Helping Gatekeepers become Transformers

In my years doing this ‘digital transformation’ lark (and call it whatever you like — you know what I mean if you are reading this!) I have totally embraced this idea that it is about the people and not the technology. That said not all people are created equal and increasingly I’ve realised that (at least at a big institutional level) this stuff is impossible if you don’t get the Gatekeepers on board with what you are trying to achieve.

You know the kinds of roles I mean;

  • Legal
  • Information Assurance
  • Security
  • Finance
  • Portfolio Management

..but for me, time and again, the most important people to build relationships with site in two teams — Procurement and HR (they may be officially called something else but you know who they are.)

They are the Gatekeepers between you and the people you need to make change happen one way or another. Contrary to some opinions they are not there to slow you down or derail you. It is just that they are coming at things with a different perspective, a different set of objectives and, often, a wholly different view of what transformation looks like.

I’ve genuinelly considered gaining qualifications in both subjects (and it is still something I am very much considering) and I certainly read a lot about both topics. I am constantly adding new books about improving hiring to my Kindle and tracking down case studies of innovative approaches to procurement.

I believe the more you understand their point of view and the constraints they work within the better you can work together. Over time I have started to see these roles less as a service provider and more as a stakeholder — part of the Team Onion as Emily describes it — and as such they need to be sold the vision like all the other stakeholders and understand how important they are to making it happen.

Then with this foundation established I believe you can start to nudge them towards new, collaborative, innovative approaches.

I refuse to believe anyone is happy with the kind of opportunities on DOS that the dxw team so artfully called out and I know I could do without reading another horribly written job description asking for the world while understanding none of it.

The importance of multi-disciplanry teams goes beyond the delivery of code — bringing these Gatekeeper colleagues into the team so they understand what is needed and how best to achieve it is crucial — but so is taking their concerns seriously and making the time to address them as well. This is about human relationships — empathy and compromise are not dirty words. I fear too often teams just assume nothing will change so they don’t engage sufficiently and thus nothing changes.

We have Product Managers whose job it is to articulate exactly what they are trying to achieve, content designers skilled at making things clear and pitched at the right audiences and Tech Leads who know what they need to get things done so ill informed, unclear job descriptions and tenders shouldn’t be such a common thing. Of course if you don’t have those people in-house and you are starting from a clean slate then maybe it is worth getting a little help in — even if it costs a bit — to prevent wasting more money further down the line.

It was interesting to see this opportunity on DOS this morning it is the sort of thing I’d love to see more of — though it was withdrawn almost as soon as it appeared which is sort of ironic!

Also things like will be interesting to see how forcing better standards in things like publishing job ads might help. I’ve long had an urge to build something like the Better Job Ads app from dotEveryone into a jobs board!

What do you think?

Also does anyone have a good HR MOOC they want to recommend!

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