Trust. Successful teams trust each other. Language is important. It is the foundation for good communications. However, it is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the success of the team.
Trust is the critical element for team sport. Because what you do not trust, you do not understand.
Do business and IT trust each other? Can they take each other on their word?
Business makes commitments without IT’s participation. Sometimes, these commitments change on a dime. Sometimes, IT is the scapegoat for commitments that have not been thought through and destined for failure from the get-go.
IT also shares the blame when it comes to lack of trust. They also make commitments they know they cannot keep. Either in the heat of the moment or to “wait and let the storm pass,” IT knowingly makes unrealistic project-spend or delivery commitments. One can only play this card so often. Eventually, this catches up with the IT organization.
Does the IT organization have the courage to speak the truth? Can the business handle the truth?
The good news is that over time trust solves this problem. However, in the short term both members of the team have to take the first step.
Transparency. Successful teams are transparent in all aspects of their interaction. Because what you do not know, you do not trust.
Most business people will tell you they do not react negatively to projects being late or over budget. They react negatively to the communications about delays or overspend being late. They react negatively to “cover ups.”
Business has its share of the blame. They are active at project inception and absent from that point on. The reason they do not “know” is because they are not there and it is difficult to communicate with absentees.
It is also difficult to summarize complex issues that have developed over weeks or months in a five-minute conversation. To make sure you understand, be there till it’s done.
IT, for its part, must be transparent in all aspects of its operations. Take the “wrapping of project issues in technology mumbo jumbo” card out of your playbook. It has been overplayed.
Everything is important but there are three things the business must participate in for transparency to take place:
Transparency—not communications—is the single most important responsibility of a CIO. Those who miss this simple fact do so at their own peril.
Time for a Change
Successful teams treat each other as equals. The perception of being “second-class,” often, motivates second-class performance. For the longest time, IT was not at the table. Now, it is … sort of.
Business has to acknowledge IT as an equal partner in all respects. This has to go beyond lip-service. CIOs have made it to the board in some instances. However, is this a begrudging acknowledgement of the inevitable or a genuine acceptance of a worthy partner?
Say what you may about IT, one thing is for sure: IT folks are intelligent and perceptive. Being left out of key decisions or being present and not acknowledged are clear signs of disrespect. A long history of neglect doesn’t need much to trigger a sense of “not being equal.”
IT must get over its inferiority complex. Equal partners do not wait for others to acknowledge or grant them their status. They act and behave as equals. So when referring to your business counterparts please replace “customer” with “partner” in your vocabulary.
IT also must do everything to prove worthy of this respect. Because what you have won after years of hard work can be lost in a matter of one failed project.
It is not acceptable just to know this chasm exists or to claim that action is being taken to bridge it. There must be a concerted effort to actually make it happen.
Sourabh Hajela is a management consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience creating shareholder value for his Fortune 50 clients. His consulting practice is focused on IT strategy, alignment and ROI. For more information, please visit www.StartSmartS.com. Or feel free to contact Sourabh at [email protected].