Try discussing communication without mentioning technology and you start to feel old because you have to revive images of how people did their jobs “before e-mail” or “before the Internet.” It is therefore not surprising that stories about controversies involving communication and technology tend to have legs, a la “Chris Avenir, Facebook and Ryerson” tale, which reared its head in a National/Financial Post/canada.com article by Blair Makin.
(I have to say that I do not envy Ryerson the negative PR they appear to continue to garner! See my discussion from my earlier post on this story.)
I think that Mr. Makin misses an important part of the need for Gen Ys to communicate effectively with each other and with their organizations: the problems are rarely about the technology! Compromised intellectual property and security are important, but far from the largest concern when opening communications and harnessing the collaborative nature of Web 2.0. The problem that communications and technology run into is that I lose control of the ability to choose who sees my message. This takes away the essential “positioning” (e.g. grease for the wheels) that has to take place with those who may trust me to a lesser extent because (a) they don’t know me yet, or (b) they have made up their mind, based on previous communications, that they shouldn’t. (If I have the time and skill to bullet proof my arguments, I needn’t worry. Case in point: how many iterations did this piece go through before being released to editorial staff at the Post? I would guess lots!)
He glosses over the challenges of collaboration when “young egos are at stake.” I would be worried more about the higher-ups, who may be feeling a tad insecure about all the change and may respond negatively because of their own ego issues. Beyond ego, there is old-fashioned manners and respect (here I go sounding old again!), which are tough to convey electronically in a written form. These subtleties can be conveyed in an voice or face-to-face interaction, but will be inferred from an written communication. If you have the benefit of the doubt, you need not worry. If you don’t (and you don’t!), you may affect your reading on the benefit-of-the-doubt meter.
Not surprisingly from an executive from a communications technology provider the article concludes that “Today’s bright and energetic Gen-Yers” need to be given connectivity tools. If no one is listening to them anyway (because they have failed individually to garner the benefit of the doubt), connectivity merely enables more noise in the workplace. The non-Yers, sadly, may decide to disconnect.
You can’t take politics out of the health care system, which would suggest that George Smitherman gets some latitude in his public commentary, as do all politicians. Who takes politicians comments at face value? At some point, however, the gamesmanship and negotiation-style posturing will get in the way of achieving a sustainable system. This position receives support from Dr. Yoel Abells in his column in today’s National Post. Dr. Abells rightly scolds Minister Smitherman for using a confrontational approach to negotiating funding with hospitals. The basis for the criticism is that the Minister is picking fights that the LHINs—the funding messengers—are going to have to finish.
NOTE: If you are asking, “What’s a LHIN?” as many a layperson will, visit www.lhins.on.ca for details on the newish player in Ontario health care.
I wish that more people shared Dr. Abells’ perspective; he is in the community and in a hospital. He also takes enough interest in the solution to share his views with the public. I think that his arguments are valid, but I believe that assigning blame defeats the purpose of any health care reform.
Previously, I have written about the movie Apollo 13 (here): is there any clearer example of necessity mothering invention? Ed Harris’ statement “Failure is not an option” is taken as gospel. This type of collaboration (us and us; not us vs. them) fosters true innovation. Making the most of the available resources gets beyond the status quo gamesmanship whereby hospitals grumble in March about under funding only to be topped-up in April for by a government looking for political points.
The LHINs are at the front lines of reform. Granted, posturing from the Minister and his office doesn’t help the situation, nor do tactics from hospitals. Both will have to reach across the fence for things to work for the long term. Time will tell if the LHINs gain enough credibility to broker these handshakes.
I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion this week among CIOs and senior technology executives. The theme of the discussion what “Innovation” and what is standing in the way of it. One common issue in the discussion was the overwhelming lack of credibility that these executives appear to have in their organizations. Backing up from the situation, this is appalling. Even followers of Nicholas Carr realize that operationally technology plays a giant part in all organizations today. Apparently the backlash from Y2K and dot-come has yet to wane.
Note: It is pointless to debate whether or not companies can derive sustainable competitive advantage from technology. If it were easy to pinpoint areas to develop the source of advantages, they would cease to be sustainable.
Here are two things that arose in the discussion that I believe can help the case of the CIO who gets no benefit of the doubt from the executives.
1 –Have the pound of cure ready
When you cries of warning are treated like “crying wolf,” and the executives aren’t buying into the ideas, turn your attention to the contingency plan. The ounce of prevention only has appeal to those who understand the potential problem. If hypothetical scenarios aren’t getting through, powerful evidence can come in the form of a real-live incident.
Note: it would be professionally irresponsible to let a major failure occur.
Small incidents that are successfully rectified can provide the objective evidence that some may need to believe you next time. Garnering zero benefit of the doubt may be a reality for some IT executives. This is a way to gain relevance by attracting a bit of negative attention.
2 – Whisper to the King
Art Kleiner’s book “Who Really Matters” is an extremely interesting discussion of who has swagger in organizations. (Look for more discussion on this book!) From the conversation this week, IT executives are very clear on who is “king” in the organization. (Marketing was identified as the “in group” by one CIO; not surprisingly, “editorial” reigns according to a media-industry CIO.) The internal sales job starts with why would this matter to them, and can this become a priority issue for this group.
This is common sense for anyone who has worked in sales, but it seemed like an “aha” for some of the people in the room. Having the conversation with individuals in these groups can help raise the benefit-of-the-doubt reading, and can also identify the levers available to be pulled.
Building what Art Kleiner calls “reputation equity” appears to be a priority for at least some of the group that gathered this week. Events in the later 90s and early millennium have not helped the reputation of the entire function, but there are some ways to add value while bearing that particular albatross.
Helping to clean up a mess can be an effective way of demonstrating relevance. Reputation equity can help, whether in providing strength for the albatross or downsizing it to seagull status. Needless to say, many CIOs have a tough row to hoe.
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