Making Geeks Do Business
Some of the sharpest IT executives I've spoken with share a particular characteristic: they're quick to describe themselves as "business executives" first. They don't diminish their tech know-how, but they look at IT as more of a tool for achieving their objectives (a little more important than a CFOs calculator or a marketer's matrix, yes, but along the same lines).
But they didn't just wake up one day and learn the ins and outs of business operations. So in an era where talk of alignment and business savvy looms large, how do you train the technologically inclined to understand the business and operate as a partner, not a geek?
Ramon Baez, CIO at Kimberly-Clark, has some ideas. First, he likes to lead by example. Quite often, Baez takes some of his younger reports into his meetings with top executives. They're there to listen and observe, Baez says, and they often give great feedback.
Formalized training is another piece of the puzzle. Baez works with a consulting group that specializes in teaching communication, conflict resolution and other key skills to techies. He also looks to hire IT operatives who have spent time outside the IT department.
Another thing: he hates tech-speak. He says he's overwhelmed at how well versed his company's top executives are in tech, but that doesn't mean he likes to speak it to them. By putting everything in business terms, the IT department better benefits the company.
Those are a few tactics Baez (and many others) employ. (I'll post more on Baez later this week.) But back to the original question: how do you best train techies to understand the business?