IT leadership skills are a must for all IT managers


mmmmmmm!….makes sense!

What does the title mean? I will explain shortly.

I am convinced now more than ever that IT leadership skills are a must for all IT managers. The good news is we are starting to recognize this. With the growing importance of IT to all organizations, coupled with the explosive growth of emerging technologies and ever demanding IT savvy business users it is clearly evident that  ‘ITSM is a strategic capability’. This means that IT must transform it’s current capabilities. We have made some improvements as a result of our massive investments in best practices, however we still have a way to go. ‘Customer and service focus and lack of business value’ are still top concerns for business managers and senior IT leaders.  There is still a large disconnect between business and IT. Top scoring ABC worst practice cards are still after 15 years! ‘It is too internally focused’, and ‘Plan, Do, Stop…no real continual improvement culture’. This is why many CIO’s declare they must ‘transform’ IT capabilities.

Making the necessary transformation means we must change our current approaches to improving our capabilities. Management by ‘hoping’ is no longer seen as the most effective strategy.  Simply saying ‘We must change!’ and ‘hoping’ that it will happen won’t work; simply ‘Throwing a process framework at the organization’ and  ‘hoping’ it will stick won’t work; simply pinning up a poster or sending a memo declaring ‘Customer focus’ and ‘hoping’ it will miraculously happen won’t work, as confirmed by our global surveys that reveal that changing attitude, behavior and culture is still the number 1 success or fail factor. If we want change to happen, we must make change happen. Middle managers are the central linking pin between top managers and the work-floor. They play a crucial role in leading the change, not waiting for the change to happen. The good news is more and more customer organizations recognize this and more and more training and consulting organizations are developing leadership offerings.

Our global ABC of ICT workshops and surveys reveal that ‘Leadership development and staff training’ score high on the list of CIO needs. Indeed at the recent launch of the CIO foundation program at the Masterclass Institute in the Netherlands this was confirmed by Jerry Luftman. Managers must develop ‘leadership capabilities’. People must learn new ways of working and develop improved ‘team working’ , ‘effective communication’,  ‘adaptability’, ‘business empathy’.

So what is Leadership? What are the necessary leadership capabilities and how can staff develop their capabilities to meet the changing role of IT?

Below are some of the key messages from CIOs we have met in the last year who have successfully addressed cultural issues and organizational change and have used frameworks for what they are: ‘Simply instruments to bring about a structured change in behavior’.

Leaders messages:  ‘Becoming Customer and Service focused is a cultural shift for IT…You can’t impose a Cultural shift!’. Executive support and executive action is required, supported by action at every level to address peoples’ attitudes and change peoples’ behavior. Executive managers must ‘reward, recognize and celebrate’ the new desired behavior when they see it. Executive managers need to use a set of tools, such as conscious leadership actions- ‘walk-the-talk’, ‘lead by example’, ‘confront undesirable behavior’. Managers must set expectations and identify deliverables and establish measures – from a ‘Customer perspective’.  Managers must mobilize their teams, they must inspire their teams and help change behavior. ‘It is a journey and the Leadership team must be on the same page’, they must be more visible in the organization, attending Service Management meetings and asking questions that make people think from a different perspective. ‘Changing culture requires communication and reinforcement through words, deeds, policies, processes and decisions every day of the year’!

One of the key success factors we discovered from engaging with numerous organizations was managers defining together with their teams ‘undesirable behavior’ and ‘desirable behavior’. A number of managers have used ABC of ICT workshops to capture customer perceived ‘undesirable behavior’ and then played a business simulations such as Apollo 13 to confront teams on what ‘Customer focused behavior’ or ‘effective team working’ really means, to test and develop desired behavior and capture improvement suggestions.  As one manager said ‘My job is to give the team mastery, autonomy and purpose, In the simulation they gained the mastery to translate theory into practice, I gave them the autonomy to take away and apply THEIR own improvements. In the game they experienced the impact of improvements they could realize together, which gave them a shared purpose… the shared experience helped create buy-in and energy to change…now my job is to facilitate the transfer to the day to day work and to ensure we don’t slip back into the old ways of working’.

Mmmmmmm……makes sense! What is it? – Middle Managers Must:

Meaning: Middle Managers Must give meaning and purpose to teams, relating to customer value. The framework (ITIL, Prince) is not the goal! It is the results and value they achieve

Mobilization: Middle Managers Must mobilize their teams to improve their own work. To work as teams, to effectively collaborate.  The people that know the best what needs improving are generally those at the sharp end!

Motivation: Middle Managers Must Inspire their teams and externally motivate them through consequence management: recognizing and rewarding desirable behavior and confronting undesirable behavior. Changing peoples attitudes and fostering intrinsic motivation in their teams.

Mastery: Middle Managers Must master leadership skills and capabilities to ‘Make change Happen’! At the same time ensuring teams have Mastery (skills), Autonomy (to change the way they work) and purpose (clear shared goals). Middle Managers Must master management of change, addressing attitude, behavior and culture.

Maturity:  Middle Managers Must foster a culture of CSI (Continual Service Improvement) in their teams. Improving your work IS your work, CSI should be a core capability for IT organizations to continually align their maturity to meet the ever changing world and pressures facing them from both the business demands and technology advancements.

Measure: Middle Managers Must ensure they are able to measure and demonstrate value . making what they do meaningful to their stakeholders.

Mandate: Middle Managers Must have the mandate from executive management to be able to lead. Executive managers must empower their management teams and support them in removing barriers to success. Executive managers must demonstrate this mandate by  ‘walking the talk’. As one CIO said to me ‘It starts with me leading by example and committing the time, effort and resources to making the transformation succeed’.

mmmmmmm……It could work!


By Paul Wilkinson
Owner/director GamingWorks

Want to know more?

untitledTitle: ABC of ICT
Authors: Jan Schilt & Paul Wilkinson
ISBN: 9789087531409
Price: € 39,95

Order here your copy or view the sample file


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