An IT department's credibility is based on perception rather than performance, and is influenced more by its relationship with management and political adeptness than its ability to deliver a tangible service.
IT professionals often construe political behaviour as being manipulative and unscrupulous, and either avoid it or confront it.
The consequences are serious, and can mean IT has little influence on business decisions; is often unrepresented at board level; is held in low regard; and has little credibility.
So, what new skills do you need to develop?
If you are an IT manager, it is probable that you are a highly intelligent person with significant cognitive (left brain) capabilities. To significantly increase your chance of success you must develop your emotional (right brain) capabilities. You must:
Get in touch with your feelings and show positive emotions, eg, passion, enthusiasm and sincerity
Be open and genuinely share information
Value achievement for its own sake and celebrate others' successes
Take an interest in non IT matters, such as current affairs and the arts
Develop the ability to challenge diplomatically
Be curious, expand your horizons, extend your locus of influence
Learn how to motivate others and adopt an appropriate leadership style.
This may sound tough, but the rewards are significant.
Want to know more? Then read Corporate Politics for IT Managers: How to Get Streetwise, by Keith Patching and Robina Chatham, part of the Computer Weekly professional series soon to be published by Butterworth Heinemann.
Dr Robina Chatham is a lecturer at the Cranfield School of Management
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This was first published in March 2000