The Pain in our Neck

We’ve all been in those meetings (or perhaps been the guilty party), where an IT person throws out the tired cliché:

“So, tell me about your pain points.”

While this was a novel way of getting a discussion started in the punch card days, it is not only relegated to the realm of the trite, but it’s also an insidious comment that undermines what IT should represent. Think about your experience with the medical profession. When you have an immediate pain you see a doctor, any doctor, and want your problem solved as quickly and as cheaply as possible. For anything beyond the basic pain, whether its plastic surgery or delving deep into a key organ, you demand the best specialist you can find and afford, and money is no longer an object.

The pain relationship is also one-sided. Once your pain has been alleviated, whether in the medical field or in IT, you don’t return to the solution provider until the next ache crops up. In short, pain is a commodity, and those that deal strictly in alleviating pain are relegated to that realm as well. In IT, we need to stop spending the majority of our energy and focus on pain. While you’re loved for the thirty seconds after the pain disappears, you’re a fixer not a partner. All the talk about alignment and the business benefit of IT is forgotten once you are perceived as a fixer, relegated to waiting in the corner until invoked by superiors. In short, you’re dancing to someone else’s tune.

While it may sound like another consultant’s game of semantics, framing discussions around what could delight customers, or what wild and innovative ideas you would implement if time and money were no object shifts the focus of a discussion to the future. Rather than a one-sided tirade about one party’s pain, you are jointly discussing the future and attacking a collective problem together. With the latter, you’re the plastic surgeon delighting in the world of possibilities rather than the family doctor who writes a prescription, then deals with complaints about how the bill is too high.

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