Keynote on relationships in technology services

By Ross Dawson on August 22, 2006 | Permalink

This morning I gave the keynote at a leadership offsite for the 300 top managers of a major bank’s IT division. The bank’s technology division faces many of the same challenges as its peers, including effectively servicing a diverse set of segregated business units, each with very different business models, and managing the outsourcing of technology services to a global array of providers. The offsite’s key theme was relationships, because they are absolutely central to the success of the individual employees, the division, and the organization. In particular, building effective partnerships with its service providers is critical to its ability to deliver value to the business.
My presentation, titled Leadership for the Future, covered the imperative of collaboration in a global, commoditized world, how to lead partners into collaborative relationships, and how to leverage networks to create value. In my concluding section on creating success I drew on some of the research that Tom Davenport presented at the Network Roundtable conference in Boston this April (his presentation is here), where I also gave a presentation about my recent research into networks in high-value relationships. Tom, from both his own research and drawing on earlier research at Bell Labs by Robert Kelley, found two key determinants of high-performance. I drew on Tom’s material and fleshed it out with some of my own work to identify three interrelated drivers of both personal success and organizational contribution.
High performing knowledge workers:
Actively build networks. There are five key attributes of the networks of high-performing individuals.
Diversity: Knowing many of the same kind of people is not very valuable. Having connections with a broad range of different kinds of people means you are more likely to find resources you need, and to generate innovative perspectives.
Awareness: One of the primary aspects of a valuable network is being aware of the expertise of others and who you can draw on when required. This doesn’t necessarily mean being buddies with everyone; it means knowing what people’s capabilities are.
Visibility. Your capabilities need to be visible to others. Again, this doesn’t require being highly social. If others are not aware of what you can do, you will be isolated in the organization and you will not be able to contribute according to your abilities.
Dynamic. Personal networks should be continually evolving. You continually need to be forming new relationships, and sometimes moving on from others. Change is at the heart of successful networks.
Investment. Building networks requires investment. Developing relationships needs spending time with people to build mutual knowledge and respect, and maintaining relationships also requires time. However the personal and business benefit of that investment is immense. It is something you have to make time for.
Take initiative and calculated risks. Robert Kelley found that the single greatest determinant of high-performance was taking calculated risks, particularly in going beyond the boundaries of the usual job definition or expectations. This requires imagination and considered action.
Learn and develop relevant expertise. In an increasingly specialized world, we cannot rest on our existing expertise. We must continually learn. This needs to be strategic, in that we decide in which domain we wish to be world-class, and work at developing that expertise. This learning draws extensively on our networks – the people we know are the source of our greatest learning. True high performers have technical expertise, industry expertise, and discipline expertise, such as in project management or other critical business practices. If your expertise is limited to one of these domains, your skills are at strong risk of becoming commodtized.