consistent operation of the network may take up large amounts of resource and planning, but don't expect any credit for it.  On the other hand, if the network goes down, expect the phones to go crazy – and to be held accountable for the failure.


I don't have a good answer to how you get people to pay attention to successful standard delivery.

UK rail companies have graphs that show the percentage of "on-time arrival" of trains – but I regard them with a mixture of scepticism and boredom.  "They would say that, wouldn't they?"

Fire brigades benefit from there being occasional fires that are highly publicised, but there prevention role (going round to schools, education campaigns, etc) are largely ignored.


Your thoughts – how do draw attention to your role in preventing problems?

Categories: Communications