Sunday, 13 September 2015 17:47

IT: We Don't Need No Stinking Leadership

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I have never posted email marketing results, because... well, let's face it... it is kind of tacky. Now and then, however, there is a story to be told. In my opinion, this set of statistics is a little over-the-top in what it shows. I can only see one way to interpret it other than Information Technology "leaders" simply do not care about leadership.

To understand how I can make such a brash statement, you need a little background...

Leadership Drives Project Success

As any of the readers of my 100 plus posts in this blog know, I am continually harping on fact that we are short on leadership. I feel that middle management over the last decade or two have been promoted for reasons other than their leadership qualities and there is little desire in corporate America to remedy this problem. I know that statement sounds harsh, and this post goes a long way in disproving this statement, but I am only going to refine the statement with data.

One of our business goals in 2015 was to fix an issue in our offerings. I felt it was a little hypocritical to dwell on this subject of weak leadership without offering a solution. To address this, we have invested a few months reviewing various programs so that we could offer recommendations on good leadership programs. Our view of the best program would:

  • Be long lasting: The first step was to find a program that was not a "flash in the pan." Something that felt like it was offering a long-term solution to the problem. This ruled out many of the one-day and one-week courses.
  • Be directed at the people doing the work: The second requirement was that it had to be directed toward the people who directly make an influence on project success rate. These would be IT managers, PMO managers and their staff, and senior project managers.
  • Create a leadership cohort: Every leadership book says that you need to build a cohort of peers to help you when you reach a tough spot. Hence, the program had to build a strong bond between the attendees so that over the coming years they could rely on one another for advice and to hold each other accountable to their ethics and morals.
  • Tried and tested: The program had to be established with hundreds of references across the country.

After long deliberation we settle on the Society for Information Management's (SIM) Regional Leadership Forum. As it spans nine months with numerous programs across the country and has graduated over 4,000 attendees, we felt that it had the credibility we needed. It is targeted at up-and-coming leaders in an organization, which addresses our demographic. And, most importantly, as the cohort interacts 6 times over the course of nine-months, so students would build intimate relationships with their peers.

Who Listened

Proud of our selection the next step is to market the idea. This is where the story takes an odd turn. But to be sure I am clear I must bore you with a few marketing concepts. As you know the internet provides many tools to see when people open emails and click on links. It is also standard practice to segment your audience based on the message you want to send. These tools are so common any of you with marketing knowledge are yawning in boredom. We segmented our marketing into three groups—PMO managers and senior project leaders, IT leaders (CIO, IT Director, and the like), and other executives (CEOs, COO, CFO, VP, etc.). Changing a few sentences in the middle of the generic email to properly address the audience we sent out the emails last week. If you want to see the content of the email, let me know and I will send them to you. However, I think you will be missing the point going that route.

Table 1: Mailing Analysis
Group MailingCountOpen %Click %
Other Executives21032%12%
IT Executives15626%0%

IT Did What?

As I write this post, about 48 hours from the email blast, I am still drop jawed at the results. They are copied into Table 1. With a little marketing knowledge you might know that a 25-30% open rate is at the upper end of respectable (see benchmarks on Mailchimp or Constant Contact). As for 12-18% click rates? To put it simply, there might be a few marketing folks out there who don't believe those number as they are pretty darn good. But, again, that is not where focus needs to be drawn. The glaring issue is the IT click-through rate:

Zero. Nada. Zilch. Null.

Seriously? Maybe these folks should talk to their bosses who ARE clicking though and reading about the program (and, by the way, taking the next step). What is it with our IT folks? Are they above leadership? Or, do they just have their head in the sand?

I am sure you are looking for the logical answer... "It was the difference in the emails," "IT knows better than to click on links in emails" (baloney!), I am sure you can come up with a dozen other reasons. I doubt they will hold up to scrutiny, Plain and simple this is sad.

Projects Need Leaders & IT Has Horrid Success Rates

If there is any group in the organization that needs to improve project success rates it would be IT. "IT Projects," or should I say projects that have a large IT component, fail at rates estimated at 60-80%. These projects need leaders more than any other. IT's bosses know that, their PMO managers know that. By their click rate they are hungry for leadership options.

I know from experience that many IT leaders understand there is a leadership problem to solve. But, I cannot help looking at this data in awe and wonder how it can happen.

I want to yell at the top of my lungs, "Hey, IT, your business partners need you to be business leaders. You need to talk like a business leaders. You need to act like a business leader. You need to step up to the plate."

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