A bold new direction for IT

IT is undergoing a sea change, and Advice Line is shifting its focus to better aid IT leaders in years ahead

After eight years and more than 800 suggested solutions to various problems, Advice Line is poised for a new direction. This is in large part a strategic response to the challenges IT will face in the years ahead. Whereas Advice Line to date has been focused on the present, suggesting solutions to problems at hand, starting next week this space will be devoted to providing strategic and practical advice to IT leaders seeking to push their organizations beyond today's hunkered-down, budget-driven, can't-please-anyone way of running things.

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Anyone looking for a sneak peek at the themes that will be core to the new Advice Line should take a moment to read my recent in-depth analysis of today's IT challenges, all of which require forward-thinking IT organizations to reconsider policies centered around control. To take the enterprise to the next level, one that will position IT advantageously vis-a-vis the business, IT must embrace three core principles:

  1. IT is the steward of the company's information resources, not the owner.
  2. IT must empower end-users to be innovators by opening new technological doors for them as motivated by end-user choice.
  3. IT must be strategic in supporting "single-actor business practices" -- a significant tactical shift from years of paying attention only to core processes.

Starting next week, Advice Line will begin to carve out practical approaches to redefining how IT goes about its business. These changes are not only about survival -- they are an opportunity for IT to bring new joy to work.

So tune in next week for an exciting new direction for Advice Line. In the meantime, as a send-off to the old-style Advice Line, I thought I would deliver some final pieces of old-style advice.

Over the past several years, the inquiries I received most were in fact the hardest to answer. These were all variations on the theme: "How can I get so-and-so to change their behavior to align with how I know they should be acting?" The specifics varied. Sometimes it was the boss. Sometimes it was the company's top executives. It was, on occasion, peers and colleagues. I will admit that I ducked the ones that dealt with family members -- you have to draw the line somewhere.

Here's one last attempt to answer this time-honored question in its various guises.

The company's top executives aren't interested in your thoughts on what they should do differently. They're quite happy with how they do things now, because it's landed them in high-paying positions in which they have a lot of authority. Try telling them what you think they should be doing instead and if you're very lucky they'll pat you on the head and make soothing noises, in the hope that you'll go away happy, but more importantly, that you will go away soon.

Your boss might have some interest in your suggestions, but only if you and your boss have established a strong working relationship. That's something your boss is supposed to do. If you leave it at that, you'll probably end up disappointed: The quality of your working relationship matters a lot more to you than it does to your boss, so you'd better take the lead in making it what you want it to be.

Best case: You are your manager's protege. Worst case: You are your manager's scapegoat. Don't leave this to chance. Take charge of the situation. (Trust me -- I speak from experience here.)

Your peers: The only way you'll influence their behavior is if they think of you as their informal role model. That doesn't happen easily or by accident. You need to cultivate these relationships for the long haul. If you do this perfectly you'll be someone they can trust, someone they can rely on for help, and someone who's just a bit dangerous politically -- not so dangerous that they think of you as a backstabber, but just risky enough that nobody would ever think of backstabbing you.

Then there's your staff: the people who report to you. Want them to behave differently? Just telling them to change is a waste of breath. Here we're talking about a change of culture -- a big subject, far too much to handle in a paragraph or two. (I know. I wrote a whole chapter about this in my last book, "Bare Bones Change Management," and barely scratched the surface.)

There you go -- the best tip I have for navigating the workplace. Hope you found it helpful.

I sure hope you find Advice Line's new adventure even more helpful. See you next week with the first installment.

- Bob

This story, "A bold new direction for IT," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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