Having grown up in Europe, just a stone’s throw from the “Iron Curtain”—yes, I am old enough to remember that phrase—as well as visiting both Russia and the Ukraine and now living in the U.K., I have been observing the situation in the Ukraine with great interest and sadness.
Not to trivialize the devastation and the tension, but l do see some correlation between this conflict and how those of you in IT approach your initiatives. Here are three of them:
1. Don’t assume everyone is on-board with your IT initiatives. Until the Russian-backed troops moved into Crimea, one would have thought (from a western perspective) that everyone in the Ukraine would be excited about the changes in government. One would be wrong.
People have a hard time moving out of their comfort zone, especially if they think it is taking away their stability or impacting their daily life. Your IT initiatives may have with the best intentions and make the company more efficient and effective, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be on board with you. There will be resistance. It will take education, time and patience. Which leads us to point two.
2. Ruling with an iron fist no longer works. People will work without you and around you. In the old days, the riots and uprising in the Ukraine would have quickly and easily been suppressed without barely a mention in a media. Today’s wired world and social media have changed the rules of the game—permanently.
Your employees no longer take what you tell them at face value. They have their own opinions and their own on-line “research.” In their minds, they are using the latest and greatest technology or software. IT is the one that seems old-fashioned and a relic that pines for the old days of complete control. The days when IT assumes they can simply dictate an initiative and everyone will blindly follow are gone. IT needs to do their due diligence, needs to have the data and business case to back up what they are proposing. As if that isn’t hard enough, point three maybe the biggest challenge for IT.
3. Sometimes it isn’t a matter of who is right and who is wrong; it is a matter of perception. Who is right in this crisis? Who is wrong? Was it right for the EU to deliver an ultimatum? Was Russia right to go in to protect the interests of theirs and the region of predominately Russians-speaking people? Two of the most powerful men in the world—Presidents Obama and Putin—wise, rational, and insightful couldn’t agree after a 90 minute phone call.
While there is no question in IT’s mind that their initiative is the correct one, what will others think? Are you ready to spend hours with your customers and/or employees to try and agree on the initiatives? Are you willing to admit that they might be right? I’m not saying that you stop your plan, but you must be willing to recognize that not everyone sees the initiative the way that you or IT does?
Tensions are high in the Ukraine. When the loss of human life, destruction of property, and tension is involved, just about everything else in life pales in comparison. But, as you are beginning your initiatives, remember that you too are going to potentially face conflict over these initiatives. The best way to deal with it is to anticipate what lies ahead, educate, and realize that everyone’s view is valid—even if it is one opposed to your initiative.