Today, more and more IT leaders recognize the need to partner with their business colleagues and provide value to them so the organization can achieve its goals. IT and business leaders benefit because they both contribute to the organization’s success; they have productive relationships.
Easier said than done. IT leaders have to influence their team to strengthen the business partnership in order to avoid budget reductions and dealing with negative colleague perceptions.
Have you thought something was so crystal clear and logical to you that the team would agree and work together to make your ideas happen?
Before you get too excited to implement your ideas for creating a stronger business partnership, let me share a client experience.
I was brought on to a project to help a development team engage with their stakeholders. After a few weeks of talking with people, it was clear that communication within the team was failing; priorities were unclear, delivery slippage notifications were slow to make it to the client, and customers were skeptical and didn’t want to agree to acceptance criteria. After surveying the team, the solution seemed simple to me – identify clear customer-focused outcomes and involve the team to figure out the best ways to achieve those outcomes.
After presenting the findings and recommendations, nothing happened. The client didn’t take action, and communication still plagued the team when I left the project. Why? I didn’t involve the client when developing the recommendations. My approach was wrong. Here’s what I would have done differently.
After presenting the findings from the survey, I should have asked the following questions:
- What insights do you have?
- What would you like to do next?
- What ideas do you have to involve the team so they will be more committed to implementing the recommendations?
To help your team better partner with others, I propose these four steps:
- Conduct a listening tour. What’s working well? What challenges are your team experiencing?
- Report the findings to the team. When reporting the findings, don’t overcome them with data. Have you ever received a report that included tens of recommendations, detailed action plans, lists of risks, mitigation plans, etc. It can be overwhelming. What are the top themes (no more than three)?
- Communicate your vision and work collaboratively with your direct reports to determine the specific partner-focused outcomes you’d like to achieve. How does your team want to respond to the themes from the second step?
- Involve the team to determine the best initiatives to take on that will help you achieve those specific partner-focused outcomes. After deciding what small number of initiatives you’ll take on, what are the implications to your team? What should you be doing differently? How will you track initiative progress? What quick wins can you deliver so people see there is progress?
These can be tough questions to answer. How will not answering them help you be considered as a strategic partner? Performing these steps does require a leader to give up some control; the team may choose to do things differently than you would like. If letting go is hard for you, I ask you consider the following questions:
- What outcomes are most important to you?
- How many ways can those outcomes be achieved?
- What is possible when the team feels committed to achieving those outcomes?
What ideas do you have to get the team committed to achieving your partnership goals?