March 2006

… as Mick Jagger sang once which is kind of interesting as I am sure that particular statement does not apply to him.

One of JP’s themes (not in his blog but in work) is soft-hands management, this is probably a cricketing analogy either to do with soft hands on the bat or when catching a ball. Whatever the provenance it kind of makes sense in and of itself. Soft-hands management is a great deal to do with negotiation: people are not instructed to do something but a negotiation is entered into about how best to reach a designated goal. Indeed it can be extended to say that all or many conversations in business are negotiations at some level or other.

Now this, of course, sounds all hippy-dippy, tree-hugging new age nonsense because this is not what business is about. But then again, what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

More seriously, though, a negotiation based model of running an IT department (or any department) can be the best way to add value to your business for a number of reasons:

  1. Core and central is the understanding that you (as a manager) cannot possibly know everything and you are not (believe it or not) always right
  2. The goal, what you are trying to achieve or get to is generally not up for negotiation. We need a system to trade rubber-duck malaysian options is not the subject of negotiation. How you best achieve that is subject to negotiation
  3. People who participate in a decision process through negotiation feel ownership of that decision and are far more likely to execute efficiently and correctly
  4. The people you work with are introduced to the complexity of making decisions in an environment of incomplete information and can gain a better understanding of how difficult it can be.
  5. They are then better positioned to both support you, the decision and take your job sometime. This may not sound like a good thing but is perfect for the business and you are working for the shareholder and not your own greed. Right?

Also, as well as all of the above, if you accept a negotiation model you can help over-come some of the issues to do with communication as previously discussed as you are likely to find out things that would effect your initial decision. For example, taking the facetious systems delivery based example quoted previously in a negotiation based model this may go something like:

“You must release the system by 14th August”
“I can release on 14th. August but I can’t guarantee that it will work”
“OK, by what date can you guarantee it will work”
“20th December”
“That doesn’t work, What can we do to reach a 14th. August date”
“We can split the delivery and deliver A on that date and B later in December”
“Well, A is actually all I need to deliver on 14th August s cool, lets do it”

Which is what you would expect from any and all conversations and decision processes, right? Well, not quite. A manager who is not prepared to negotiate will, it is guaranteed believe me, not be told all the information he or she needs to take a decision because people will be too damn scared to speak up. They will do their best to implement the decision while all the time knowing it will fail. And if you know something will fail your best is never your best.

More to say on this later.

[Actually, strike (1), I am always right and as I say many times you are better off agreeing with me straight away as it just saves everyone's time.]

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