Monday, October 28, 2019

Running a Listening and Learning IT Organization

With increasing pace of changes and complex nature of digital organization, from top down, middle out, inside-out, outside-in, and bottom up, if you do not listen, you will lose the goodwill of the collaborators and innovators. 

With rapid change and fierce competition, IT should continue to evolve the digital dynamic and reinvent itself as a strategic business partner and improve the overall organizational maturity. IT needs to switch from reactive to proactive mode via listening, asking and learning, both vertically and horizontally, Asking insightful questions and listening to varying feedback can build consensus, drive value proposition and meet the business goals consistently.

Listening to the priorities of senior executives of the company: As long as the business values IT as a strategic partner, the top priorities have to be on business focus. Thus, IT leaders need to listen to the priorities of senior executives of the company, focusing on the things that matter for the business’s long-term perspective and strategic priority. In fact, IT strategy is an integral component of the business strategy. IT needs to get involved in every step of such vision-strategy-execution flow because information is growing exponentially and technology is changing so rapidly, ignoring an emerging trend perhaps puts your organization behind the competition and keep your business irrelevant for the long run. The really important thing is to understand the core business of your enterprise and the problem to solve, set IT priority to focus on long-term strategic goal of the business, Thus, IT leaders need to ask open-ended questions, listen to invaluable feedback, and initiate creative communication at the big table. Until they can think, talk, and act strategically and commercially, rather than technically, they will remain strangers in a strange land.

IT should continue to listen to and brainstorm with business leaders about their strategic concerns: In most organizations, more often than not, there are some frictions between corporate and business units. IT is setting back and waiting for requests as an order taker. To close the gap between IT and business, the connection between IT and business lies in using the common language to help the business cross that bridge to IT by asking questions such as: What concerns you about the business today? What concerns you about the business in the future? Then, seek to identify and offer solutions. IT leaders should have strong business knowledge to communicate with other executives about their strategic concerns in order to deliver business-driven solutions, not just commoditized IT services. IT is in a unique position in the company which has the touch point with all other functions and provides the necessary integration between them through effective information systems, efficient business processes, and aligned structures. IT leaders need to initiate the more meaningful dialogues with functional business leaders to exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement. If you do not listen, you will never get the two sides of the story.

Listen to diverse performance issues to ensure IT-business harmony: IT leaders should periodically check: How their team works with other teams, any frictions existing to decelerate performance. IT can lead the charge in improving business-IT relations by simply not taking their customers for granted and focusing on customers as if they were in a competitive market. Everyone has a voice and every voice carries weight. Sometimes, the business just underestimates the complexity of technology and information management. For example, problems arise when expertise boundaries are crossed, either way, a business user thinks he/she knows more technically than the IT specialist and imposes his/her "way" on the project, it could be very counterproductive and it can work the other way around. Thus, proactive listening, learning, and cross-functional communication are critical for improving the overall organizational maturity.

With increasing pace of changes and complex nature of digital organization, from top down, middle out, inside-out, outside-in, and bottom up, if you do not listen, you will lose the goodwill of the collaborators and innovators. If the business intends to thrive in the “VUCA” world, it’s important to build an asking-listening-learning organization. Otherwise, its survival horizon can be really short.


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