Ever done something like this?

You’re navigating through an airport or in the middle of a meeting, and you get an e-mail asking for advice on what should be done in relation to a problem in IT. You fire off a quick reply before the flight attendant or leader in the meeting gives you that dirty look, and you find out later it was the wrong solution to the real problem.

I know I have. We get so pressed for time in IT, dealing with the demands of the business, vendors, and partners, that we end up trying to do too much. In the world of IT risk, we become a contributor to the risk our companies face rather than someone that is supposed to mitigate risk.

We live and work in what Shrader calls the “Liquid World” – “fluid, continually changing form and adapting to shifting parameters” (p. 96). But this is precisely when we should resist that quick answer and postpone it until we can gather the right people to make the decision. We as IT managers don’t necessarily have all the answers, but we sometimes like to act like we do, or some of us like to act that way. I learned two jobs ago that I don’t always have the answer, but I can get the answer the business needs. It’s actually a liberating experience to be able to admit I don’t know everything, can’t know everything, and shouldn’t (from a knowledge management perspective) know everything. But we are pressed constantly to make quick decisions…

“In the swirling vortex of e-mailing and text messaging, the leader’s strong inclination is to try to arrive at fast paced, almost immediate decisions. But the fundamentals of solid leadership – clear vision, consistent measures of success, and informed yet timely and unambiguous decision making – haven’t changed. Now more than ever before, thoughtfulness and clarity cannot be compromised” (p. 96).

If we as leaders don’t set the standard by which decisions should be made, are we really justified in complaining that our people are not making thoughtful, clear, and considered decisions? As Sharader puts it, “Today’s leaders must recognize that ‘less instant’ is often ‘more thoughtful’ and ‘more solid,’ especially in a liquid world where every decision has the potential for a far greater radius of impact” (p. 96).

— Shrader, R. W. (2007, Fall). Leadership in a Liquid World. MIT Sloan Management Review. http://sloanreview.mit.edu/smr/issue/2007/fall/17/.

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