People Who Love Sausage and Respect the Law...

Photo: K.Pashuk - Taken from atop the Washington Monument

... should never watch either one being made.

This quote has been attributed to Ben Franklin, Otto Bismark, and a number of other sources.  Regardless of the source, I was reminded of the quote during a vacation trip to Washington DC last week.

We went for the museums and the history, and were delighted with the experience.

We also took the opportunity to visit the seat of power in the US, the Capitol building.  If you've never visited this magnificent building, make sure it is on your bucket list.

While we were there, we were fortunate enough to get passes to see the House in session.

Given the magnitude of the debt crisis, we thought it would be great to see the debate... to see how the politicians handled this current crisis, in the same room as the other historic debates of US history.

When we finally cleared security and were let into the House chamber, we were surprised, and disappointed.

Instead of raucous debate, there were a total of about five, yes, five state representatives, the House Speaker, and various aides and pages.

There obviously wasn't a vote taking place, but there was "democracy in action".  Each speaker had a few minutes to make a passionate case for their platform - to an empty room.  It was being diligently recorded by stenographers, but it certainly didn't look like anyone was listening.  The speeches we listened to were incredibly partisan, and from my perspective, didn't do much in terms of offering any constructive solution to the crisis.

This certainly wasn't the place where the real action was happening in the resolution of the crisis.

Which gets me around to the point of this posting - there is a tie in to IT leadership.

If you are like me, you are involved in a lot of meetings. Some are good.  Some great. Some... well let's just say you could spend your time more productively.

If you are in leadership - involved in bringing change into your organization, the traditional business meeting can be an effective tool - but it's not your primary tool. There are naive people who think the purpose of meetings is to present information, make decisions, and get updates.

If you are involved in change leadership - you hold meetings to formalize decisions that have already been made.

Your work does not happen at the formal meeting. If your only point of contact is the meeting room where you present your proposal, and hope for a decision the same day, you are likely to be disappointed.

If you really want to bring change into your organization, the process of change mostly happens outside the meeting. This involves a great deal of planning, communication, and focused energy. It's looking for opportunities to connect with the decision makers outside of the normal meeting framework.

It's being ready at a moment's notice to have a creative way to respond to "What's new?"

It's about having your message ready, and succinct (see Before You Pitch Your Proposal, Take a Ride on Your Nearest Elevator ). Hallway conversations, lunches, chance encounters, charity golf tournaments, etc.) are all opportunities to get your message out.

IT leaders need to learn the art of relational selling - but instead of selling "product", you are taking the time to ensure that decision makers are certain of the value of the initiatives you are proposing. (A great read in this area is Harry Beckwith's book Selling the Invisible.)

I've said this dozens of times - as an IT leader, your role is changing.

Gone are the days where technical acumen were enough.

There is a new set of skills that need to be in your portfolio.

This is one of them.


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