IT Governance Rule #1 of 3 – Make sure you are doing the right things

In part 1 of a 3 part series, this article describes an approach with applying IT governance concepts. You can find a quick and relevant global survey on IT governance that provides additional views here

How do you know you are delivering the processes & systems that the business wants and needs? At one end of the spectrum you may rely on your intuition or the “squeaky wheel with the corner office” and at the other end you may have a mature balanced scorecard capability. How well you answer this question may mean the difference between your company’s arrival at their destination of choice or perhaps being “out in left field”.

How do you chart the waters in front of you? Having a keen line of sight for your market combined with a business model to turn a profit within it, is a good start. Some decisions will be easy. Some decisions will be hard. How do you make the decisions to ensure that you are doing the right things. In a series of bullets, make sure that you have some degree of capability to address the following:

  • Define your business strategy. The back of a napkin is on OK place to start.
  • Establish one or more roadmaps to deliver the strategy. Allow flexibility and agility within your delivery models to change your roadmap.
  • Evaluate and manage the risk associated with delivering your roadmaps.
  • Establish financial traceability of your project approval process and the ensuing delivery of your roadmaps.
  • Win fast and fail fast. Don’t be afraid to make fast decisions or change decisions.

Making sure that you are doing the right things is more important now than ever. Resources, including funds and people, are more precious now than a year ago. Building a system where “no” or “not now” is an acceptable answer requires all the bullets above at a minimum.

Which bucket are you operating in: “because of” or “in spite of”?

Want to know how you can positively impact your own skills profile, a one-on-one discussion, team discussion, or leadership team? Go get two buckets.

In the first bucket, place all your or others positive, encouraging, or productive comments. This is the “because of” bucket. Each of us are successful for different reasons. Think…”I am successful or effective ‘because of’ [insert reason here]”. How big is your “because of bucket”? What is in there? What would others say is in your “because of” bucket? Take inventory of the content of your “because of” bucket and leverage it.

In the second bucket is the “in spite of” attributes. Individuals, meetings, and teams are successful “in spite of” things too. Perform the same analysis here too. You are successful “in spite of” several attributes. Take inventory, and learn to minimaze or neutralize these attributes. By doing so, you will do yourself and your teams a favor.

In your change teams, practice the two buckets on a personal level to encourage development, and on a project and team level to marginalize bad behavior. The change agents in your teams should always look for “in spite of” behaviors, discussions, comments, and attitudes. Make this second nature, like walking or breathing. Get your teams to a point where they dont even think about the two buckets, they just instinctively “bucketize” things as a part of their normal course of business. Start with a personal assessment of yourself, and move out from there.

Everyday, challenge yourself and your teams, which bucket are you in? Is the change successful “because of” your actions or “in spite of” your actions?

CIO Perspectives on Business Change

I attended a CIO Perspectives conference in Philadelphia this morning. It was a great session with a lot of relevant content. Definitely worth the investment in time.

The keynote speaker was a CIO who is leading a business transformation for a pharmaceutical distribution company using an ERP implementation as the technology driver. His discussion focused on three key elements critical for transformation, and I want to share that I emphatically agree. While there are certainly other factors in a business transformation, these three are most applicable to the CIO:

1) IT Strategy – providing multiple views of the architecture, platforms, tools, and technologies that are needed to support the business strategy.
2) IT Governance – prioritizing projects, making decisions and living with the consequences of the decisions.
3) Relationships – trust, candor, and discussing the “undiscussables”.

He emphasized relationships as a fundamental component of a transformation because it enables the the first two elements to be effective.

Here is my summary of other key concepts for your consideration in your own change efforts:

  • If you struggle to get a busines strategy to feed the IT strategy, create one yourself. IT has a great perspective of your company.
  • Commit to the integrity of the IT governance process. Don’t make side deals.
  • In order to have any transparency, you need to be able to define what everyone does on a daily basis. Put a time reporting system in. Without it, you are stuck in emotions and hallway sound bytes.
  • Trust is critical. Do you have it? Do you want it? Do you want it like you have never wanted anything else? You need to.
  • Listen without judgement.
  • Decide to make relationships important. Start with your most troubled relationship, turn it around, and then move on to others.
    Change fails because of relationships.
  • I would rather have an average strategy with flawless execution, than a flawless strategy with average execution. You can and will always modify your strategy in our current environments.

How Organizational Culture Can Change

How Organizational Culture Can Change –

I have read and seen a lot of change management, business transformation, and executive leadership materials refer to the GM-Toyota partnership and the article above provides a nice summary.

This case suggests that driving cultural change is all about modifying behavior through the management system, motivation, and leadership. Further, I concur that trying to change how people think, is a dead end. In support of this assertion, I refer you to The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge for a discussion on mental models.

Culture can change. You can move the needle “one tick at a time”. It is not easy, and the successful ones, are done many times, without anyone even realizing that it is happening.

The “Change Management Manifesto”

If you are familiar with agile techniques from the software development industry, I propose that we as change leaders, can benefit from reflecting on agile principles. You can reference “The Agile Manifesto” at

In the same spirit, I propose the following “Change Management Manifesto”. The most effective change approaches embrace:

– Shared success over heroic efforts
– Culture evolution over strategic planning
– Customer-centric results over parochial goals
– Personal growth over organizational growth

While a comprehensive change management approach values and addresses all the concepts presented herein, this manifesto proposes the first attributes over the second attributes.

Much like the Agile Manifesto, I invite you to become a signatory of this manifesto and leave a comment to this post.

Changing the Leadership and Culture

So, you are working your way through a change or transformation effort, and you are 25%, 50%, maybe even 75% of the way through and the efforts or more importantly, the results are fading. There is probably a bit of change fatigue, and there is probably also a bit of lack of leadership. Can you tell the difference? How do you react?

Rarely does anyone argue against the importance of leadership. Leadership is like “motherhood and apple pie”, as an American, it’s hard to argue against. However, how do you position leadership as a critical element in your change efforts. The fact that leadership is “motherhood and apple pie” almost undermines the need to emphasize it within a transformation effort. However, an article from the Center for Change Leadership takes an interesting perspective on this topic.

I propose that, if you find extremely unique competitive differentiators within your business, you can probably leverage them for a profit for a period of time until it becomes commoditized or the rules of your industry change so much that they marginalize your competitive differentiation. Alternatively, if all things are equal (and I have seen dozens of global companies who claim to have unique operational process, but they are not), your teamwork and leadership NEEDS TO BE a competitive advantage. Is it today? If it isn’t today, what are you doing about it? If you are involved in a change or transformation effort, you need to find a way to work into your daily routine an ability to address leadership and teamwork. The Forbes article above outlines some of the considerations for leadership in a transformation. For additional perspective, research the intersection of leadership and change. Ask yourself if you are inspired by your leadership. And if you are a leader, make sure you are inspiring and compelling your enterprise in the most positive manner to change across the obvious (business capabilities and technical enablers) as well as the not so obvious (strategy, culture, skills, and structure). For more on the obvious and not so obvious domains of change, reference my earlier post here

Executive Courage

“The key to change… is to let go of fear.” – Rosanne Cash

I recently came across an article on executive courage at and was reminded of the impact that fear has within organizations today.

Fear is a limiting factor to you and the teams you lead. It negatively impacts culture, team work, and productivity. Fear materializes in many ways through a transformation including but not limited to:

  • Fear of the unknown – “I have no idea what our future business model looks like.”
  • Fear of the known – “Every time I talk with that person they bite my head off, so I gave up talking with them.”
  • Fear of Maslow’s hierachy of needs – “If I share my ideas they may be contrary to my boss and my job may be jeopardized.”

Fear can paralyze organizations at all levels. However, when confronted with courage, companies can overcome their fears and make a difference. I propose that people and organizations achieve their greatest accomplishments when they overcome their fears, or those things that hold them back.

Now is the time for courage. When the competition is fearful of the known, unknown, and/or hierarchy of needs, be courageous and thrive.