Ready, Set, Stall – Is Your IT Strategy Getting Implemented?

If you want to get your team to actually implement your IT strategy, key initiative or change agenda, watch out for the following:

Lack of Clarity – Everyone is clear on the big picture, but really fuzzy about what specific actions to take, what projects to prioritize and what things to measure. They might be talking about “virtualization” or “improving performance”, but there is no clear definition of what that means they specifically need to go do.

While Big goals may sound and feel good, they often leave both leaders and staff wondering what they should do differently tomorrow, and how their particular role or work fits into the new picture. They are all inspired to support the new strategy, but there is no concrete plan as to which projects will be prioritized, or if the necessary tasks are something like more communication with the business, different measures, or user training. Lack of clarity = lack of momentum.

Everyone leaves the room with the mission of “Improving Performance”, but nothing different happens. Everyone is already doing good, important work, so there is just not enough reason or motivation to do something new.

Weak Support – Every organization faces dilemmas, persistent, unresolved questions and things that block action until they are decided. And there are typically widely differing opinions about how to resolve them. Should we fix the problems in the current system, or invest in a new architecture? Should we keep certain applications in-house or outsource them? Should we renegotiate our SLAs with the business or ask for more budget?

Are you certain that everyone on your team is bought in? Have you closed all the unanswered questions? Have you had the debates? or have you assumed people are ready and on board?

“Gracious non-compliance” means it’s just much easier to sit in the meeting and nod your head, than it is to voice your concern or disagreement. It’s better to just get out of this meeting than to drag it out even longer by disagreeing. “My opinion won’t change anything, and it won’t matter anyway because we never follow through with these kinds of things,” the thinking goes. “Why not just be pleasant about it during the meeting so I look like a team player, and save time?”

Fuzzy Math – Once the team agrees something specific is important, then comes the directive to go “make it happen”. If you want to do something different, there will need to be resource changes. Asking the team to shift resources offline, doesn’t work. Even if their intentions are good, they will come to the resource trade-off discussion with their peers with the point of view that the resources for the new thing were supposed to come from somewhere else.

You as the leader are responsible for these trade-offs. You need to assign resources to the new thing and take them away from the existing work. Your team members each need to figure out how to best deal with less resources for the old stuff. Don’t expect them to give up resources, or as a group re-align resources to do new stuff. It just doesn’t work. That is your job.

Poor Communication – You can’t over communicate. Once you have agreed, and articulated your strategy, and have your specific, concrete, priorities and tasks defined, communicate them over and over again, every chance you get throughout the organization.

Consistency is a big lever. Start and end every team meeting with it. Start and end every all-hands meeting with it. Start and end every one-on-one meeting with it. Unless you are completely bored with articulating your strategy, don’t fool yourself that the organization at large has even begun to hear you. People need to know you are serious.

Values and Socialization – Often, not only behaviors and skills need to change, but values need to change to be more user focused, quality oriented, tough on spending. Have you done what it takes to engage your organization with the new values?

Socializing the new approach, talking about how “this is the way we do things now”, is a critical component to making sure people know that is it OK to act differently than they used to. It needs to be the new accepted way of working if you want to maintain action.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – There is well studied marketing information on communicating messages to your target audience. It takes your audience seven exposures to your message for them to internalize and act on it. For each of the seven, they need to see or hear your message three times. That’s 21 times to get across “Buy this digital camera “. So, for certain, 21 times is not overkill for “Buy these 5 points of the new strategy and understand what you need to do about it.” Think more like a few hundred.

Lack of Measures – Even if you strategy gets off to a good start, you won’t gain momentum unless you have a set of measures, tracking and review process that are set up specifically to support progress on the new strategy. You need to identify the few key metrics which will drive the change, and make them very visible throughout the change process. Don’t leave anything important to chance. Don’t assume progress will happen because it was agreed. Make sure your whole team remains focused on the few critical things that change the game.

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.