Humans can be selfish. Most times it’s not their fault; we’re all just wired that way. So if you ask us to change our ways or try something new, people are first going to ask why, and many are going to put up a fight if you don’t have a good reason. So if you’re a CIO and your IT department is rolling out a new tool for the whole enterprise to adopt, before they do adopt it, just about everyone is first going to ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Dr. Barb Kunkel, the CIO of Troutman Sanders LLP, said on our show “Flexible Leadership and Evolving Commitments” that any rationale for how a new tool or piece of technology is a necessary change has to convey why it’s important to the individual to make the switch.
“You have to be a compelling leader and create that business case; why change,” Kunkel asked. She echoed the sentiments of her team when she said, “I don’t have time. I’m expected to get all these business hours, and you’re now expecting more of my time, and I’m not sure I’m getting all that return. What’s the value proposition?”
Creating the business case is nothing new for a CIO when you’re actually pitching an idea to the business side, but the idea behind our show was that such frequent and drastic evolutions can have massive ripple effects on the rest of the organization. A strong leader has to be able to make that case to their subordinates and peers if they’re to maintain respect and want to avoid upsetting the apple cart.
The idea is called “evolving commitments.” Professor Joseph Badaracco Jr. is the author of a book on “evolving commitments,” and he defined for us what it fundamentally means on our show. “You’ve got a lot more options for changing what you’re doing, and you’ve got a lot less clarity about the future, so you probably shouldn’t lock yourself in.”
What this does however is threaten to pull the rug out from under your employees. Workers are concerned that a new policy, trend or technology might disrupt their work or their job itself. Evolving commitments are about making it clear what the organization is aiming to do or the direction they are aiming to go, but it’s also about clarifying that things may change yet again in such a dynamic environment. Those leaders who can maintain a voice of reason in fluid, uncertain circumstances are the ones who will go far.
So how are you asking, “What’s in it for me?” How are you making it clear what needs to be changed and why it’s a benefit for everyone? How are you reacting to evolving environments, commitments and trends?
Hear more from Dr. Kunkel and Prof. Badaracco on our show “Flexible Leadership and Evolving Commitments.”