Is Your IT Leadership Responsive or Reactive?

There is constant pressure to do the urgent things that come in but even without the urgent stuff, IT backlogs typically are huge and new requests may get placed so far down the list it’s more like saying “No” than actually doing anything about it. In this economy and job market, people don’t want to be seen as saying “No” and when your part of the IT leadership team you don’t want to say “No”.

So, how do you give the right impression without killing yourself and your team? The trick is to appear to be responsive without actually responding to everything! Save high-SLA responsiveness for the most important things ― the ones that most impact the business. Remember that success, relevance and recognition come from getting things done that most impact the business, not from doing everything that comes in.

Being reactive is the same as shooting yourself in the foot. It’s important to realize that the real hazard is not about saying “No”, it’s in trying to do too much, then failing to deliver on the few things that really matter. Your staff may think they are being valuable to your company by working tirelessly on everything that comes their way, but if you fail to deliver excellent and visible results where it really counts, you won’t get any credit for the hard work.

How to be extra responsive on the right select few things means …

Know your Business Priorities. Have each of your business counterparts prioritize both the new projects and the current services, according the their business priorities. Then work together with the whole business to prioritize the specific IT projects and services that support the current business priorities. Always think about aligning your responsiveness to the top business priorities, instead of trying to be responsive everywhere.

Then, week-to-week, or month-to-month, go back and re-ratify the projects and ongoing services. As the business priorities change, so should IT’s. This may mean that some projects that were above the cut-off line may now be below it, or vice versa. This also means that you have to set and re-set your own teams priorities, which they may not like but you have to do.

Keep the discussion with the business open so that you always have a current view of the shared priorities. Be open to wiping out the backlog and starting over. Don’t bury yourself in an impossible backlog and then fail to be responsive ever again.

Filter all requests for your time and resources based on the same business priorities. Be responsive where it counts. If requests help you get your business priorities done, be highly responsive — if they don’t, deflect, delete or delay. You (the CIO) decide how much time and resources you have to spend on new projects and services throughout the year. Some things will not get done but, the things you do get done will be the things that the business cares most about.

The other stuff does not need to drop off the list completely. It may just get done slower, at a lower level of quality, or outsourced.

Focus on your most important stakeholders, your boss, key business users, etc. Filter all your email and service requests so you can respond quickly to those few key people — the ones you most need to see you as being responsive. You probably do this in your help desk. Have different service levels for key executives, but also think about this for how you use your personal time and energy.

Being less reactive and more responsive where it counts is one of the most important things you can do for your job performance, your career, and your sanity!

Today Patty is the CEO of Azzarello Group, a unique services organization that helps companies develop and motivate their top performers, execute their strategies, and grow their business, through talent management programs, leadership workshops, online products & public speaking.