Category Archives: Management

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…..!!!

Do you sometimes wonder how to make great decisions? What do you do when when you’re not sure where to start? Let me tell you a story about me, my brother and some cars. (stick with me it will make sense)


Many years ago both me and my brother decided that we needed a classic convertible “toy” car for the summer. Not only so we could look great with the roof down but as a little engineering project. We approached  our decisions in very different ways, I looked for something small and easy to store: an MG Roadster. My brother on the other hand fancied something a bit more full bodied: a Triumph Stag, clearly he has more room in his garage and was thinking of using the car not just when the sun was shinning.


As the search took shape my brother found a good looking white Stag and after some haggling paid £1000. It looked and sounded great, it had a couple of odd rust spots but nothing that a bit of hard work couldn’t resolve. Me, I struck it lucky when I found a Roadster with only two owners, father and son, had been kept in a garage since new and still had all the original leather covers. After having a new soft-top made and fitted the total cost of £2000.

“OK, we have some good news and some bad news.

The first summer we both enjoyed our purchases, the weather was definitely made us feel we had made wise decisions. Once the frost of winter passed we began the annual service and road worthiness checks. This is when the story started to change as my little MG only needed minor work; oil, brakes pads, etc..(don’t worry not going to get technical), unfortunately my brother didn’t have a  spring in his stride when he spoke to the mechanics.


“OK, we have some good news and some bad news. The good news we know why you had trouble changing gears, the bad news is it will cost £750 to fix.”


Well my brother had little choice but to agree and handed over the cash. Both now cars fully functional and summer looming, we used our toy cars everything the sun shone , but the winter arrived all to soon and they were put away until the new year.


When spring arrived and the maintenance regime began my brother noticed a rattling from the rear of the Stag. Another conversation with the mechanics left him with a quandary.


“We’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is we have found the cause of the noise, your rear axle mounts need replacing. Bad news is it will cost £1000.”

“The good news is we have found the cause of the noise.”

This is a difficult question to answer as my brother knew that the Stag in good condition was worth £2500, but if he didn’t fix the axle the car would be worth £1500 at best. Either way he is going to lose money what should he do, sell the car as is and cut his losses or fix the car?


I know what happened in real life but what would you do?

IT and Keeping Things Under Control

It seems obvious that with the benefits organisations received by implementing “frameworks” into operational aspects of the business the same could be applied to the burgeoning world of information and communication technology. In 1989 the Office of Government Commerce (UK government agency) published a series of books based on years of research into the codification of best practice for the provision of IT services known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). These have been updated several times over the last 25 years the latest version released in 2011(Fry, 2012; ITSM Forum, 2012).

 

In the UK the prominent IT standards were developed by government agencies and have not grown out of analysis or continual improvement on the ‘shop-floor’. Even with the introduction of ITIL and other governance frameworks UK government and public sector agencies have a large number of high profile failures regarding IT service provision.

 

Much of the published literature is focused on the successful implementation within organisations or with the general benefits of ITIL in practice (Doughty, 2003). Articles often describe how ITIL best practice could enable and support the IT function within an organisation through:

  • Improved management of IT resources
  • Effective governance of IT activities
  • Clear framework of policies, internal controls and practices

 

The 2008 IT Governance Institute report (ITGI, 2008) produced through the collaboration between the US and UK (OGC) bodies described the business benefits as:

  • Aid is realising value from IT investments
  • Increased efficiencies and reduced costs
  • Improved regulatory compliance and minimised auditory risk

 

Academic research has noted organisational agility is hindered by IT management practices through its structures and rigid processes (Verbann, et al 2012). Studies indicated that both central decision making and financial control of applications within the IT services were perceived as significant bottlenecks. Versendaal et al (2010) highlighted that the increased standardisation and procedural adherence did not ensure a superior IT management performance. Many have explored the potential for characteristics IT and digitisation to increase enterprise agility to be increased without reference to “value creation” at an organisational level (Overby, et al, 2006).

The Entrepreneur and the Hierarchy

With global enterprises and entrepreneurial behaviour, hierarchy does not and cannot suffice. Being part of a supportive community becomes the basis for repeated, mutually beneficial transactions. Collaboration becomes the underlying mode of operating. Contracts are incomplete and often only marginally enforceable through judicial processes. Legal systems and ethical systems are often in conflict. Therefore, to interact effectively and efficiently, individuals must sense that they are part of a community that cares, protects, and ensures legitimate behaviour on the part of others. Trust, caring, agreed-upon standards for performance, and agreed-upon sanctions are the lubricant easing the friction inherent in free exchange. Building a sense of community is a leadership task. Learning to live as part of a community that is dispersed, asynchronous, and diverse is one of the initiatives that shapes character as well as knowledge. Such a community is created and linked by the technology that is evolving.

 

These four challenges for the future are mutually reinforcing. Scholars and practitioners who attempt to deal with one of the challenges without under- standing the others do so at their own peril. Entrepreneurship creates the technology and is enabled by it. Communities that form across traditional boundaries enable globalization and enable growth through entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs build community by managing networks rather than hierarchies and by reinforcing the community through celebration and reinvestment in other community members’ new ideas. They share the rewards of innovation with customers, suppliers, and other partners in the enterprise in order to assure cooperation.

Democratizing Change Management

In the old days, OK the 1990’s the need for Change in organizations was infrequent. The Change was almost predictable, large organisations could adapt to it; you had time to adjust your operating model to remain competitive.

 

That time is over and is noticeable in the prevalence of the number of articles discussing organisational agility. Back then when the business environment was predictable (and maybe easier), the process of ‘managing change’ typically was controlled and driven by ‘the experts’. Obviously, there were many reasons why we heavily relied on the ‘experts’;

 

  • The expert has the experience to understand the impact of the required change. Whilst this might have been true when knowledge was scarce and in the hands of the few, today reality is different.
  • How the corporate world reacts to failure. When changed are implemented unsuccessfully without experts would result in being ‘fired’. Therefore, to avoid delivering bad news in times of crisis or tarnishing your image, we tend to call-in the experts to play bad-cop. In many cases completely outsource the job to the experts is career suicide as managers are expected to be capable to project manage.

 

As dealing with change is now a regular activity, leading it becomes a skill to hone, an internal capacity to master.

 

Back then, the need for change was cyclical and gradual. Today, as we are witnessing with the emergence of new technology and knowledge, change is constant. This has tremendous implications for the organization. This means that change is something everyone must be very comfortable with both as an employee and as leaders. As dealing with change becomes a regular activity, leading it becomes a skill to hone, an internal capacity to master. Clearly, change implementation, strategy execution, or whatever sophisticated name associated with the process, can no longer be outsourced to the expert only; it must be woven into the organisations operating model. In the future, “the way we do things here” should be a phrase that explains how complacency is not acceptable. Leading change is now a core competency and like all core competencies, you need to keep the intelligence in-house.

 

Ask Your Direct Reports Their Opinion and They May Hate You Less

Probably your direct reports don’t hate you, Things are not that bad. It might be mild discontent. But, what could explain the fact that they don’t seem to get it. If only they could stop driving you crazy and just do their job like they are supposed to. Is that the attitude you had when they first joined your team?

“Just do your job and don’t drive me crazy and we will get along fine.”

If this has been your general approach toward your employees, I urge you to consider pursuing a role as an individual contributor, not a leader. It will serve everyone better.

When an employee first joined your organization (or you took the reins of an existing team), you shared expectations, communication preferences, point of view, and boundaries. All with hopeful anticipation and valued camaraderie. “Welcome to the team,” you likely said.

So what happened?

Over time, things got sloppy. Perhaps you got used to each other and replaced communication with assumption.

“She’s been here long enough, she knows what I mean.”

The layman’s term for this is, ‘lazy’. It can happen even when everything is humming along; costs contained, profits up, technology has magically fixed your problems, and you are getting home at a decent hour. The effective leader knows; the garden still has to be tended with a diligent and caring eye.

Although they seldom like to hear it, I frequently remind clients, “Your manager knows more than you.” This has nothing to do with intelligence or common sense. It is about perspective. Your manager attends different meetings than you, receives different reports, is under different scrutiny, and is responsible for more. These are not things a leader should tell their direct reports because at best it comes across as a humble brag, at worst it is sanctimonious.

It is rare for your direct reports to see things from your vantage point. They view the world from their perspective, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn the reverse is also true. Your direct reports know more than you. They are closer to the end-user. They get the latest tactical information in real time, well before your excel spreadsheet turns from yellow to red. Every day they see successes and failures that you never do, or if you once did, you’ve long since forgotten.

When you stop communicating, collaborating, and soliciting opinions, you break an implicit compact. The point of a team is the realization of a strategic imperative. It is the recognition that the accomplishment of something important cannot be successful without the diversity of thought, experience, skill, and perspective. Without that you do not have a high-performing team, you have a group of people who barely tolerate each other, and there is no strategic benefit to that.

So, go ask your direct reports their opinion. Let them know ahead of time that you may or may not agree with or act on what they share, but you still want to hear their opinion because you value their perspective.