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Posts Tagged ‘IT Leadership’

Start with Why! Personal and Business Approach to Inspiring Others

“Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” – Simon Sinek

A couple of weeks ago, our office had a team building event at iFly. Most of us signed up to experience our first indoor skydiving and I did so with hesitation. At iFly, we had a short 30-minute instruction session and then, we put on safety gears. I made my dream of flight a reality! It was so amazing that I thought of bringing my 6-year old twin boys to experience it the following day.

It was Friday so I went to pick up my sons from school. I told them we were going to iFly so they can experience indoor skydiving. They were not interested at all and both said no emphatically. I showed them how iFly does it through a video. They saw kids flying upward the wind tunnel. I said, “Isn’t this fun?” They looked somewhat convinced but a bit frightened. They responded no again with hesitation.

At such a young age, my boys like to read and learn astronomy. They know their solar systems, galaxies and black holes. Very often, I hear them talk to each other about becoming an astronaut. They went to NASA summer camp together last year. I wanted to convince them to do iFly, so I told them that one other way astronauts train with weightlessness besides being under water is indoor skydiving. Their eyes lit up and we jumped into the car. They experienced iFly and went to tell friends about it with their hand upwards as if in flying motion.

Why didn’t I communicate with WHY (to be an astronaut) from the very beginning? Instead, like most people, I started with WHAT (indoor skydiving) and the HOW (video). Simon Sinek’s TED talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action is about the idea that most people communicate by starting with the WHAT. By explaining his Golden Circle, Simon spoke about how transcendent leaders like Martin Luther King and innovative companies like Apple begin instead with WHY.

iFly

At the BRMCONNECT Forum hosted by BRM Institute at the PepsiCo headquarters in Dallas, this was my story. I was asked by Aaron Barnes, CEO and Co-Founder of the institute to tell other BRMs the story of how I formed my team and what we do. I started my storytelling by sharing the Why. The vision and purpose of my team: To Be Strategic Leaders Driving Competitive Advantage. This is a shared vision with the rest of our IT organization. In the beginning, this seemed a lofty goal. To me personally, this Why is the reason why I get up in the morning fulfilled to go to work!

We started with the Why but if we are going to be strategic partners with the business, our next challenge was the HOW. How are we going to put ourselves in the middle of business conversations and drive more strategic engagements? We turn to Business Process Management (BPM) as a means to foster business relationship. We created our Business Process Architecture (BPA) Framework and Process Assessment Methodology (PAM). We equip ourselves with an effective How.

Now when business partners come to us with a seemingly tactical request to deploy a specific application system, we have the means to ask “what business problem are you trying to solve?” and “what strategy are you enabling?” And then the invitation, let’s partner and do a Process Assessment. With three phases of PAM– Align, Discovery and Solution, we end up proposing a business initiative or technology project or both.

According to Simon Sinek every organization has a Why. “Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why you can inspire others.” I realize there are effective use of this approach or concept in everyday — both in our personal lives and in business. Start with Why!

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Does your IT Value Proposition Resonate?

Satisfying internal customers means every employee must be constantly aware that customer service is everyone’s business in IT. That constant awareness generates genuine teamwork among all departments in the IT organization: Operations, Projects Department, Support Groups, IT Infrastructure, Business Applications, Process Management, etc. This challenge emphasizes the importance of internal customer service as an IT organizational accountability. Excellent customer service doesn’t just happen because IT teams and individuals want it to, it has to mandated by IT leaders into a service model that includes specific responsibilities to perform and a standard service level to achieve.  

Revisiting your IT value proposition periodically is an important exercise for IT managers. This will help you understand the tangible and intangible elements that define and differentiate your services portfolio. For internal customers, the IT Value Proposition is the collection of services they receive upon investing in IT capabilities and services. We have to understand that it includes more than just the core IT services (like equipments, applications, and infrastructure), and even more than just good quality— it also involves the softer elements that differentiate the total service offering such as: responsiveness, innovation, collaboration and commitment. 

These are two perspectives representing the two words of the terminology “Value Proposition” — “Value” and “Proposition” – broken down into: 

  • Value (Internal Customer’s Perspective) = The benefits received by the business upon investment on IT capabilities and services.  
  • Proposition (IT’s Perspective as Service Provider) = The total offering to the business in exchange for their investment.  

Defining your IT value proposition is the first step to clearly identify how your IT services portfolio are different and better than your competitors. If you run an IT organization that is purely composed of internal employees and do not think you don’t have competitors, you are wrong. There are many 3rd party IT services providers out there who can offer the same type of service that you have. Some, I could tell you, may even offer the same level of service at a better cost than you. Outsourcing companies that provide IT services have increased and matured over the years. Advancements in technology and development of new operating paradigms have made them more accessible and acceptable. They are your competitors and they are out to get your job. If you can’t define some unique feature or benefit that makes you stand out, your internal customers may default to the other option – lower cost. And believe me, you don’t want to be forced to play the low cost game — even when you win, you lose. 

Photo courtesy of Pakorn.

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Strengthening IT Accountability – Lack of Accountability, a Symptom of Lack of Organizational Clarity

A very insightful comment in my blog from a well respected IT management consultant, Vaughan Merlyn, motivated me to write this follow up article. IT Accountability is an interesting topic and there is a lot to uncover and delve into. In Part One, I wrote about accountability as something that does not only happen when things go wrong — it is taking ownership from the beginning. It is continuous rather than something that has an end point. There are three important areas where IT accountability comes into play: (1) IT Accountability in Operative Teams; (2) IT Accountability Cost Management; and (3) IT Accountability to improve service delivery. These are just three of the many facets of IT organizations where accountability is an important driver for success. They are meant to illustrate the meaning of IT accountability and to provide examples.

Part Two aims to tackle the challenges on how to deal with the problem of lack of IT accountability. According to Mr. Merlyn, lack of accountability is a symptom of a lack of organizational clarity. I agree withVaughan. The main reason why IT leaders fail to address the accountability issue is a lack of clarity on what the team is accountable for in the first place. Accountability matters as much as any other IT capabilities. The key to directing individuals and teams towards success is to clarify the organizational purpose up front. The organizational purpose is a declaration of what the organization wants to be and, in broader terms, what it wants to achieve. It provides meaning to the day-to-day tasks, triumphs and setbacks that make up the daily operative grind. A lack of purpose will create disconnection among the different levels of the IT organization. Teams and individuals will not know why their effort matters. They cannot connect their work to a larger story. Their work becomes a matter of going through the motions. When that happens, team members lose accountability.

The following statement is Vaughan Merlyn’s assertion on this subject:

“If organizational purpose is not clear (i.e., the goals, values desired business outcomes and guiding principles for a given capability are defined and well understood?) then organizational commitment (i.e., sponsorship and accountabilities) will be lacking or confused. With weak organizational commitment, ability (i.e., clear processes, well-defined roles, competent resources filling those roles, appropriate tools and technologies supporting the processes) will be deficient. And with deficient ability, there is virtually no way accountability (i.e., criteria for success and related performance requirements) can be meaningful.”

Root Cause: Lack of Organizational Clarity

When there is a lack of organizational clarity, it will be harder for IT managers to inspire people because they don’t have a clear direction, performance measures and objectives to follow and to communicate to their teams. This disconnect will open the door for individual managers to interpret directions, formulate objectives and determine their own priorities. On the other hand, for IT team members, it will lead to inconsistent performance of day-to-day operations that will cause low morale and productivity. It will be impossible to expect accountability from team members who may ask themselves the question—“How do we know if we are doing a good job? How do we know if we are fulfilling our obligations to the team and we are achieving results for the company?” Without organizational clarity, chances are you will have a lack of accountability from your people.

Creating the culture of accountabilty starts with the IT leaders – to me this process is always top-down. They define the IT strategy and vision based on the desired results and business strategy of the company (IT to Business Alignment). The desired objective of IT or the entire company could be to: become the easiest to conduct business with, be the most innovative organization in the industry, have technological excellence, increase profitability, or create the best sales and distribution network. IT leaders must clearly understand the business strategy of the firm which it provides services to. They must also work to provide the right IT strategy, platform, experiences and actions to achieve these results. The role of IT leaders is to communicate this organizational purpose clearly to the whole team. It requires persistent effort and a clear message to get the right commitment. By doing this, they can be certain that their subordinates know or are reminded what they are accountable for. This is where IT leaders make all the difference. Leadership is about reminding people what it is that we are trying to achieve—and why it matters.

Photos courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and Sheelamohan

Follow Glenn Remoreras on Twitter.

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