Leadership in a changing world

I hosted a panel session on this topic at the CIO Global Banking Summit being held in London this week. My topic is Leadership and Change, prompted by work I’m doing to think about why change is successful. This blog is updated version with feedback from the conference discussion in italics.

At Aldermore, I’ve been building up a professional change team, starting with IT change, then broadening out to include business change through the recruitment of business change managers, process improvement (I now have a continuous improvement team) and training. This is really working well, as we use process improvement to identify opportunities to make things better for our staff and customers, deliver it through a release factory and projects, and train out the changes so the changes are embedded. I’m now in that great position where my business turns to my team for help and support whenever they have a challenge, rather than seeing IT as part of the problem.

As I reflect on why they do that, it’s apparent that it’s not just down to the capability of my team. Clearly that helps – a fantastic team and delivery track record clearly is necessary but not enough. There are many other factors at play that make for succesful change.

So in this panel session, I crowd-sourced the best ideas in 5 areas that I think are most important. I’ve chosen these topics, so please help me with ideas by commenting on this blog if you have any top tips. I’ll update this blog with the top ideas from both the conference and my blog.

  1. Creating Stakeholder buy in and commitment – how do you get your stakeholders on board, supportive and helping you be successful? For me, its about creating Awareness (tell them the truth and be transparent), demonstrating consistency and endurance of Character (show your real self, dont just focus on glossy Powerpoint slides) and Empathy (listen to understand and show you get their perspective). Having written that I’ve just realised that’s an awful TLA – Do those things and you will be ACE. #Groan. The conference picked out this topics, and felt the key was to Pick the right ones,work hard at exiting them about the ideas, and maintain regular touch points.
  2. What do you need from your Sponsor. In my experience, great sponsor behaviour is a pre requisite for success, and you can usually trace most failing projects back to a poor or absent sponsor. One of my key things to look for is a sponsor who understands what’s involved in delivering change, gets that it is hard, and gives for stability for long enough to give us a chance to deliver! (i.e. doesn’t change their mind, understands that there are deadlines for precise requirements etc). The key message I got was the need for sponsors to help and defend not bully, be accountable not looking on, and protect you.
  3. Comms and engagement. Everyone knows this is crucial, but what can you actually do. There are the basics like get your story clear and then tell it time and time again. I love this quote “”Sometimes reality is too complex, stories give it form” from Jean Luc Godard, film director. Applies just as much in the complex world of IT. Other ideas generated included engage at all levels and with transparency, sharing good and bad bits, not just shiny good news, regularly. Create and use multiple comms channels. Work on top communicators, help them become evangelists and watch it snowball.
  4. You and your Brand. Do you know what you stand for? What is your brand? Without that, how can you hope to stand out from the crowd, expect people to follow you and make great things happen. I wrote this blog here on branding for IT leaders that may be worth a read if this topic interests you. This one was a bit harder to think about in a short workshop, but the key takeaway for me was to get feedback from others 360 to validate and form it, it needs to be authentic,and not bland, you can change style but not the real you!
  5. Delivery models, top tips and approaches. I’m not talking about jumping on the band wagon of agile here, though that has its place. I’ve build a release based factory in a few organisations. I go for quarterly releases for a few key reasons a) clear timescales and deadlines, business knows requirements have to be finalised by a date or they miss the release/bus. b) a broadly fixed capacity model. Think teenage children, they need frameworks and boundaries – what happens when they go into a sweet shop thinking they can have what they like whenever they like it. Please don’t tell my business colleagues I have been using techniques learnt bringing up 3 kids otherwise I’m really going to be in trouble!!! #Justsaying, At the conference the participants felt the most important factors for successful delivery was to have a clear outcome and objectives, then communicate them lots and often. Celebrate success, and progress on way . Try to do the least possible governance and restriction.

Looking forward to the session, will update on what comes out of it later this week.

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