Make your vision reality

It is all very well having a vision, but how do we ensure that everyone understands, and buys into it?

It is all very well having a vision, but how do we ensure that everyone understands, and buys into it?

Inside track

As managers, we used to be taught that setting a strategy was exclusively our domain, that the future of our teams, departments and companies relied on the special intellect and knowledge of an elite few.

Those days are long gone. As leaders we have to share, consult and involve - true leadership determines that people will perform their best if they are at our side because they want to be there. It also tells us that everyone who has something to say must have the chance to do just that. Being listened to, in other words being valued, is key to motivation.

There are three stages we can go through to ensure a successful vision, and increase the chances of its achievement.

Setting the vision

One-to-one sessions are best, but may be prohibitive in medium to large teams/companies. So follow these seven steps, which work regardless of size:

  • Select a small team to formulate a new vision, ensuring wide representation

  • Have a clear vision within your top team, based on business drivers and business projects

  • Compare the two and hold a joint session to identify key common ground - focusing on business and customers

  • Make sure that your final wording is clear, compelling and concise (it is the compelling bit that is often lost in debate and compromise - make sure it stays exciting)

  • Ensure there is a forum in place that encourages people to have a say, not just allows them to speak if they are spoken to - one that actually motivates them to contribute, such as an open forum held in the pub at 4.30pm (a sure way to get a big turn-out and lively debate)

  • Listen to all of the contributions then, as the leadership team, amend and finalise

  • Sell it to all relevant parties, especially the board and your people.

    Selling the story

    There are three ways to ensure your IT vision is not just accepted but enthusiastically embraced by everyone:

  • Believe in it with all of your head and heart

  • Ensure it is all worded and set in a business and not IT context

  • Put yourself in the shoes of three sets of people: your board and shareholders; your business customers at grass root level; and your own staff/overall team. Ask yourself the classic question "what is in it for me?" from each of these perspectives. Ensure you can answer each, and when you are selling/presenting the plan, use these words and this angle/focus.

    Connect everything

    All IT departments are overworked, but when they take a hard look at what they are doing, and how it relates to bottom-line business success, it is often surprising, more often staggering, how few can be measured directly against why the company exists.

    This is your chance to ensure that all IT work is relevant to the business imperative and vision. It is also an opportunity to ensure that all IT projects are owned by business leaders, and not by IT.

    Whenever I talk about this method of setting an IT strategy, someone will always say that not all projects relate to business benefit, rather that some are done for purely technology reasons, and are so-called "IT projects". I am asked who should own such projects.

    I firmly believe there is simply no such thing as an IT project. Every single piece of work carried out in IT, indeed in every department, must be done for a reason, and there are only four such valid reasons:

  • It brings in additional revenue

  • It reduces cost

  • It retains or attracts a customer or customers

  • It motivates people in your organisation

    Technology in itself does not matter; what technology does is everything.

    Many will argue that this is a simplistic approach to a complex subject. Maybe, but the whole process of setting IT strategies has become far too complicated and unwieldy. As IT leaders, we must constantly remember the customer, business and people dimensions, and these must be paramount. Otherwise we may as well go home.

    David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is published by ButterworthHeinemann Tel: 01865-88180

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