Wednesday, 17 March 2010 00:00
A conversion at a Starbucks coffee shop made me realize the importance of listening. I think you will agree that there is a lesson here.
There were three IT professionals, seated at a table sipping their drinks, as one complained: "I've been told to cut my IT operating costs by 30%." Matt replied: "If your management team have not bought into your IT plans, the budget is meaningless to them." He hit the nail on the head!
It is easy to sell the benefits of doing more with less. Better, faster, cheaper, more efficiently, reduced staffing, are things that seldom invoke challenge from the team that controls cash flow in a business. But what are the options when your management team demands a large reduction in costs, and you know that the investment in information technology is already too low?
Vince replied that the CEO and the CFO only see IT as a cost center. Matt's response was classic: "In that case you need to listen to them more often." He reminded the coffee sippers that absent management team buy-in the entire IT operation is like a ship lost at sea without a rudder. The key to solving this problem is communication, not in formal meetings, but informal regular contact with key decision makers. The most important benefit of just talking to these folks is that you will gain feedback. Matt said: "The one who listens controls the conversation. If you do not listen to someone he will never sign the check."
Ultimately you need to present your IT plans to the business team. Make certain that it outlines what you are planning to do to meet their business goals and objectives. Highlight in their language the benefits each will obtain. Make sure that there is a key benefit that touches the highest priority each member of the management team has.
Instead of presenting what you want to do first, break everything down in a way that reflects your desire to understand and to implement the business goals that management have spent so much time wrestling with. At the very beginning of a new project start the documentation process. Summarize in suscinct bullet-form the following:
- Project essentials - the MUST have items
- Project nescessities - those things that OUGHT to be included
- Project options - those things that COULD be included
- Make your request: Please help me to trim this down to something we can all execute on.
This approach can be used to engage your team in a purpose-driven communication process. Make sure that you are ready when someone asks for a preferred short-list (it shows you know your stuff). When the time is right, talk to the big picture, and then ask for commitment to make it happen. Remember, this project is just the first step to help us all get there with a smile.
We left that Starbucks with a clear realizaton that times are tough, and tough times mean that it is more important than ever to listen to the men who sign the checks.