Creating Time To Become More Strategic
Part 1: YOU are the crucible of Organisational Change.
When I talk with peers and customers, the goal of becoming a Strategic IT Partner comes across as being self evident: Thinking about the long-term future of how the business grows and how technology helps; and having those discussions earlier and with more senior people. The challenge they pose to me, is how?
This is an introduction blog post in a series of five, that attempts to tackle the most prevalent symptoms that we face when trying to free up time to become more strategic.
In a nutshell, if we were to distance ourselves from "filling the service and project gaps" to continuous improvement and longer term planning; then we would help the organisation avoid the common pitfalls of Organisational Change and our role would add more value through getting the right thing right first time.
So what are the symptoms? It doesn't matter who you are - whether you are a Business Analyst, a Service Delivery Manager, Enterprise Architect or Project Manager, you could identify with the following scenarios:
- "White Glove" Syndrome: High customer service expectations, dissappointed by poor service delivery; despite your best efforts.
- "Little Fish" Syndrome: A significant volume of small, tactical requests that may duplicate or conflict with other requests.
- "Town Crier" Syndrome: A significant amount of time preparing reports, updating either business or IT stakeholders and being present in meetings, without contributing directly to the outcome.
- "Rear View Mirror" Syndrome: Solving the problems caused by yesterday, despite trying to broach the subject of tomorrow.
In some organisations, the very role of Business Relationship Management is defined by the above symptoms. In others, there is an acceptance that despite the "current challenges", the intent of the role is to become more strategic.
It goes without saying that organisations as they grow will inevitably create friction, gaps or inertia that slows progress down. Communication and it's consequential understanding is a slow process and prone to error. Therefore, with these cracks built in, the implied value of a liaison role is that of "filling the gaps".
The plan for growth is normally haphazard and opportunistic, with people driving growth who don't necessarily understand the effects on the organisation until it is too late. So with the benefit of hindsight, it would be good to build in organisational change that mitigated the risk of these syndromes in the first place.
Where could you start?
1) Backfill. Free up your time by employing an additional resource to tackle the operational issues. Securing the extra funding for that is an achievement. However, you're addressing the symptom rather than the root cause. Let me ask some more questions: Now you have this time free, how are you going to spend it? Do you have the skills necessary to actually perform strategic planning? Do your IT peers and business stakeholders have time and motivation to conduct these activities with you? What's the likelihood of success of being able to implement the strategic roadmap that you create? I'm not suggesting don't do this - additional capacity can help provide the leeway in order for you to do things differently; my point is that there needs to be a credible plan in place. That plan could be inspired by.... (the next section)
2) Continuous Improvement. Do Continuous Improvement by addressing the root cause and identifying actions that will improve the outcome. What would happen if you won the lottery and today was your last day? How would the organisation cope after you left? Who would the business stakeholders turn to next? Who would end up doing the activities you're doing today? Indeed, would those activities continue? My point is, you are part of a fluid and dynamic organisation, that although organisational change seems massively difficult - when push comes to shove, change happens. And that change starts with YOU. So I'm not asking you to quit your job, I'm asking you to find five hours a week. YOU are in control of your diary. Delegate, stay behind later or identify and just stop the least value adding activities (for the organisation). Solicit support from your team and sponsors to do continuous improvements instead.
Conclusions and Next steps
It may well be that some of the symptoms that we moan about the most, we may actually be complicit in perpetuating. Organisational change - getting other people to change the way they behave and act means personal change - change in the way YOU act and behave FIRST. This means taking a personal risk and going out of your comfort zone.
So do it incrementally, step-by-step but be consistent. Your first steps maybe wobbly but that's how we learn. Learning to walk is in fact trial and error - where is the instruction manual for that?
I can't provide a step-by-step instruction manual for every scenario, every complication but at least I can show some guidelines and methods on how to break down what seems like a massive wall into little bricks. The rest is up to you. I will be publishing a response to the four syndromes over the coming weeks.