To fix IT, diagnose what ails the business first

If you hope to become a next-gen IT operation, you must know your organization's signature dysfunction to overcome it

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  • Content that's engaging: Whatever you do, don't bore them. Some subjects are intrinsically interesting. Those are easy to handle. Others have less appeal -- IT capacity planning is an example. How do you make it engaging? That depends on the subject, your imagination, and your knowledge of the steering committee members.
  • Facilitation: In a stir-the-pot company, the steering committee will start out as a group, not a team. There will be little alignment of purpose among its members, and even less trust, putting your facilitation skills to the test.

In this context, facilitation goes beyond its usual run-an-effective-meeting focus to its broader meaning -- namely, helping people listen to, inform, and persuade each other. Some of this happens in committee meetings, but that's nowhere near enough. You'll have to manage the communication that happens among steering committee members between meetings as well.

Chargebacks: Your last defense

A CIO who forms an IT steering committee to deal with stir-the-pot business leadership might find the CEO doesn't like it. After all, if you succeed in making the committee effective, you'll inevitably increase their level of shared purpose, and you'll diminish the distrust the CEO has so carefully fostered.

It isn't uncommon for this sort of CEO to disband the IT steering committee, informing the CIO, "Setting IT's priorities is your job. My other execs have their own work to do without doing yours."

Very likely, the CEO will follow this with advice as to why you can't trust the judgment of each member of the now-disbanded steering committee. The CEO's ongoing goal is to foster distrust, after all. Why would he/she stop fostering it now?

At this point, your options are limited to an alternative that is, while horrible, less egregious than your remaining choices. That's to institute a chargeback system for IT services.

It's a terrible idea, of course, and the polar opposite of creating a next-gen IT organization, but it fixes the most glaring hazard when dealing with stir-the-pot leadership: You avoid being the nut in the nutcracker. You don't have to decide who gets what share of the IT budget because there is no IT budget. It's a fee-for-service situation, with the various business executives giving you the budget you need to deliver whatever it is they're willing to pay for.

Other than the frequent arguments you'll have over the amounts you're charging, you have no worries.

Does the company you're working for suffer from business diseases that prevent your IT department from achieving next-gen status? Drop me a line to let me know about them and I'll cover them in upcoming Advice Lines.

This story, "To fix IT, diagnose what ails the business first," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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