In my last post, I talked about uncovering the yardsticks that senior managers use to make decisions. So what were the factors I used for making decisions at Save the Children? I felt this was an important thing to communicate to my team, especially if I was not going to be around to help making decisions. In the letter I wrote to my IT managers, I mentioned the five principles that I use for my yardsticks. There are some things specific to Save, but I think you'll get the point. Here they are:
1) Take risks. We may need to protect our base of infrastructure like it was our hard-earned savings account. But we also need to have experiments, some risky ventures, that are out on the edge, at the top of the pyramid--even some things that fail. We have found that those experiments, like our PDA venture, can soon become mainline. When taking risks, look to the future. Challenge the present with the future. Ask how a project or purchase or training will help us be where we need to be in three or more years, not just for today.
2) Hedge your bets. When you make plans, think about and include a "b-plan" with your "a-plan." If the a-plan starts to go south, push forward the b-plan. This is diversifying the portfolio. Remember, we most often don’t know how things are going to turn out! What will you do if things change?
3) Don't build up in-house what is better done by others. If it's a standard function, a “commodity,” use the off-the-shelf, standard solution, don't build it. If it's a basic process, partner with someone to do it, don't do it ourselves. We have more to learn here, but ultimately we will realize that the best protection for our jobs and our team by focusing on the truly value-added things, like integrating services and applications, not on the basic, commodity things that others can do better than we can ever hope to do. Ask what this means for email for example.
4) Start small and keep it simple. Again and again, we have found that small is beautiful. What you will learn from the pilot will be so important to planning the big project, revealing what will work and what won't--and how to keep it simple, pragmatic. We are a nonprofit; we don't take the gold-plated route to anything. We are the kings and queens of the pragmatic solution.
5) Get the return. Ask how this will benefit children before asking how it will benefit the agency or IS. Ask about where the connection to children is. If we can't draw the line from the project to the benefit for children, question the project! Remember that if you are not working for a child, you are working for someone who is.
I then said that if we follow these five principles, I know we will move the department and the agency forward in the way I would if I were here. These five may compete with each other, but remember than truth comes from the dialog. Talk about it, debate it, but make a decision and go forward with confidence!
God may be in the details, but I'm trusting my team to be Solomon.