Where’s the outrage?
Last week’s column, discussing the Not Invented Here By Me Syndrome, included a shot at Apple (“Apple’s aficionados were and are more passionately loyal than Microsoft’s customers. But in IT, Microsoft matters. Apple’s products? They connect to the IT portfolio but aren’t important to it.”
Once upon a time, a statement like that would have yielded a flood of hate mail, or at least, the KJR community being a civil lot, no shortage of kindhearted souls who would take the time to help me see the error of my ways.
Does Apple really have so few defenders? Or, if you’re among them, were you just too busy to express your outrage at my disrespect?
Speaking of outrage, here’s something that causes mine: How few IT managers and professionals (yes, some people are both) read.
The world, or at least the Internet, is chock full of potentially useful information, not that I know how many bytes constitute a chock. Last week, speculating as to why IT organizations don’t take more advantage of it, I enumerated four possible root causes: Incuriosity, fear, internal disqualification, and channel erosion. Due to self-imposed lack of space I didn’t explore possible solutions.
But identifying problems and root causes without suggesting solutions is just pointless griping.
We can’t have that. And so, as a possible solution, how about making reading, or, more broadly, idea discovery part of the job?
But it has to be about more than just discovering interesting concepts, developments, and possibilities. It has to be about more than novelty. It also has to be about utility.
With that in mind, here’s a possible program: Make everyone in IT responsible for reading broadly and deeply about some subject that is, in some way, shape, or form, related to IT’s responsibilities. Their choice. Once a year they’ll be responsible for turning what they’ve discovered into a proposal for how to improve the IT organization.
Vision: Recommendations should be visionary enough to be interesting. They should also be practical — concrete enough that you can envision what success would look and feel like. And they should explain how to move from current practice to whatever is being proposed.
Benefits: They should be clear. Don’t limit them to the financial realm, but what IT and the company would get out of the proposed investment shouldn’t be vague and mysterious, either.
Teamwork: Allow teams, but limit their size to three. More than that and when their results turn up you’ll have no way of knowing how many team members actively and usefully contributed.
Source exclusion: You should probably disallow the analyst firms as sources — not because their analyses are illegitimate, but because what they do is what you want your employees to do. Letting a contributor rely on, say, a Gartner study would be akin to a professor accepting a term paper with only Wikipedia in its bibliography.
Divide and conquer: As a practical matter you probably don’t want to wade through everyone’s proposals at once. Stagger delivery so you get a new batch the end of every month. Also, divvy up the contributions so your whole leadership team shares responsibility for evaluating them.
Outcome: Whatever you do, don’t promise to implement, just as you shouldn’t make any other promise you can’t keep.
But on the other hand, do take the contributions seriously. Some will be worthwhile. Incorporate the best into your strategic and tactical planning.
Coach: Many of the suggestions you receive will be interesting enough to get your attention, but not well-thought-out enough to work as is. That suggests the contributor has potential and should be encouraged.
Recursion: Subject this suggestion to the same process it recommends for evaluating other ideas.
Understand I’m making this up. I’m pretty sure it or something like it would work, confident it would lead to significant direct and indirect benefits, and don’t personally know of any IT organizations that has tried it or something like it, let alone demonstrated its merits.
Also understand I’m anything but a disinterested party to all this. As a writer, I of course want more people to build reading habits into their personal development. And so, if the above strikes you as overly ambitious, at a minimum take the time to distribute links to on-line content you find intriguing to the teams you lead
Perhaps append the question, “Should we explore something like this here?”