It is the holiday season and it seems everywhere we look people are thinking and acting with a bit more charity and patience. It has given me a revolutionary idea, what if we could take some of that holiday magic and use it to repair the dysfunctional relationship between the IT team and the other business units in our organization?

Have you hugged your IT team today?

I actually don’t mean to sound cynical. I am happy to say that I have seen organizations where the IT team and the rest of the business leaders were very good friends and worked well together. Unfortunately, I have also seen scores of organizations where the relationship between IT and the rest of the organization was so bad that it was a wonder that anything positive was being accomplished. And the one thing that these dysfunctional organizations had in common was that they were not really talking to each other. When they did start talking, and I mean really talking, both sides were surprised at what they didn’t know and understand about the others’ needs.

So, in the spirit of harmony and good cheer, here are a couple exercises from some very smart people at VitalSmarts.

Crucial Conversations

First, the next time you start to bad-mouth “those idiots on the IT team” (or “those jerks in accounting” – if you are on the IT team), ask yourself “Why would a rational person act that way?” Then, see if you can convince yourself that “their only motivation is to run the company into the ground”. Of course such a conclusion is ridiculous, at least I hope it is! The point is, by exploring a few rhetorical questions, you can hopefully put yourself in their position and open your thinking to see things from another’s perspective.

Next, do what the VitalSmarts people call “Exploring Stories”. Start by examining your own story, which has you convinced that you are right and “they” are wrong. Try to separate your emotions and biases from known facts. If it is not a fact, and it is part of your story, then it is obviously subject to interpretation. Once you have quantified more carefully the facts that support your own story, take an opportunity to share it with a member of the other team and invite them to share their story.

Together, separate the real facts from your combined motives, biases and emotions. You will both certainly learn things that will start you on the path to cooperative accomplishment.

As I have seen IT teams and Business teams get together and get their respective stories on the table and really talk, they inevitably learn new things about each other. They find that they really do have common goals. From there it is much easier to identify the source of their failures and start on the road to solutions. Those teams that never learn how to engage in these conversations are doomed. For them, IT will continue to find ways to blame the business units for failed projects and those business units will shake their heads and wonder why IT can’t seem to get their act together.
For more guidance on how to make the most of “Crucial Conversations”, get a copy of the book by that name – published by VitalSmarts. It is well worth the read.

Here is wishing you good luck with your next Crucial Conversation, and please let me know how it goes!

CXO Vantage Point Guest Blogger

Craig Adams, CIO