Why Tech Projects Fail, and How to Prevent It

The most effective IT leaders I know always seem to have the same three priorities for their work – create measureable business value, make and keep commitments to their clients, and deliver high quality solutions built for sustainable success.  These leaders are true “partners” – seeking to understand the client’s purpose and goals, proactively proposing ideas, and resolving conflicts that might prevent project success.  Despite these leaders’ values and actions, despite their efforts to lead successful projects, the dirty secret of technology implementation is that too many projects blow budgets, miss deadlines, or deliver products that don’t work as promised – or at least not until the next release.   […]

Productive Nonconformity

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.” – Emerson   When people think about nonconformity, they often think about superficial things – language, grooming, clothing, and even tools or toys.  But that is not the nonconformity that concerns me here.  The most powerful, useful, yet dangerous nonconformity is to speak out when all the forces around you compel you to silence.   Perhaps the best-known case concerning the need for nonconformity is the debacle that was Enron – 4000 jobs destroyed, $74 billion in lost shareholder value, billions more in losses by creditors, and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen represent only a portion of the final toll.  Based […]

What is Bad Management?

“Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny” – Kin Hubbard   Kin Hubbard was a 19th century American journalist and humorist, declared by no less than Will Rogers as “America’s greatest humorist.”  Obviously he was going for the laugh with this quote, but there is a seed of truth here, and his quote led me to wonder – just what is “bad” management and how can you avoid it?   The effects of bad management are obvious to everyone – wealth destroyed, jobs and pensions destroyed, and entire communities or even whole economies disrupted.  One of my clients is going through a major contraction, with all the predictable negative […]

Does your job/company/boss suck?

Lately, I’ve been talking with a lot of people who are in unhappy job situations. Their company is going through a reorganization. Heads are being cut. Different groups are jockeying for power. My people are uncertain what their next job will be. Or, if there is a next job in sight, it doesn’t look good. Lower level. Less interesting. Don’t like the boss. Low-performing supervisees. Or no supervisees at all.   They’re tempted to jump ship and get away from the negative environment, but it’s not exactly as if there are tons of better opportunities beckoning. A bad job is better than no job. And would another organization be any […]

The Importance of Purpose

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning   For me, Frankl is on the short list of history’s most important and inspired thinkers.  In his masterwork on meaning, he writes extensively about the unique capacity people have to choose how they will respond to circumstances, and the critical role that meaning plays in life satisfaction.  However, I believe that he talks most eloquently about the importance of purpose.   People today often describe a life that feels like one continuous fire drill, reacting to emergent issues and […]

Why leadership training doesn’t work (and what you can do about it)

How many times have you gone to a leadership development workshop, had a wonderful experience, left feeling great, and then went home and kept doing the same old thing?  Or, perhaps you kept up your new resolutions for a couple of months or weeks, and then went back to doing the same old thing.   Why does this happen so consistently? And why do we, knowing this, keep on sending people to training?   Learning these skills will not lead to doing these skills. That’s because, I’ll suggest, most of the leadership skills and insights being imparted through these events are, in the words of Ronald Heifetz, “adaptive” challenges rather […]

Transform IT into DT

I’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of great IT leaders, across various industries.  These leaders seem to share the same priorities – create business value, make and keep commitments to clients, and deliver quality solutions built for sustainable success.  Also, these leaders always act as “partners” with their clients – clarifying purpose, proposing solutions, and resolving conflicts that threaten project success.  But, the “best of the best” have gone one step further and moved their organizations from information technology (IT) to decision technology (DT).   The Information Technology Association of America defined IT as “the study, design, development, application, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems.”  I […]

Expose Your Thinking

I borrow this title phrase from a coaching client – I’ll call him Nick – who has identified “exposing his thinking” as a development goal. Nick wanted to have more impact in his organization, and at first he tried to do that by doing more of what he was good at – thinking. He formulated ideas inside his own head and was uncomfortable sharing those ideas until they were fully formed. He asked people questions for the purpose of fleshing out his internal problem analyses, thinking he was being inclusive by doing so, but the reason for his questions was known only to him.  He might be concerned about the […]

Making Performance Appraisal Effective

If someone at work says, “You did a great job,” you’ll probably accept that comment without question (and think “I’m glad someone noticed!”).  However, if another person comes to you and says, “You messed that one up,” you may reject that comment (and think “how would you know?”).  The problem is that neither judgment – praise or censure – was supported with any valid information. An ineffective performance appraisal can feel the same way.  Most organizations use some process to collect information to support an appraisal (employee self-assessment, feedback from clients and colleagues, managerial observations, etc).  Even when this information is valid, it is often not sufficient to deliver an […]

Why doesn’t our team follow up on the plans we’ve made?

Members of a divisional leadership team got together to think about how they could lead their division through a major upcoming growth opportunity. They identified a long list of “to do’s” – things they needed to create collectively to improve the group’s effectiveness. You’d be familiar with the types of “organization building” activities they identified – operating model, strategy, roadmap, clear roles and expectations.   The energy level in the room exploded as members talked on top of each other about all the things they needed to do next, to address these needs.  “We just need accountability.” “We just need to have an off-site meeting.” “We just need to hash […]