Even if you’re not a superstitious person, it’s likely at one
point in your lifetime you knocked on wood in an attempt to appease the gods of
fate. Or maybe you made sure to close up that umbrella before stepping into
your house. A couple seconds to rap on wood here, a few seconds of standing in
the rain there—minor inconveniences to soothe away the universe’s impending
spells of bad juju.
The reality is that no, wood is not magical. And opening an umbrella indoors doesn’t shepherd evil ghouls into your home. These quirky habits
don’t add tangible value to our lives.
However, superstitions like these aren’t made up out of nowhere. They often arise from practical behaviors which may have made sense at one point, but lost their fundamental meaning after passing through generations. (Are umbrellas indoors really bad luck? Or did someone long ago get a bad poke in the eye?)
These learned behaviors take root over time, through
generations of practice and habitual routine. They reassure people that no
unintended consequences will come their way if they unquestioningly perform
things a certain way—the way they’ve
always been done.
Similarly, superstitious behaviors are alive and well in your
organization. IT superstitions aren’t supernatural but rather the culmination
of each user’s quirks, a natural evolution of processes, systems left
unchecked, and a game-of-telephone effect.
The presence of “manager” or “director” in your title does
not make you a leader. Being a leader is not about officially holding the power
to make a decision, supervising others while they do the grunt work, or making
the most money. Leadership is a skill, not a role. Leadership is the ability to
connect with those around you and shepherd a team toward a successful outcome,
to see the bigger picture, and to do what’s right—not what’s easy. You don’t
need a specific title to do that.
As a company embarks on a journey of digital transformation and immense change, the expectations of IT leaders change as well. Two general archetypes have emerged, but in reality, individuals fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two extremes. Both archetypes can be extraordinarily valuable in the right situation. Each can also be incredibly ineffective when placed in the wrong context.
Detailed schedules and beautiful Gantt charts might stop the screaming for visibility into your project, but they won’t help you sleep at night. In the back of your head, you’re waiting for the binky to fall out—for the project timeline to slip—and everyone starts crying again. Here’s how to break the habit of leaning on these common IT project management crutches.
Almost 30 years ago, when my wife and I were proud and exhausted new parents, we found that pacifiers would help our newborn twins sleep. This strategy worked for a little while, but when a binky fell out of one of their mouths, they cried. One of us would get up, put it back in place, and enjoy a few more moments of rest until it fell out again. We always say that one of the things we would do differently as parents is to have not used pacifiers. The boys became dependent on them, and they only postponed the inevitable.
Binkies remind me of how IT teams often use detailed timelines
and project plans.
How is it that some people can inspire us to strive for greatness while others turn us off?
For me, one of those amazing leaders was my high school biology teacher, Mr. Kaziersky. He knew how to engage, inspire, and motivate his students to achieve outstanding results. Our classes consistently outperformed our peers on AP exams and SATs. What was so remarkable was that he didn’t always have the best or brightest students. There was something about his approach and the learning environment he created that enabled us to thrive.
During a sprint, many Scrum teams focus on action items, story points, ceremonies, and sprint length. They often overlook the importance of the sprint itself to the team’s potential productivity.
Sprints are relevant to performance because a team’s effectiveness evolves over time, and a sprint is a block of time—each usually 1 to 4 weeks in duration. With each sprint, team members participate in Scrum ceremonies and deliver work together. The ceremonies alone don’t turn a group of strangers into a team, but they can serve as shared experiences that help members feel more and more comfortable with each other.
Let me know if this sounds familiar: You talk about empowerment with your staff, at skip levels, and at town hall meetings. It’s a concept you reinforce over and over again within your organization. And yet you still observe teams asking for permission in situations where you want them to make decisions and drive actions. You still find yourself as the bottleneck, giving tactical approvals on topics you don’t feel require your input.
There’s a good chance you’re the reason a culture of empowerment hasn’t taken hold.
Here’s a fresh look at the findings from the digital transformation market report, From the Front Line: CIOs’ Perspectives on Digital Transformations.
Have you participated in or led a digital transformation at your organization? Was it really a transformation, or was it perhaps just a series of initiatives that sounded nice, felt good, and checked a few boxes?
I’ve seen many executives who’ve tried in earnest to digitally transform their organization, but were forced to settle for a set of random projects that don’t truly qualify as transformative. I’ve also seen some well-meaning but misguided initiatives fall short of embodying an effective transformation.
Sorry to break it to you, but swapping an analog clock for a digital clock in the lobby does not qualify as a digital transformation.
Business leaders are often compared to quarterbacks. A quarterback huddles up with the team before every play so players understand how to execute in an organized fashion. This comparison may work for some team leaders, but it no longer applies to IT.
Why? Because more and more IT functions are being outsourced: data centers, applications, development, help desk, and more. When your team is so decentralized, and often working around the globe, it is hard to huddle before every play.