In 1948 in his book “The Seven Story Mountain”, Thomas Merton wrote “Success – the logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thought and opinions and applause of other men.”
Within the Information Security profession we must agree with Thomas Merton that the early definition of success is not one that fits our world. Not many of us in the profession receive the applause of other men or women during the course of our duties. Think about it for a moment, if you write a “Tough” Policy that forces people to do something that they are resistant to do then do you really think that the applause is going to start rolling in? The opinions will so at least we’d be half way to the fallacy of “worldly success”.
Yet, as Information Security Professionals, we know that having Policies based on International Standards, best practices, etc. combined with a mechanism to enforce compliance with those policies is a critical component to having a successful program.
So, if we buy into the belief that success isn’t about counting on the applause of your community members than what does success look like for an Information Security department, or an information security professional? The definition of success can be different for each Information Security department based on their self identified mission and vision. One Information Security department I worked with decided to follow a modified version of Roger Allen’s formula for success, as explained in his book “Winnie the Pooh on Success,” in which Winnie and the gang discuss the formula for being successful. The Key Success factors in Allen’s book are:
- Select your Information Security Vision
- Use your Information Security Vision to set your Team Goals
- Create an Information Security plan
- Consider resources
- Enhance Skills and Abilities as necessary – I have found SANs training good for this
- Spend Time Wisely
- Start! Get Organized and Go
While it is challenging to meet your Information Security success criteria I encourage you to continue to move forward in the belief that small systemic improvements over a long period of time will ultimately lead to both yours and your team’s success.
Said another way – focus on getting your wins where and when you can with the understanding that each win will move you closer to your goals and the fullfillment of your vision. Do not worry or overly fret about the things you can cannot accomplish, focus your time and energy on those items that you can accomplish.
© Kevin L. McLaughlin, probably cited re-use is acceptable