CIO’s in spain discover the hidden Iceberg of ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture)

Published on Friday 26 April 2013 by in News with no comments


At a recent CIOnet event in Spain ‘What’s next?’ was the title on the opening sheets. A very good question when we look at the explosion in emerging technologies and the growing demands from the business. Whatever is next one thing is certain, the people are a critical success or fail factor.

For this reason one of the focus areas in the event was ABC (Attitude, Behavior & Culture) of ICT. What does this mean for the CIO? What does this mean for Leadership capabilities? Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks held an ABC presentation and conducted a workshop. He first presented some trends relating to the growing need to improve Business & IT alignment, as well as some facts and figures showing that many IT organizations still have poor ITSM capabilities and are struggling to deploy best practice frameworks. On the one side IT is struggling with translating the growing business demands into solutions that deliver value, and on the other side IT still has issues with running and supporting existing IT, which creates not only wasted effort and costs but presents a business risk as IT becomes increasingly critical.

Leadership development and staff training a must! Technology training, although still important, gives second place in many organizations to learning a new set of skills…

IT organizations are now faced with financial pressures and cost cutting. With these constraints on resources they must not only meet an increased demand for IT solutions, but  at the same time invest effort and resources into improving the ITSM  capabilities.  Both, insist the business, are important. These challenges and the necessary changes represent a ‘Transformation’  for most IT organizations. High on the list of CIO needs according to GamingWorks global surveys, is the need for ‘Leadership development’ and ‘Staff training’ (Which confirmed findings presented at a CIOnet event in the Netherlands). IT  technology training, although still important, gives second place in many organizations to learning a new set of skills, i.e to make IT people more business focused, with good team working and collaboration and better communication skills. Considering where many IT organizations are coming from, with a strong technology and internal focus this may be a step too far and too fast for many.

IT transformation: A step too far and too fast for many leadership teams

Trends also show a growth in the amount of CIOs launching culture change initiatives and new organizational corporate value initiatives. The most common focus GamingWorks sees are ‘Customer and Service focus’, ‘Team work and collaboration’, ‘Professional’, ‘Ownership & Responsibility’, ‘Proactive’ and  ‘Knowledge sharing’. However leadership teams are poorly equipped to manage these types of ABC initiatives. As the GamingWorks surveys reveal, more than 80% feel that existing training and certification programs do not adequately address these issues.

Organizational change is always accompanied by ‘Resistance’, but now the scale and the pace of change is increasing the level and type of resistance. Resistance can be costly, damaging and demotivating. This asks a lot of management teams who need to demonstrate leadership skills, and an ability to manage the organizational change if they are to adequately recognize it and deal with it.

Luis Miguel Rosa, Managing Director CIONet spain, explained why ABC was an important part of this event.  “Our event focused on “IT Management and CIO skills”. Organizational transformation initiatives are one of the all-time top 10 CIO priorities, as well as one of the project areas with a higher rate of failure, either partially or completely. We wanted to use the ABC workshop with our CIO’s to help them understand how addressing attitude, behavior and cultural aspects, will improve the success rate of their transformational initiatives, helping create sustainable change. We also wanted to show them the vital role senior leadership must play in dealing with ABC. All attendees agreed that CIO skills should also include the softer skills and managing organizational change”.

ABC of ICT Workshop

In their workshop GamingWorks conducted the ABC of ICT resistance exercise, to help the delegates identify the resistance within their organizations and to discuss what senior leaders and managers need to do to deal with or mitigate this resistance. Six teams were given the following task.

‘Many IT organizations are starting Transformation initiatives and major change programs, and MOST meet with resistance. Many adopt IT best practice frameworks to support their initiatives, but these often don’t deliver the value people HOPED for. More than 50% fail because of resistance. Resistance is a FACT in ALL improvement initiatives. What are the common types of resistance to IT improvement initiatives’?

Each person chose 3 cards.

These were the cards chosen the most:

  • Everything has the highest priority according to the users (5)
  • Too little business involvement in requirements specification and testing(4)
  • Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other(4)
  • Saying YES, meaning NO (3)
  • Blame Culture (3)

Teams were then asked to choose their TOP card based upon the following question “Which card has the most negative impact on Value, Outcomes Costs and Risks (V,O,C,R)’?  Then to describe behaviour that CIO’s and managers needed to display to remove this worst practice.

The Top cards they chose, and the relevant leadership behaviour were:

Three teams chose ‘Too little business involvement in requirements specification and testing’.
This poses an unacceptable business risk. Certainly in light of the opening panel discussion and the trends Paul presented about the increasing demand for, and dependency on IT within the business.

  • CIO: IT release management must be part of the strategic discussion. Releases must be related to strategy and the V,O,C,R. The CIO must ensure that the business decides the priority, and the business must sign off on the risk and additional costs if there is ‘too little business involvement in requirements specification and testing’.
  • CIO: The CIO must ensure business ownership for the applications, this must be a part of release policy. Owners must be responsible for the business case (V,O,C,R ) and must be responsible for measuring and demonstrating benefit realization.
  • CIO: Convince business to formalize roles within the business to work on requirements, test, deployment, training. Introduce the need to formalize the demand side processes (Using for example BiSL). Introduce the need for IT Governance mechanisms to ‘encourage the desirable behaviour in the use of IT’.
  • CIO: Ensure Business executive &  Senior user roles in IT projects. Ensure business people are responsible for making the business case in projects.
  • Managers: Value must be measured after the project, as well as rework cost, loss of productivity, loss of value and non-availability caused by ‘too little business involvement in requirements specification and testing’. Ensure process owners and managers can measure this.
  • Manager: IT must start capturing, and demonstrating the impact on V,O,C,R  NOW to help convince the business to take ownership for the business systems.
  • Manager: Ensure process owners engage with Business representatives to understand the impact on business V,O,C,R .

One team chose ‘Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other’.

Business & IT alignment has been a top 10 issue for the last 10 years. People talk about Business and IT integration, Business & IT fusion. Until we can show an ‘alignment’ in understanding we will not gain the ‘partner’ role we want with the business, and will not be invited to a seat at the board. Judging by the amount of times the ‘blame culture’ card is chosen in workshops I would say the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better.

  • CIO: Understand from the board the business priorities.
  • CIO: Create Business Relationship managers and fill these with business people, have them explain and align IT with real business needs and have them communicate these within IT.
  • CIO: Ensure IT reports are understandable by business people
  • CIO: If It wants a place on the board and wants to be taken seriously then IT must develop trust and credibility. IT Operational  control of the basic processes must be achieved first.
  • CIO: must use V,O,C,R  to also explain RISKS to the business and the consequences on V,O,C,R of business investment choices.
  • Manager: Create indicator system to measure the profit/loss caused by poor requirements of lack of business engagement.
  • Manager: Ensure process reports relate to business impact, results, risks and demonstrate that IT listens too and UNDERSTANDS business needs.
  • Manager: Ensure customer contact process owners and process managers engage with the business to align processes to business needs and can report in business terms.

One team chose ‘No understanding of business impact & priority’.

This is consistently the number 1 top scoring card in the ABC of ICT ‘Customer exercise’ and chosen by business representatives. This strongly influences the business attitude and perception of IT. One of the reasons for this is another top global card ‘IT is too internally focused’.

  • CIO: Understand business priorities in terms of V,O,C,R  and ensure this is communicated throughout the organization and drives improvement initiatives and process deployment initiatives.
  • CIO: “Insert” IT positions into the business, giving business people responsibilities and accountabilities for applications.
  • CIO: Have IT managers and staff visit the business to gain a better understanding.
  • CIO: If not already in place then adopt ‘Service Portfolio Management’ and ‘Business Relationship management’ as instruments to help gain a better understanding, and as instruments to foster dialogue and make the business consider these questions.
  • Managers: Must communicate priorities (understandable way).
  • Managers: Ensure process owners and managers align process capabilities to business priorities and business impact (e.g. SLM, Change, Problem, Incident, Availability, Capacity ).
  • Managers: Ensure teams and employees are aware of impact of what they do.
  • Managers: Send operational staff into the business and have them present back to teams.
  • Managers: Invite business managers and users to present to teams.

All teams agreed the cards chosen represented ’unacceptable business risk’s, causing wasted costs, delaying or preventing value realization and damaging business productivity. All teams agreed these were issues that fostered a business attitude of ‘lack of trust’, ‘lack of credibility’.  

When asked whether there were structural initiatives in place to address these ‘unacceptable risks’, and to change the attitude of business towards IT the predominant answer was ‘No’ or ‘Not enough’.

Saying YES, doing NO

This card is the number two card chosen world-wide in resistance exercises (See full list of Global Top 10).  The number 1 card being consistently chosen is ‘No management commitment’. In terms of dealing with ‘Saying YES, Doing NO’ Management teams have a critical role in confronting undesirable behaviour and recognizing desirable behaviour.  Here are some of the tips given by other CIO and leadership teams globally who participated in the ABC workshops. Tips for demonstrating ‘management commitment’.

  • Engage and Involve people. Empower teams to make the changes themselves. ‘They say People do not like to change, this is not quite right…People do not like to BE changed. Give them ownership to make changes’.
  • Continually remind people of the sense of urgency and what we are trying to achieve in terms of V,O,C,R.  ‘Communicate, communicate, communicate’ the vision and goals. ‘Communication is more than sending a memo and giving a speech at the kick-off’.
  • Active participation in meetings e.g. CAB to reinforce messages and to confront ‘saying yes , doing no’. ‘Management commitment also means ‘walking-the-talk’, ‘Leading by example’ demonstrating ‘desirable behavior’, I wanted to show my teams I was serious about making this happen’.
  • Adopt and apply ‘consequence management’- this means confront openly and directly ‘Undesirable behavior’ – also with other managers, and reward and recognize ‘desired behavior’. ‘You cannot ignore people not sticking to the agreed ways of working, if people are seen to be getting away with it others will also follow, equally you must recognize and compliment desired behavior’.
  • Creating a mirror for people by asking questions ‘What would the customer say? How does this impact the customer? How does this impact V,O,C,R?
  • Endorse and support/communicate a CSI register – empowering people to suggest and make changes. ‘Foster continual learning and improving as part of the culture in IT. The business & IT worlds are in constant change. CSI is a critical capability’.
  • Consistent messaging from ALL managers. In words and deeds.
  • Ensure clear responsibilities , ownership and accountability. ‘… Assumicide is killing, clear agreements and clear responsibilities and accountabilities prevent a lot of issues’.
  • Send IT staff into the business for 1 day. Have them gain an understanding of business needs, priority and impact.
  • More than 40% of the CIO’s said to me ‘If you can’t change the people, change the people’ – not everybody is willing to make the change, in which case there needs to be a serious dialogue and conclusions made’.

The ABC exercise had helped delegates identify the hidden ABC  Iceberg and its impact. Two top chosen cards world-wide are ‘No management commitment’ and ‘Not my responsibility’. I am curious what these IT leaders will now do with their new ABC insights. Will they transform ABC within their organizations or will I be back again in 10 years-time with the same ABC of ICT presentation to a new set of replacement leaders.

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