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 […]

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 […]

How to Find and Grow HIPOs

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) recently identified key skills they see as essential for success in the future workplace.  These skills include… identify meaning beyond what is expressed, assess information for importance, translate data into abstract concepts and use data-based reasoning, understand concepts across multiple disciplines, identify actions beyond rote or rules, and participate as a member of a virtual team. The Teleos Development Model© identifies five different “perspectives” or development levels.  The “systems” or strategic perspective is critical, because that perspective enables the development of these (and other) powerful skills that improve performance and enhance leadership.  The challenge comes with trying to make the shift into this perspective […]

I’m right, and they’re wrong – The “Grrrr!” moment

It’s a common frustration among managers, as they try to work with others to get things done. “They don’t get it!” “It’s their fault that things aren’t going right!” “I’m the only one who can do this right!”  “Why won’t they do (or see) it my way?” When a manager is in the throes of that frustration, I call it the “Grrrr!” moment.   These managers will go on to provide elaborate explanations about why their point of view on the issue at hand is logically correct. But I believe the logic covers something deeper. Behind the conviction of rightness is often a need to be right … which goes […]

Having Difficult Conversations with Authority Figures

One dangerous effect of American downsizing is that employees’ fear has limited their willingness to engage in the difficult conversations needed to improve performance.  I see and hear about this effect almost everywhere I go, and it seems to get worse all the time. I tell people that avoiding engagement is also a kind of choice, with its own potential risks.  But people seem resigned to these risks, because they pale in comparison with the more immediate consequences they expect will follow any dissent – consequences like job loss, demotion, or being overlooked for the few available opportunities. I believe that this paralyzing fear is bad for both employees and […]

How Hardship Creates Leaders

I’ve been working with a group of young leaders lately. One was talking about his background – high-achieving, top schools, good grades, an early career in a prestigious company filled with other top performers from fancy schools. This leader was frustrated to now be working in a company where, as he put it, “average” performers were the norm.   Looking at this leader’s perspective from where I sit, older and having endured many hiccups and setbacks on life’s journey, I am bemused by the young leader’s notion that being on top of the world is sustainable – and even desirable. Yet I also understand it. We’re all socialized to think […]