Persevering in the Face of Challenges

JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
CIDM Director

I hope you were too preoccupied with recent affairs to notice that we missed sending you the September 2001 issue of the CIDM Best Practices e-newsletter. After the events of September 11, we scrambled to find a way to get to Europe for our content-management conference. Despite all the anxiety about flying to Europe, we decided to persevere, notifying everyone concerned that the conference was not cancelled. As it turned out, we made the right decision. With eight speakers and more than 45 attendees, we had a wonderful meeting that exceeded all our expectations. People came from six countries—Austria, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

We have also decided to persevere with the third annual Best Practices conference, despite the low attendance. A wonderful program, fantastic presenters, and a premiere location on Cape Cod hold out much promise that can’t easily be reproduced in print or through a Webcast. Read more about the program details in the following article. By bringing CIDM members together, we foster community building at a time when we need it more than ever, which brings me to my topic this month—persevering in the face of challenges.

Some of us are old enough to remember the strong emphasis on hard work that followed the end of the Second World War. Those values instilled in me the work ethic that has been the foundation of my career. It’s what we need now in the technical-communication profession to carry us forward. With reduced staffs, many of us will need to work harder and pursue best practices. With the need to grow our companies and ensure that our jobs and those of our staffs continue, we need to be dedicated. We need to demonstrate to the world that we aren’t about to be driven out of business. We need to teach the value of staying with a job, a team, and an employer, a value that seems to have been sorely tested during the high times of the 1990s.

People sometimes remark to me that I’m old-fashioned—too involved with professional goals and achievement, too focused on creating a successful business, too busy, spending too much time working. I should retire, not work so hard, and spend more time “hanging out.” More then ever, though, I find myself convinced that those old-fashioned values are the right ones. If we work together now to add value to our enterprise, promote our profession, find ways to make our companies more successful, it does make a difference.

So—I hope you will find new ways to persevere. For me, that means working more effectively than ever before, finding new ways to serve the information needs of my customers. It means focusing on what is necessary and right to do, not on what is convenient or easy.

We need to focus our work on what is most valuable, what will make a difference to productivity and learning. We need to be outward-directed and observe the consequences of our activities on others.

As managers, we encourage our staff members to be assertive and courageous about quality. We need team members who

  • Can hold their own in meetings with technical experts and management
  • Have a vision of their professional goals and communicate that vision effectively
  • Are willing to self-study to gain expertise in technology, subject matter, and information design
  • Spend time outside of the workplace on personal learning and growth that enhances their job performance
  • Are adept at detail and seeing the big picture at the same time
  • Take charge of a situation immediately and are not afraid to take responsibility
  • Go out of their way to find new opportunities to do the job better than ever

New times foster new demands for learning and growth. A more demanding world leads us to courage and commitment.

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