It’s Good To Know What The Big Boys Want You To Do

It’s Always Best To Work From The Top Down
It’s Always Best To Work From The Top Down

Why Bother Listening To Senior Management

In order to be successful as an IT Leader (no matter where you are at in the company’s management hierarchy), you’re going to have to do what you are told. Well, wait a minute, maybe I should phrase that differently. How about something like this: you are going to have to find out what they want you to do and then you are going to have to do it?

If we were all working on an assembly line, life would be simpler. We’d have a clearly defined job to do and we’d be supplied with the parts and tools with which to do it. Well, with a little luck you get paid more than an assembly line worker and the reason is that being an IT Leader is a lot tougher – your job is ill-defined and keeps changing. Finding out what you are supposed to be doing is half the battle.

You’re Going To Need A Questionnaire

There are probably no shortage of people who are telling you what to do. However, the big question is: are they the right people who should be telling you what to do? At the end of the day, the only people who really count are the ones who are running the company. What do they want you to be doing?

Yes, the information that the upper levels keep sending you in emails, podcasts, and other such communication channels are a good high-level indicator of what direction they are trying to take the company. However, these forms of communication are probably too generic. You are still facing a number of different things that you could be directing your team to spend their time on and it’s not clear which way you should go. Time for some interviews.

Senior management can be busy, but they also realize that it’s really part of their job to provide direction and it that’s what you go looking for, they’ll find the time to talk with you. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be just talking with IT’s senior management, you want to talk to the management of the rest of the company – really IT’s customers.

You’ll have the same set of questions that you’ll want to be asking over and over again so it’s probably a good idea to create a questionnaire to help you do this. I’m not suggesting that when you start your discussions that you whip out a long form and start reading from it, but rather that you collect your thoughts before any discussion so that you don’t forget to cover any topics.

You should be asking questions that cover a lot of ground – make the most of your time with this member of the management team. Ask questions like what they are hoping to accomplish this year, what is preventing them from being as successful as they would like to be, and most importantly what is their view of the IT department – good, bad, or ugly.

It’s All About The Customer

The ultimate goal of finding out what is being expected of you as an IT Leader is to balance what people want you to do with all of the things that you know need to be done. Yes, we live in the real world and there’s a good chance that these two lists may not match up!

In the end, your customer (maybe internal departments) are always right. Note that I didn’t say “rational”, just right. Your senior management may not be able to express their goals in terms that directly relate to the role of IT within a company (“boost profits”), but you’ll need to be looking for ways that your team can help the IT department help others.

What All Of This Means For You

Nobody ever said that being an IT Leader was going to be an easy thing. One thing that you need to make sure that you have a good understanding of is to know just exactly what your senior management wants you and your team to be doing.

This is going to require you to develop some interviewing skills. You’re going to have to go up the mountain and ask your firm’s senior management what they are trying to accomplish and how it’s going.

Ultimately it comes down to how you and your team are going to serve your customer. If you can figure this out, then congratulations – you are going to be successful.

Question For You: Do you think that your senior IT management is going to approve of you talking with other departments?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you’ve been reading the papers or watching the news on TV, you’ve probably started to see stories that are daring to hint at a global recovery. Now that’s all fine and good and I’ll believe it when it shows up. However, smart IT Leaders know that now is the time to act. Are you getting your team ready for the madness that will hit your firm when things really start moving once again?