You Changing My What

freak-out

So change agents are some of the most sought after…yet most abhorrent individuals on this planet. 


We all recognize that things can be better, and on one hand, we want someone to come and help us make it so…a change agent!


However, change is painful and frequently results in unintended and unwanted consequences, and so on the other hand, we hate change agents. 


Many change agents may not just change things that need to get changed and fixed, but they may change a lot of things that were working just fine before, thank you.  


Can anyone say reorganization? 


Moreover, change agents may not be changing things for the right reasons like the good of the organization.


Instead they may be self promoters, control freaks who have to do things their way, or they may be serial job hunters–next stop change everything and get the heck out of Dodge!


Change agents may work with people to get requirements, input, and vet the issues and the solutions or they may just be paying lip service to others, only to really shove their or someone else’s agenda down your throats. 


You see there is healthy change that is based on genuine learning, growth, and maturity, and then there is change that is destructive, diabolical, and selfish. 


When you decide to change something, what’s your motivation and your goal–is it to right the wrongs in the organization, reengineer business processes, and introduce new technologies or is it to change for change’s sake alone. 


Yes, we did something. Check the box. Tell the management committee. We earned our keep and oh yeah, then some. We changed something, anything. Hip Hip Hooray. Bonus time!


So either you’ll get an award and promotion or you’ll get asked accusingly and threateningly, “Who told you to change that?!”


Change which has no real support or merit is dead on arrival (DOA), and will be gone, gone, gone long after the change agent is gone.


So don’t freak out–the b.s. changes are either going to kill the organization or simply end up in Fresh Kills landfill.


The real changes may actually make you stronger. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Help Is Coming

Help

So I used to have a boss who said something really funny.


He used to go, “Everybody says they want to help us” and then bemoaningly he would seem to repeat that a few times. 


The next part which he didn’t need to explicitly say was that “But no one does!”


It was the words, but also much the tone–yes, the walls could be caving in, the ship could be sinking, everything going up in flames, and of course, everyone is there looking on, shaking their heads pitifully, and seemingly stretching out their hand in an offer of help. 


For this boss though, the help couldn’t come fast enough or with enough resources to help resolve all the issues going on at the time. 


I suppose first and foremost, we have to help ourselves. 


Secondly, there needs to be a core understanding from the beginning of what is really doable and what is simply fantasy fare. 


Third, if help is on the way–great, but it’s got to be timely enough and come with enough raw horsepower to make a genuine difference. 


Finally, sometimes miracles do happen and everything works out great–the day is saved–but even then so much underlying damage has been done that you need to rebuild from the core foundations again. 


And for the next time, you’ll need to ensure capabilities beyond what was ever imagined before. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Stop Harassment Now

Harassment 2

I took this photo on the Washington, D.C. Metro. 


“If It’s Unwanted, It’s Harassment.”


Only a day or two later, some ladies came to me complaining that they had been harassed on the Metro.


Apparently, they had been on the platform waiting for a train and a young man was first staring at them, then coming around them menancingly, and then following them. 


Thank G-d, they got away, but it was a frightening situation that left them wanting to actually move away. 


Residents in the metro D.C area and customers of Metro should not have to ride in fear. 


We need more police and surveillance cameras on the Metro system now!


Signs are a great reminder, but law enforcement action is what is really needed and called for. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>When Commitment is Just a Crowd-Pleaser

>

In the organization, you can’t really do anything without management commitment and a certain degree of consensus. In fact, management commitment is usually at the top of the list when it comes to a project’s critical success factors.

But when is commitment real and when is it just lip service?

Sometimes, when the boss tells you to do something, he means it and gives you the authority and resources to make it happen. Other times, “go do” is superficial and denotes more of a “this isn’t really important”, but we need to make a good show of it for political, compliance, or other reasons. In the latter case, there is usually no real authority implied or resources committed to getting the job done. But at least we gave it our best (not!).

As an employee, you have to be smart enough to know the difference in what you’re being asked to do (and not do), so you don’t end up stepping in the muck—trying to do something that no one really wants anyway or the opposite, not delivering on a project that others are depending on.

Knowing the difference between what’s real and what isn’t can mean the difference between a successful and rewarding career (i.e. “you get it”) or one that is disappointing and frustrating (because you’re sort of clueless).

It was interesting for me to read in the Wall Street Journal, 5 February 2010, about how looks can be deceiving when it comes to support for someone or some cause: apparently, in certain European countries, such as Ukraine, it is common place for rallies to be attended not by genuine supporters, but by people paid to show up. In other countries, you may not be paid to show up, but instead be punished for not doing so.

The Journal reports that “rent-a-crowd entrepreneurs find people fast to cheer or jeer for $4 an hour…[and] if you place an order for a rally, you can have it the next day.”

So what looks like thousands of people turning out to support someone or something is really just a sham. This is similar to leaders who turn out to support a program or project, but really they are just paying lip service with no intention of actually helping the project make an inch of progress. Their superficial support is paid for by goodwill generated by their apparent support or what one of my friends used to call by “brownie points” (for brown-nosing their boss or peers)—but of course, they aren’t really behind the initiative.

The article summarizes it this way: “For now, people see the same old politicians and hear the same old ideas. If someone fresh brings a new idea, people will come out and listen for free.”

Good leaders need to actually say what they mean and mean what they say, so employees are able to focus on the work that’s really important and get the results the organization needs. This contrasts with ineffectively telling employees to “go do”, but no one is standing with or behind them—not even for 4 dollars an hour.

Of course, leaders must get on board with the direction that the overall organization is going. That is just part of being a team player and accepting that first of all, we are not always right as individuals, and second of all that we live in an imperfect world where sometimes our choices are not ideal.

However, when employees are required to rally for causes they truly don’t believe in or leadership feels compelled to pay lip service to initiatives they will not ultimately fund or commit to, the result is a dysfunctional organization. The outward reality does not match the actual feelings or thoughts of its people. (Sort of like having a diversity initiative headed by all white males over the age of 50.)

Let us commit to a spirit of honesty in all our dealings. If a conflict needs to be addressed, let’s address it directly rather than avoiding or glossing over it. One very basic and simple step toward this end is to recognize and reward the people who are brave enough to say when the emperor has no clothes and who are able to provide alternatives that make sense.

And finally—when we do commit to something—let’s see it through.

>Is there an IT leader in the House?

>

True IT leadership means that those who are in charge of information technology really care about and drive the success of the mission, the satisfaction of the customers, and the well-being of their employees.

To me, these three critical leadership focus areas are tied to the areas of people, process, and technology.

People: The people are your people—your employees. This is the area of human capital that unfortunately many leaders say is important, but all too often remains mere lip service. We need to focus on providing an environment where our employees can thrive professionally and personally. Where there is challenge and growth. Where we match the right people to the right jobs. Where we provide ongoing training and the right tools for people to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Where we treat people as human beings and not as inanimate economic objects that produces goods and services.

Process: The process is the mission and the business of our organization. As IT leaders, we need to ensure that our technology is aligned to the organization. Business drives technology, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake. Everything IT that we plan for, invest in, execute, support, secure, and measure needs to be linked to enabling mission success. IT should be providing solutions to mission requirements. The solutions should provide better information quality and information sharing; consolidation, interoperability, and component re-use of our systems, and standardization, simplification, and cost-efficiency of our technology—ALL to enable mission process effectiveness and efficiency.

Technology: The technology is the satisfaction we create for our customers in both the technology products and services that we provide to them. Our job is ensuring technology WOW for our customers in terms of them having the systems and services to do their jobs. We need to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, anywhere they need it. We must to service and support our IT customer with a white glove approach rather than with obstructionist IT bureaucracy. We shall find a way—whenever possible—to say yes or to provide an alternate solution. We will live by the adage of “the customer is always right”.

Recently, in reading the book. “The Scalpel and the Soul” by Dr Allan J. Hamilton, I was reminded that true IT leaders are driven by sincere devotion to mission, customer, and employee.

In the book, Dr. Hamilton recalls the convocation speech to his graduating class at Harvard Medical School by Professor Judah Folkman whose speech to a class of 114 news doctors was “Is There a Doctor in the House?”

Of course there was a doctor in the house, there was 114 doctors, but Professor Folkman was pointing out that “these days, patients were plagued by far too many physicians and too few doctors.” In other words, there are plenty of physicians, but there are few doctors “in whom you put your trust and your life”—those driven by sincere devotion and care for their patients, the success of their medical treatment, and their fellow practitioners.

While an IT leader is not a doctor, the genuine IT leader—like the real doctor—is someone who sincerely cares and acts in the best interests of the organization’s mission, their customers, and their people.

Just like when there is a doctor in the house, the patient is well cared for, so too when there is a genuine IT leader in the C-suite, the organization is enabled for success.