Gustave Flaubert was a nineteenth century French author who is considered by many to have created the style of the modern novel. As The New Yorker literary critic, James Woods, put it, "Novelists should thank Flaubert the way poets thank spring; it all begins again with him." Flaubert painstakingly depicts his characters with precise and lean descriptions. His works, like Madame Bovary, are highly referenced examples of Realism. Maybe you've never heard of him, however, I bet you know one of his famous quotes:
"There is no truth. There is only perception."
Of course we all create and have a library of perceptions, mental images based on our senses, about the world around us. Sensory information, in a sense (pun intended), are simply data. Data which doesn't have a natural right or wrong associated with it. We form perceptions by combining both our sensory data and the experiences and knowledge we have about a particular subject.
For example, you've likely seen, on occasion, a moon that looks big and orange just above the horizon. Now, we know that the moon didn't actually grow, and that this largeness is an optical illusion. The reddish orange color is due to the filtering of blue light from the thicker parts of the atmosphere which are located closer to the horizon.
But what if we didn't have today's modern science and understanding of atmospheres, orbits, and different wavelengths of light? We might think that the moon suddenly grew and turned a frightening shade of blood orange. Our observations would be the only data we have about the moon and our perceptions would be set. If this were the case, we would have created a misconception about the moon, a view that is incorrect because it is based on a faulty understanding.
Misconceptions are the subject of today's third part of my series on IT business transformation. We'll explore this question:
What perceptions of technology do business leaders make that lead to misconceptions of IT services and staff?
As a technologist you have experience and knowledge that business leaders in other areas won't. What you perceive when merging your observations with this knowledge may be vastly different than the perceptions that others form about your work. You have to translate your experience into language that the uninitiated will understand and care about. Others have not chosen your specialty, so they may not be naturally inclined to be curious about technology, to want to know the why, or to even hear what it is you're saying unless you speak in their terms.
Stated simply, you have to stop talking about technology. Instead speak in terms that matter to your audience, to truly change perceptions.
Here I want to make an important and maybe obvious point. On occasion I've found that the misconception lies with me, and not the other way around. If my team is hard to work with, or has a habit of saying "no", the lens of "misconception" just might be reversed and introspection would be in order. You shouldn't expect other leaders to take the lead to point this out to you, after all they have been by giving you feedback all along, haven't they?
By way of example, let's take a look at two common areas of misconception: cost and transparency. I'll offer a scenario, talk about the likely misconceptions, and offer ideas on how to turn the conversation toward IT Value.
Example 1: IT Costs
ScenarioYour IT costs are allocated back to a business unit, showing up on a P&L as single lump sum.
The message you should receiveBusiness leaders don't know what specific value you bring, they don't understand their consumption of your services, and they often see marketing from external companies with little on this front from you.
Example 2: Lack of Transparency
ScenarioIT is late to learn of new product and service offerings. Much IT work feels reactionary versus planned. Little to no strategic planning is done with the IT department.
The message you should receive
These tactics are examples of the types of actions you should have in your IT road map to create positive perceptions of your organization. You want to turn emotion led decisions into data-driven decisions. The next time you hear feedback from your peers in the company, try to empathize and figure out why they feel that way. Only one of two outcomes is possible:
- They've got it right and you have work to do to address the feedback,
- They've got it wrong, and you have work to do to address the misconception.
Ignoring the feedback will further strengthen the observations and lead to more heavily entrenched feelings toward IT, more pressure on IT budgets, and over time erode the support you need to be transformational.
Next week I'll explain why building a complete IT financial model is the right first step in beginning this transformational journey.