Monday, October 14, 2013

A reminder on Relative Importance

There's a classic saying in leadership that "What got you here won't get you there." It's a reminder that you need to refocus your priorities, what's important to your job, as you move up into new responsibilities.

Last year, I shared a survey asking participants to rate the relative importance of four types of job duties: Technical, Strategic, Interpersonal, and Finance. Note that these aren't "skills" per se, but qualities that are important to the work performed within each role.

Technical
The tasks that are very "hands-on" by nature, often managing servers or databases, or supporting other systems or desktop environments.
Strategic
Time spent thinking about the overall IT organization, and how the organization needs to respond to meet new challenges.
Interpersonal
Building relationships, the "give and take" of interacting with others.
Finance
Factoring in costs, either at the small scale (tools, etc.) or at the larger scales (budgets, etc.)

I sought the help of friends and colleagues to "advertise" the new survey. Over 360 of you responded, from all over the world, representing all levels of an IT organization. Most of the responses (over 250) were from higher education. 68 represented commercial companies, 32 were in government, and 10 came from non-profit organizations. The results of this survey were interesting and enlightening. I discussed the responses and provided my own insight in an article, "Qualities of an IT professional: Relative Importance," but to review, the survey reveals several lessons about leadership at different levels in an IT organization:

  1. The vanishing value of Technical.
  2. The balancing act of the team lead.
  3. The drop in Interpersonal at the CIO level.


(thanks to Chris Paquette at MOR Associates for the updated diagram)

I'm thinking about re-doing this survey, probably as we reach Spring semester. We are seeing a lot of U of M surveys reaching the IT@UMN folks this Fall semester, so I don't want to launch a new survey of my own when people might be exhausted doing these other ones. So I'll plan to renew the survey in Spring semester, and I'll reach out to you then for help in getting the word out.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim,

    An interesting survey. Instead of repeating the same survey, I'd suggest doing a couple different surveys. One, instead of asking each person what their role is, and which job skills are important in their role, ask them what their role is, and what job skills are relevant in the other job category roles. The results give you a picture of how each category of person thinks of the other categories. (Though everyone that's seen the results of this survey are already a bit contaminated).

    The second idea. Select an entirely different set of job skills other than the 4 you've chosen. There's more than one way to cut an onion, and you get very different results depending on the cuts.

    For instance, Is "Strategic" thinking universal? Can you just plug in someone strategic from a non-IT shop as CEO and expect them to succeed (i.e. John Sculley at Apple)? In my experience some of the worst IT managers, directors, and CIOs are people that have never actually produced anything in IT. Now.. that doesn't mean that a CIO needs to be able to re-configure a SQL database that's miss-behaving, but it's extremely useful for a CIO to have some understanding of the complexities of those kinds of problems, how they wind up being solved, and the day to day issues everyone has.

    Oh, one small data visualization critique. Line graphs are supposed to only represent continuous data like temperature, not discrete data like job categories. For instance, what do the points between team lead and manager represent?

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