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Author Archive for Gary.Heusner

CEO for a Day

A Simple Decision Making Tool: What if I Were CEO for the Day?

CEO-for-a-DaySometimes I find myself thinking inside the box too much. I automatically enforce rules and behaviors based on what I believe an organization would do as opposed to what it actually could do in a situation. For example, it is easy to think that your company would never “buy in” to your idea and execute them. You may think that there is no time, no resources or no to a whole bunch of other things.

The truth is what a company does or does not do is usually up to people like you.  A good idea is hard to beat down. The difficulty is finding the mindset to help break out of our everyday self-imposed box. I have a technique I use called “What if I were the CEO”.


If you were “King for a Day”, you might not have to answer to others and face fewer challengers. This is not necessarily a helpful decision making perspective.   Unlike the King, the CEO has owners, internal staff and external staff to answer to on a daily basis and is always dealing with repercussions. However, the CEO can still help steer a company to start a new initiative and execute on the “right idea” at the “right time”. For a decision-making perspective, I like to look at something and ask, “If I were the CEO, how would I consider this problem? Could I direct some of the company’s resources to make it happen?”

I give you a mythical instance. Say you work at a custom software development company and your client (who has been a long-term partner) wants something done in less than a month. Although you think it should take six weeks, the client is coming to you with that expectation. Do you agree to the gig, try to find a way to solve the problem, and then tell them “Hey, it will actually be six weeks the way we have it planned — or we could do two weeks with half functionality.”

Or do you sit back and really try to make sure you are thinking about all of the opportunities. If you were the CEO, is this client worth more than the standard answer? Will this affect your reputation as a business? Can this be more than a vendor relationship? Is this really the business you are in and not something that got mangled in the sales process?

Now, you are truly looking at all of the options. What if you could shrink the schedule by adding more people even if it was on your own dime? (Mythical Man Month people get in that line over there, but some problems can be addressed with man power if you manage and architect correctly.) Can you do that with more people, different people, partnering with another firm, working in a completely new way to achieve the outcome? Do you contemplate redefining the engagement with the client as a true partner between businesses as opposed to a transaction? What would you learn? What options might this create?

Thinking along these lines has helped to remove my own mental obstacles. It generates creativity without irresponsibility. The goal is to come up with more than just the standard answers and then see if you can validate them with your client and your management. But what if you acted like you were CEO for today?  Could you make a difference?

Business/IT Alignment: 4 Ways to Win Admiration and Respect

handshake-300x158Business/IT Alignment: How does an IT shop with talented individuals, the latest technology, millions of dollars in payroll, and a history of developing business centric applications become so disconnected from the business that they disappoint the very teams who depend on them? What can be done to close this gap and turn this relationship into a trusted partnership? While there are many ideas on how to address this difficult situation, in my experience there are three key approaches IT can use to rebuild burnt bridges and stop unconsciously undermining their business partner relationships.

Learn to speak a common language

In order for Business/IT alignment to occur, IT must adopt the same terminology and language of its business users. (A claim is a claim – not a bill or a statement). IT also needs to be aware that a complex project plan does not communicate meaningful information to the business. Deliverables need to demonstrate real business functionality, QA-passed and ready for review. The more often progress is shown the more involved your business partner gets. If communication is the basis of a good partnership, then a common view of success is the necessary foundation for delivering on business expectations.

Create a common view of success

One of the most disruptive events we can have when working with a partner is discovering you’re not working towards the same goals. Both IT and the business problem owner must work together to establish common success criteria for a project and eliminate assumptions.

Creating a common vision is a process that includes the problem statement down to a detailed description of the individual items to be produced for the solution. In many cases lengthy documents and general conversations are not enough. Pictures are worth a thousand words when developing product descriptions … even for the “simple” reports.

Spending time to develop the detailed components of a solution requires a time commitment from your business partner to get involved. This is the only way to reduce surprises that lead to project disappointment and rework in the development phases. The common view of success needs to capture the results of this cooperative effort in a manner comprehensive enough to help determine project scope, sizing and estimating. Once this process is perfected, it can be accomplished in as little as three weeks for projects up to a year in length.

Allow your business partner to manage change

In order for the project plan to not interfere with business decisions, individual items in the plan must include all costs and efforts. This gives the business the ability to effectively react to change and unexpected events. For example, if three months into a project a business is acquired or sold, the business partner should be able to easily substitute new objectives with the same cost and effort for the original ones.

Negotiate the plan with your business partner. Once the time and effort required to deliver each scenario is understood, the option to manipulate plan elements like building blocks allows the business to determine priorities and set the scope for the project.

Be open and demonstrate your integrity

No Business/IT partnership can survive ongoing disruptive surprises. Rather than trying to make up for problems or delays, communicate them and share options to schedule, resource or scope issues when they happen.

If accurate sizing and estimating best practices are not in place and original estimations are incorrect, IT needs to inform the business as soon as possible and reforecast the release plan. IT cannot afford to jeopardize its ability to deliver business value by hiding information or trying to take drastic measures to make up for project execution problems.

Utilizing these practices can help IT predictably deliver measurable business value and help make Business/IT alignment a reality. While this is not something done overnight, your commitment to building a true partnership with your business partners will go a long way in bringing predictability to a process plagued with missed expectations and cost overruns.

What practices have worked best for you to to enhance your relationship with the business?

feature photo credit: dotbenjamin
post photo credit: Aidan Jones