“The Doctor will see you now…”

April 23, 2023

Every Therapist needs their own Therapist.

When you’re a leader and change agent, you have to be a therapist sometimes — to the folks who report to you and to the organization as a whole. Your job is less about tech and more about encouraging people and organizations to change behaviors. As such you have to engage a variety of tools not normally found in a Techie’s Toolbox. Sometimes it’s visualization: helping people imagine how things will work after the change. Or it can be lessons and exercises: to make people more comfortable with the new skills necessary to perform.

Much of my time as a technology evangelist is spent in this way: proselytizing a vision of the future to my team, or to the entire organization. Having a spouse who’s a PR professional has helped me learn that you say it often enough and it starts to come true.

Back in the late 90s, I heard Margaret Wheatley give the keynote at an EDUCAUSE conference in San Francisco. My favorite quote: “Organisms cannot be controlled; only disturbed.” I keep this in my mind any time I am faced with people and situations where behaviors have calcified to the point where change has become a four-letter word.

I also say: “Down deep inside, we’re like cats. We don’t like change.”

Before I took over my new role, I was gratified that my CEO engaged the services of IT Consultant Crux Solutions to come and spend 3 days with us in early February, turning over rocks and seeing what slimy things live underneath. It came at just the right time: I was on Day 50, and every week there was a new discovery or event that uncovered something shocking, that made me say: “Really?”

Crux Solutions works in the space of technology for the built environment. They were already on our team helping specify tech for our new building project, so it was natural to build on what they already knew, to perform an IT Assessment. Where we are now, what threats and challenges, and where do we want to be. Their report broke things down into:

  • Do It Now – actions that address urgent, significant risks
  • Do It Soon – actions to address risks or gaps that need to be done; just not right now
  • Do It Sometime – actions to drive general improvement in risk reduction or operational efficiency

Together we interviewed 17 department heads, wandering all over the building, learning what systems are in use by whom, as well as uncovering any security concerns. In a few cases, it gave me a chance to meet leaders I hadn’t yet talked with at length. It also gave me a chance to take part in in-depth discussions with my IT staff, seeing which organisms have initiative and learning baked into their DNA, and which might need a little “disturbing.” It provided me a better understanding, and a framework, of how my department needed to be tweaked around the edges.

It also reinforced that historically, IT has not been good at documenting internal processes. We’re disturbing that, too.

An IT Consultant to an IT leader is a therapist to a therapist, providing a sounding board and offering solid counsel.

In my CIO Pro Tempore roles, I was on the other side of the couch, so to speak. I had to often get past the sometimes erroneous attitude and bravado that leaders had about their departments or organizational capabilities, breaking things down and determining where the disconnects were between management and staff, to get at the heart of their dysfunction. Only then can one start to fix things.

Another thing I say often: “Tech is easy. It’s people that are hard.”

It’s a good reminder that when you become an IT leader, you have to grow your people skills.

Now then…tell me how you feel about your Mother…

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