Posted by: David Scott
business management, eCulture, HR, IT Wars, the business-technology weave
You will find three kinds of people in the WorkWith group. (Indeed this next examination of people in the Weave can be applied with equal vigor to WorkOns, WorkWiths, and WorkFors. But there is the most significant representation and impact inside the WorkWith group).
The three kinds of WorkWiths are:
1) TechnoShines: Those who like technology, embrace it and look for ways to leverage it. These people partner well with IT. They go out of their way to cultivate good relations with the IT staff. They appear happy, well adjusted, participatory, and understand technology quite well – therefore, they use technology very well. They are generally pleasurable to work with for these reasons.
2) TechnoFinds: There is then that kind of person who is ambivalent about technology. The “just show me what to do” types. Give them a computer, keep it running, and you won’t hear too much from them. They go with the flow. They “find” that there’s a change coming, and roll with it. We can think of them as having a sort of benign “whatever” attitude, and they deal with whatever comes down the pike. These folks can’t be counted on for any groundbreaking suggestions, but they are generally positive – at their worst they won’t actively inhibit progress. As they find that they’re in a Business-Technology Weave, they can be counted on to do what is necessary.
3) TechnoBinds: The third kind of person is someone who seems unable to appreciate technology. They may view it as a necessary evil – and worse for them, it is constantly evolving. I hesitate to use the word techno-phobe here, although there are those. But most of the people we’re considering in this category are able to use technology, and many very effectively. We know that within the Weave they pose a problem because they generally don’t treat IT matters well, and they don’t treat the people in IT very well. Whether through extreme criticism or negative attitude, at best they slow progress and at worst they may halt it; they bind things up.
Having defined these folks, let’s examine them closer. It should be easy to slot the WorkWiths in your organization into one of these three groups. Recognizing them and their corresponding behavior helps to work with them as effectively as possible.
TechnoShines, TechnoFinds, and TechnoBinds in Detail
The TechnoShine: The TechnoShine is a satisfying, even fun, person to work with. Don’t underestimate the power of fun. People are going to be a whole lot more creative, resistant to negative effects of stress, and much more productive if they feel they’re having fun and working with fun people. This person is always looking for “the better way” and is enthusiastic regarding improvements – thus they bring enthusiasm and energy to change. They work well with others, in and out of their department, and this carries over into their appreciation for what others do. So how do we manage this WorkWith person? What is the leverage in maximizing this person’s potential, contribution, and influence?
This person is an obvious candidate for the BIT team. They will not only represent their department well, but they’ll have an overall appreciation for the organization’s business. This kind of person tends to build time in an organization. They’re well connected politically. They don’t “job hop.” They have important institutional knowledge. They give credit where credit is due. They will make suggestions regarding best-practice with appreciation for how it will affect, and enhance, other departments. In fact, they make suggestions regarding other departments in a way that is not intrusive, but helpful and acceptable. They also accept suggestions and criticisms very well.
In addition to soliciting this kind of person’s participation on the BIT team, you can employ them to serve as a liaison. Often they’ll become an informal liaison between their department and IT anyway. However, the IT leader should push this kind of arrangement. During large-scale implementations, someone in each business department needs to take the lead anyway in collecting business requirements and helping to translate those into effective solutions. No less important, the TechnoShine can help buffer IT from some of the more difficult people in their area. TechnoShines by nature are informal sponsors for initiatives, and IT in general, by virtue of their positivity.
TechnoShines are necessary to BIT endeavors. However, don’t load the BIT team with TechnoShines to the exclusion of other valuable people who may not rise to this level. You will have to have representation by virtue of position and influence, as well as ability.
The TechnoFind: The TechnoFind is a person who adjusts to the temperature around them. They “find” that technology is permeating everything. It is an increasing influence on the part of their daily lives, both in the professional environment and the personal arena. They adjust.
TecnoFinds do what is necessary, and little more. They don’t like sticking their necks out. Therefore they don’t make waves – which in itself can be valued in many circumstances. They’re safe and practical people – they avoid risk. So, how can we leverage this kind of person? Should we merely be satisfied that they, at least, won’t “muck things up?”
Actually, this kind of person is very useful. TechnoFinds tend to be very honest about system performances and deliverables. They are not idle complainers, therefore a criticism usually has value. Nor do they “inflate” technology’s contribution. They don’t seek to hang every bell and whistle on a system to the point of a diminished return. Theirs is usually a very balanced, informed opinion. They want to know how to get their job done – they’re not fooled by the “sizzle” and want the steak. Most of the people in any organization will be TechnoFinds – therefore, you must satisfy this important majority. This person is invaluable for feedback – how’s the new software performing? How is your remote-access working? Are you satisfied with HelpDesk support? Since TechnoFinds will likely make up the majority of an organization’s staff, surveying them and exercising improvements in service to them is a winning combination.
But don’t look to this kind of person for a leadership role. You don’t want to select this person to oversee their department’s implementation of a business software application module, for example – unless there is no other choice. This person may or may not be a good choice for participation on the BIT team. Remember, the BIT team’s seats are valuable. The people who occupy them should be those who are informed enough to contribute, who desire to contribute, and who have the institutional knowledge and the good judgment to occupy one of these important seats. A TechoFind person simply may not qualify.
However, in an instance where you must have a department’s representation on BIT, and the department is populated by TechnoFinds, you must choose the best person by virtue of position and influence. Too, a TechnoFind may outclass certain TechnoShines by virtue of deep business-knowledge and sheer know-how in other areas. Choose that person who best meets the diverse qualifications necessary to moving business forward.
We can’t afford to imply here that TechnoFinds are unlikely to make a contribution or deliver anything of value in contributing to the Weave’s momentum. For example, solicit this person’s contribution when conducting requirements-analysis. For the reasons stated above, this person will know the practical side for getting work done, and will be very matter of fact about what a new system needs to do. They’ll have high expectations in meeting and beating what the old system did, as you can usually rely on them for the pragmatic view.
The TechnoBind: Uh-oh. The time has come to discuss that kind of person that we’d all rather avoid, but that we must, alas, deal with. We must try to discuss TechnoBinds in keeping with the overall positive tone of our discussions, but there are some simple realities that we need to examine if we hope to overcome the obstacles that TechnoBinds can impose. Let’s define the TechnoBind in plain language – then we’ll discuss methods to blunt their influence, and where possible to neutralize them. We’ll also note that TechnoBinds are frequently correct, and can contribute on occasion. However, it is necessary here to recognize their contribution to inefficiency. We’ll need to know how to identify them, and how to best handle them.
TechnoBinds can be very negative people – and frequently are complainers. Therefore, when they’re in a Business-Technology Weave, IT represents a fat target. So, too, does work in general. Because TechnoBinds aren’t interested in acclimating and moving forward at an efficient pace, they contribute to their own, self-reinforcing, “complaint-ready” environment. Be aware that TechnoBinds are a counter-productive influence on everything they come into contact with: their department, group projects, other’s attitudes, and so on. They may not drive things backward, necessarily, but they create enough of a drag on events that they s-l-o-w things significantly, if not carefully managed.
Next and last in this series: We’ll look at the WorkFor group – those folks we report to.