About 10 years ago I worked on my first construction project for a brand new school. The school was a client and they asked me to be involved in developing a technology plan, and then develop the requirements and specifications that would go into the construction of the school. During the entire course of that engagement I struggled to work with the architects, the general contractor, and all of the trades. The project wasn’t complicated, but it seemed that every decision involved three times as much discussion as was necessary. The project got done but not without me shaking my head and wondering, would I ever do this again?
In construction, there is a different language. And if you don’t speak the language, as was my issue, you were nearly locked out of the process. Inside your organization, the same problem can exist. The board speaks a language, as does the executive and CFO that might not translate across other departments. How each person in your organization thinks, talks, and acts, is driven by their area of responsibility. They are measuring performance in very different ways, and therefore their vocabulary is different.
If you’re an Executive Director (ED), and you want to get the buy-in of your technology staff, you have to learn some of their language. Likewise, if you’re in technology and want to move the conversation to the leadership team, you have to learn about running the organization and understand what matters to your CFO and ED. This can be a difficult concept to implement on both sides because we become so immersed in our own day-to-day tasks, that it can be hard to break away and see things from a different perspective. You can’t just go read a book, although that helps, or take a course. It takes experience and it takes time to change your relationship with management so that you are seen as a thought leader who understands the bigger picture.
How will you know when you get there? It won’t be because you’re in the room having the conversation with your executive. Success is measured by the level at which your executive team owns the vision, and then sets goals based on that vision, to develop a comprehensive technology strategy.