You threw what you thought was a pebble into a pond and created ripples that have your conference rooms awash with disagreements, debates and dissension. The new strategy seemed simple enough: Transition to a common system across all operating units in order to enhance supply chain performance. The decision process to select the common system was pretty straightforward, but now everyone's lobbying for functionality and schedule change that are putting the overall initiative at risk.
Decision making in IT is pretty messy. By definition, integration and standardization are at odds with quick, customized delivery. As a result, in most organizations the interests of the enterprise take a back seat to the more immediate need to improve business alignment and partnership. Within IT, this conflict is internalized, and conference rooms and offices are filled with well-intentioned applications, architecture and infrastructure professionals questioning each other's motives.
In the heat of the battle, there's little that can be done other than ensure that the meetings are productive and the right decisions are made. In his 2006 Harvard Business Review article, "Conquering a Culture of Indecision", business strategy expert Ram Charan identifies behaviours that help ensure decisive dialogues:
- Close meetings by articulating who will do what by when and require attendees to communicate the decisions to their organizations within 24 hours.
- Arrange for the right people to be involved in the discussions and promote open discussion by generating alternatives and assigning devil's advocates to say what others may be thinking.
- Ensure that leadership is present to squelch dysfunctional behaviours including extortion (holding the whole group at ransom until they get their way), sidetracking (going off on tangents), silent lying (not expressing true opinions) and dividing (creating breaches by soliciting support outside of the meetings or having sideline discussion during the meetings).
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