Enhancing IT: using Option Solving

 IT groups are under scrutiny like never before within the current difficult market conditions. They are expected to produce a whole lot more with less capital invested. So the IT executive I have in mind works for a sizeable financial house with an IT Group of around 75 people.  His CEO is challenging him mightily hard to reduce costs significantly, still meet the business demands of producing new and upgraded projects on time, and still retain good internal relations with his senior peers.

He now gets his “Smart Decisions” book out and begins to frame the right question as discussed in Chapter 3 (see what he comes up with in the Latest Example). If he poses the right question, it will really make him start thinking outside the box. He didn’t choose to involve his team at this point because clearly more than one option would likely include a certain amount of downsizing (with one option on his mind as much as 30%) and he didn’t want to make people nervous until he had his ducks more lined up. So he chose to work with an outsider as a sounding board to start with.

Once his question was in place, he picked two bookends; one was “Remain as we are.” The other was equally a stretch – see Latest Example. However, these really started to tease his mind to come up with reasonable alternatives. With further thought he and his “speaking partner” came up with six, of which three are in the Example given. Because of the emotional challenges in making the right choice (he may have to let some people go), he chose to sleep on it –“emotional distancing” – see Chapter 7.

With his mind made up the following morning, he now had to sell it to his CEO and his peers. He walked them through his Option Solving framework, so they understood the question, bookends and alternatives. At this point he had to be open-minded and flexible to other options and in fact they came up with one he hadn’t considered before. He replaced his B alternative with this one. He then took a straw poll of his colleagues, while they were available, to draw on their “collective wisdom.” Fortunately their choice agreed with his choice and he told them so.

Now he went to meet with his own key team for their consideration and buy-in. This was naturally a much more emotional session owing to the possibility of cutbacks. Even so, he walked them through his question, bookends and options to allow them to add to everything. Once completed, he asked them to remain silent overnight and come back in the morning with there best intuitive option. This they did with a split in opinion, once the confidential straw poll was taken. One faction backed his choice another faction came up with another choice. It was close.

After a quick break, he invited participants (there were 8) to state their intuitive thoughts about one or the other. Allowing time for a fair amount of discussion he asked if people were ready to independently poll again. (He recused himself from contributing to the discussion, since he didn’t want to unduly influence anyone.) A majority wanted more time to think it through, so he invited them to take another night to sleep on it.

Back again the second morning, he took another straw poll and this time the majority went in his direction (at which point he informed them of his own choice). By and large the minority went along with the majority because their voices had been heard. And so now it came time to talk about implementation. (Next week’s posting: How a CFO had to reposition her financial manager/controller…Please also make COMMENTS for connecting with the author)

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