I consult, write, and speak on running better technology businesses (tech firms and IT captives) and the things that make it possible: good governance behaviors (activist investing in IT), what matters most (results, not effort), how we organize (restructure from the technologically abstract to the business concrete), how we execute and manage (replacing industrial with professional), how we plan (debunking the myth of control), and how we pay the bills (capital-intensive financing and budgeting in an agile world). I am increasingly interested in robustness over optimization.

I work for ThoughtWorks, the global leader in software delivery and consulting.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Come the Hour, Come the Leaders

Earlier this week, I published an article called Come the Hour, Come the Leaders in alphaITjournal.com. In it, I point out the acute need for business leadership in today's economic environment and identify six things we can do today to act on a leadership agenda. Today's Financial Times brought some reinforcement to those messages in the first of a four-part series called Managing in a Downturn.

Stefan Stern's Time for Managers to Stand and Deliver contains some good and practical guidance for management leaders. He also sites a Booz & Co. survey that shows that as many as 40% of senior managers said they doubt their leadership have a credible plan to deal with the current crisis, while 46% doubt the leadership team is capable of carrying out its plans, whether credible or not. This data strongly reinforces my point that "how we act and prepare, and how we explain our actions and preparations, inspires confidence more than all the rah-rah optimism in the world will ever achieve."

In Seizing the Upside of a Downturn, Donald Sull makes the point that it is imperative to be organized for consistency, instead of lurching during good times and seizing during bad ones, making reference to Lean practices as a model. He makes excellent points consistent with one of the actions I recommend: "Cutting costs to withstand a downturn in the hope that recovery is around the corner (and with it a return to business as usual) is not leadership. Being sustainably responsive to whatever the economy, the market, governments and the competition deals us is leadership. We can act very boldly to eliminate situational complexity, unaligned gatekeepers, and any other obstacles that make it difficult to get things done. We can also look very closely at Lean principles to not only eliminate waste but to make sure effort is directed toward results."

It is quite satisfying to see reinforcing articles appear within a matter of days of each other. It suggests it is a timely and important topic. I highly recommend that you read all three.