I am flying home from yet another “computer conference,” and this gin-and-tonic has put me in an overly reflective state of mind. For several days, I have listened to wholesome young professionals present their project case studies. Regardless of the subject, every presentation had one thing in common. By the third slide, each speaker proudly proclaimed — as if it were a first-time epiphany — that “Executive Support” is the one, absolute ingredient for success. Without it, the project is doomed. Heads in the audience nod. Everyone seems to enthusiastically agree; everyone but me. Let’s work backwards to see if we can discern what an IT professional really needs from his or her executives.
The Endgame: Process and Organization Change
Strategic use of technology — any technology — always requires change. History has unequivocally proven this point. Change is difficult. Change is resisted. Change is criticized. Change is risky and sometimes fails. Change is a verb that can be measured. Change cannot begin in a vacuum. The agent for Change is not technology. The agent for Change is Political Will.
The Middlegame: Political Will
Political Will is the conscious willingness to bring about change through the exercise of authority. But Political Will is not a verb. Change and its enforcement are the instantiation of Political Will. Political Will cannot be measured until it creates a verb and sustains this verb until the goal is reached. But only Belief begets Political Will.
The Opening: Belief
Belief is the personal acceptance of a proposition. Acceptance — or its flip side, non-acceptance — can be based on fact, observation, faith in authority, or simply cognitive assent. Belief is not Executive Support until it gels into Political Will strong enough to impose and enforce Change.
Executives “support” technology projects for all types of reasons — and not necessarily because they believe in the proposition at hand. I want to tell all young conference-going firebrands to not waste their time finding executives who say they support them; instead, find executives who believe in what they’re doing. Only believers give you the support you need in the beginning, and more importantly, when the going gets rough and the non-believing executive “supporters” queue up to throw you under the bus.