How to take your IT Management Capacity to the Next Level

By Andre Badenhorst | Operational IT Leadership

Sep 07

You are running. You are all over the show.

Your skeleton staff is seriously time constrained, constantly firefighting concurrent operational and user issues. Not to mention the overrunning of sticky projects. And if that is not enough, management demands answers in constant meetings that only keep you further away from the tasks at hand. You catch yourself doing those technical jobs escalated by incompetency.

Compare this to Paul. The one with the humongous salary who radiates the confidence of “all-the-time-in-the-world”. Everything was still okay until you ask him what he’s doing for a life. His effortless answer: “IT Manager”.

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Yup, it turns out that some IT Managers have lots of time, fun and peace at work. Firmly in control of their time and highly respected by their peers and powers that be.

And you will also find that these guys, if you are not already one of them, take responsibility to new levels and embrace contemporary changes in IT. They are pitching not only for IT meetings but find themselves all the more at ease in the chambers of mean business.

What made the difference in terms of time at hand?

If you know the answer, kudos for you! But continue reading. You will still end up enjoying the journey of continuous improvement.

Otherwise, if you are a bit lost in time, figuratively speaking, just step out of the black hole.Let me show you how!

Jump-start your Journey

First, you need to get rid of the stuff that nibbles your time away.

And here are some really quick wins to gain.

For instance, any experienced IT Manager will tell you that you can drastically improve the way projects are run by just making some small changes.

Mark, an IT Manager, has recommended such a small alteration to his board. They were immediately bought in, and with this single act, his company has been notched up a few bars. I actually asked him how long it took for the buy-in. With a covered laugh, he said: “Within minutes”.

And the solution? He took inventory of all the running projects, all over the show, from different departments. Then he consolidated them into one Excel spreadsheet.

Off he went with this list to the board of decision makers for review - and were they surprised! Everyone in the boardroom recognised it as a problem. Concurrent projects with different departments involved and affected easily cause a mess.

And the result? They have made some hard decisions to stop a host of projects to enable his IT Team to just focus on the important ones. The results were stellar!

The quick-wins we will talk about should give you real, tangible results. If you manage to put yourself in the right head-space before tackling these low hanging fruit, you will gain so much more. 

I know I have oversimplified it a bit. Yes, Mark will probably run into problems soon.
But this is why we are here!

Within this blog series, we will take you on a journey and not only replicate what Mark has achieved, but actually continue on from there and expose some of our deepest secrets:

If you have not subscribed to the Xuviate blog, better do so now. We’ll be covering a topic every week, so be sure not to miss out!

What follows are some pointers that should help you get there…

Step up the Level

When a great self-help guru, Steven Covey passed away in 2012, Eric Jackson wrote: “The Only Thing You Need To Remember About The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. in this essay he condensed the Seven habits to the following two simple steps:

1) Do something.

2) Plan what you’re taking action about.

“That’s it”, he said. “Covey built a billion dollar empire based on those two kernels of knowledge."

The one technique, though, that still stood out 23 years after he read the book, was Covey's Time Management Matrix.

The basic idea here is that Quadrant I tends to get bigger and bigger as soon as you start focusing on it. Quadrant II, however, is the one that matters and good leaders constantly try to increase their focus on it.

  • Have a look at the contents in Quadrant II:
  • Preparation
  • Planning
  • Prevention
  • Relationship Building
  • Personal Development

These are exactly the areas where we will focus on next in this blog article and in the ones to follow.

Working Like a Google

I have recently come across a great article, Eight Pillars of Innovation by Google’s Senior Vice President Susan Wojcicki. The thing about these pillars is the ease with which you can apply them to your own life, your workplace and your Project Management practice.

Have a Mission that Matters

The ability to work towards a goal is one of the most significant of our abilities to determine success. Zig Ziglar once said, “Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.”

Just look at the mission statements of some masters of success:

  • Richard Branson: "To have fun on your journey through life and learn from your mistakes."
  • Oprah Winfrey: "To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be."
  • George Bernard Shaw: “Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

For you, the IT Manager, the window of opportunity is now open wider than ever.

The good news is that you are probably part of a select few that has started to think towards BT Management. Only those few manage to break the patterns of conformity.

Think Big but Start Small

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Isn’t it a great truism in life?

Like a Mark Zuckerberg, you need to take this first step. And you need to think very carefully about it. This first step, as Steve Backley said, is “the most important. It is the most crucial and the most effective as it will initiate the direction you have chosen.”

Strive for Continual Innovation, not Instant Perfection

.Innovation is about to getting going and staying on the go. Striving for perfection at some stage becomes a waste of time. You need to move on at a good enough stage. The tricky question though, is when is good enough good enough?

An authoritative article about the principle of “good enough” comes from Scott W. Ambler’s Just Barely Good Enough Models and Documents: An Agile Best Practice.

In here, he argues that “just barely good enough” (JBGE) strikes a perfect middle ground between “still having to do work” and “done too much work”. JBGE does not imply lesser quality. In fact, the better the balance, the bigger the value you will gain from it:

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me this concept makes perfect logical sense. It will allow you to get to your big goal in the fastest possible way.

You just need to apply this principle to each step along your journey.

And again, we have accommodated this principle of continuous improvement in a blog article, “How to best prepare for your next IT Budget” by illustrating it along the 15 BTM Capabilities of the Relevant IT Framework.

We have thought long and hard about this framework and the iterative nature to make it highly practical. Each capability is a tangible step towards your BTM maturity and the duration of each iteration is based on your company’s yearly budgeting cycle.

Look for Ideas Everywhere

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." -- Albert Einstein

After 20 years of extensive research in the first part of the 20th century into what made the most successful people succeed, Napoleon Hill concluded in his timeless work “Think and Grow Rich” that “never has there been a time more favourable to pioneers than the present.”

If Napoleon Hill was still alive today, my response to him would have been: “Napoleon, you have seen nothing yet. We are flooded by ideas in the 21st century. Can you imagine that today a person in Africa with a device called a “cell phone” literally has more information at their disposal within seconds than your 16 research subjects combined encountered throughout their rich lives”.

What is however still true, even after a century, is that “tolerance and an open mind are practical necessities for the dreamer of today. Those who are afraid of new ideas are doomed before they start.”

Then he took this concept further and revealed to us an enormously powerful concept that every extremely successful person back than had: that of a Master Mind. This, he defined as “a coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose”.

And if you know Xuviate you would have guessed right - our BTM Mastermind Groups are based on Napoleon Hill’s work and the derivatives that have emerged over the past 80 years. These Mastermind Groups are an ideal vehicle to help you on your journey to success.

Share Everything

This is the flip side of the previous pillar and a perfect opportunity to introduce to you something that positively influenced my life in the past 25 years : The Johari Window.

I am not going to expand on the workings of it in this article, but the basic idea is that the more you share with others, the better you will get to know yourself. This in itself is a critical prerequisite for self-growth on your venture to innovation.

Again, opportunities for sharing are countless when using technology.

Believe the Impossible

We are not only talking about the mission here. Every single step or challenge will demand a lot of imagination, passion and perseverance.

You quantify your results and discard what isn’t working to focus on what is. It’s never easy to walk away from an opportunity, but it’s the only way to make sure you don’t waste time, effort, and capital on something that will be unsuccessful.

Be a Platform

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants – Isaac Newton 1676

As you are the one that initiates a new thinking on how to handle diverse projects, you might start sharing your project management expertise to other areas of business. In other words, you become a “platform” from which others can learn from.

In the same way, make sure that every domain you touch is designed to serve as a platform. As an example, VP1 in the Relevant IT methodology is the domain of the IT Manager: The Cost-Effective Reliable Platform. Changing your thinking from IT to BT will be part of transforming your platform into something that others VPs can easily build on. (For the different acronyms, please refer to the Glossary of Terms used throughout the blog series).

This means that you will depart from being seen as the no-guy! It also means that you will work towards building a self-sustained platform, thereby making yourself dispensable to increase your value.

Never Fail to Fail

People remember your hits more than your misses. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from your mistakes and correct them fast.

Every single step you take on the journey of self-improvement, whether it is a failure or success, is an opportunity to collect data. As long as you use this data and use it to improve, it’s not considered to be a failure.

And the last thought on this: If you are the typical IT Manager, then you are very likely a perfectionist. Make yourself less perfect and embrace this pillar!

These are great pillars which are used by Google to grow exponentially while still staying innovative. Susan Wojcicki concludes: “As it says on our homepage, ‘I’m feeling lucky.’ That’s certainly how I feel coming to work every day, and something I never want to take for granted.”

Time is Relative

In conclusion, have you ever thought about the relativity of time? Time only makes sense when it is relative to something else. A day, for instance, is based on the rotation of the earth, a year on the earth’s orbit around the sun. And so on and so forth.

For exactly the same reason, the fact that you don’t have time, is also relative. The power of time management is to change the things that it relates to.
And for this change to happen you need to free yourself from a “do mode” to a “thinking mode”.

We have identified a common low hanging fruit in order to help you do this: The way you handle projects.

We’ve given you a sneak peek on how others have done it. And we will take you on a journey to master the art of simple project coordination in a mid-sized organisation.

We will help you apply innovation skills to other areas, e.g. process management, within the context of your company and within a broad and well thought through framework.

Once freed from time constraints, you will have the power in your hands to not only elevate yourself, but to drive change throughout your company.

This is an invitation to a rare opportunity of actually doing time travel.

Either you take it now or miss out.

It’s up to you.

Don’t forget to subscribe in order to stay up to date.

If you have any stories about project management mishaps or successes for your business, please share them in the comments!

I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing this article!

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About the Author

More than 20 years of experience in Information Technology with a primary focus on designing and developing software solutions on all application tiers. Also, solid theoretical background in curriculum studies and hobby thinker on new education.

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