Business Driven IT KPIs

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are a critical management tool to measure the success and progress of effort put in towards achieving goals and targets – to continually improve performance.

Every business set their specific KPIs to measure the criteria that drive the business success – these vary from business to business. One thing every modern business has in common though, is IT – the enabler that underpin operational processes and tools used to commerce daily. Setting KPIs that measure the success of IT operations does not just help IT leadership to continuously improve but also proof the value of IT to the business.

Here are ten IT KPIs that matter most to modern business

1. % of IT investment into business initiative (customer-facing services and business units)
How well does the IT strategy, reflected in the projects it is executing, align with the business strategy? This metrics can help to align IT spend with business strategy and potentially eliminate IT projects for IT that does not align directly with business objectives.

2. % Business/Customer facing Services meeting SLAs (Service Level Agreements)
IT is delivering service to customers; these are internal to the business but can also be delivered external to the business’ client/customers directly. Are these services meeting required expectations and quality – in the eye of the customer? What can be done to improve.

3. IT Spend vs Plan/Budget
Budgets are set for a purpose – it is a financial guideline that indicates the route to success. How is IT performing against budget, against plans? Are you over-spending against the set plans? Why? Is it because of a problem in the planning cycle or something else? If you are over-spending/under-spending, in which areas do this occur?

Knowing this metrics give you the insight to take corrective actions and bring IT spend inline with budgets.

4. IT spend by business unit
IT service consumptione is driven by user demand. How is IT costs affected by the user demands by business unit – are business units responsible to cover their IT cost, hence owning up to the overall business efficiency. This metrics put the spotlight on the fact that IT is not free and give business unit manager visibility of their IT consumption and spend.

5. % Split of IT investment to Run, Grow, Transform the business
This is an interesting one for the CIO. Businesses usually expects IT to spend more money in growing the business but reality is that the IT cost of running the business is driven by the demand from IT users with an increased cost implication. Business transformation, now a key topic in every board meeting, needs a dedicated budget to succeed. How do these three investment compare in comparison with business strategic priorities.

6. Application & Service TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)
What is the real cost of delivering IT services and application. Understanding the facts behind what makes up the total cost of IT and which applications/services are the most expensive, can help to identify initiatives to improve.

7. Infrastructure Unit Cost vs Target & Benchmarks
How do you measure the efficiency of your IT infrastructure and how does this compare with the industry benchmark? This is a powerful metrics to justify ROI (Return on Investment), IT’s value proposition, IT strategy and the associated budget.

8. % Projects on Time, Budget & Spec
Is the project portfolio under control? Which projects need remediation to get back on track and what can be learned from projects that do run smoothly?

9. % Project spend on customer-facing initiatives
How much is invested in IT projects in the business for the business (affecting the bottom line) in comparison with customer-centric projects that impacts the business’ top line.

10. Customer satisfaction scores for business/customer facing services

Measure the satisfaction of not just the internal business units that consume IT services but also the business’ customer’s satisfaction with customer-facing IT services. Understand what the customer wants and make the needed changes to IT operations to continuously improve customer satisfaction.

KPI vs Vision

In the famous words of Peter Drucker “What gets measured gets improved”, KPIs give you the insight to understand:

  • your customer
  • your market
  • your financial performance
  • your internal process efficiency
  • your employee performance

Insight brings understanding that leads to actions driving continuously improve.

NED :: Non-Executive Director’s proposition

Are you aware of the substantive and measurable value a Non-Executive Director can bring to you and your business…?

Introduction

The Non-Executive Director, no longer a role that is associated just with large organisations. There is a growing awareness of the NED role and more and more organisations are appointing NEDs of various types, and specific specialities, often within technology and digital transformation, to enhance the effectiveness of their boards as standard practise.

With the pressure on organisations to compete globally, deal with digital transformation and respond to rapidly changing market conditions, new skills are needed at board level. This leads to the role of the NED diversifying and introduces a need to refresh the NEDs as circumstances change, bringing in new specialities, experience and challenge when the organisation needs it.

A good NED can, and should make a substantive and measurable contribution to the effectiveness of the board. Do not see a NED as a consulting advisor – a NED, within the remit of the role of a company director, play a full and active part in the success efforts of an organisation. Irrespective of the skills, experience and network contacts that NEDs will bring, they must above all, provide appropriate independent and constructive challenge to the board.

Both the organisation and the NED must understand the purpose of being a NED, within the specific organisation, for the role to be effective. This includes a clear understanding of what value the NED is expected to bring. A NED’s value goes beyond just the statutory requirements.

On appointment a Non-executive director can:

  • Broaden the horizons and experience of existing executive directors.
  • Facilitate the cross-fertilisation of ideas, particularly in terms of business strategy and planning.
  • Have a vital part to play in appraising and commenting on a company’s investment/expenditure plans.
  • Bring wisdom, perspective, contacts and credibility to your business.
  • Be the lighthouse that helps you find your way and steer clear of near and present dangers.

The role of the NED

All directors, including NEDs, are required to:

  • provide entrepreneurial leadership of the company
  • set the company’s vision, strategy and strategic objectives
  • set the company’s values and standards
  • ensure that its obligations to its shareholders and others are understood and met.

In addition, the role of the NED has the following key elements:

  • Strategy: NEDs should constructively challenge and help develop proposals on strategy.
  • Performance: NEDs should scrutinise the performance of management in meeting agreed goals and objectives and monitor the reporting of performance.
  • Risk: NEDs should satisfy themselves on the integrity of financial information and that financial controls and systems of risk management are robust and defensible.
  • People: NEDs are responsible for determining appropriate levels of remuneration of executive directors and have a prime role in appointing, and where necessary removing, executive directors, and in succession planning.

“In broad terms, the role of the NED, under the leadership of the chairman, is: to ensure that there is an effective executive team in place; to participate actively in the decision–takingprocess of the board; and to exercise appropriate oversight over execution of the agreed strategy by the executive team.”; Walker Report, 2009

 

A non-executive director will bring the follow benefits to your company:

  • strengthen the board and provide an independent viewpoint
  • contribute to the creation of a sound business plan, policy and strategy
  • review plans and budgets that will implement policy and strategy
  • be a confidential and trusted sounding board for the MD/CEO and keep the focus of the MD/CEO
  • have the experience to objectively assess the company’s overall performance
  • have the experience and confidence to stand firm when he or she believes the executive directors are acting in an inappropriate manner
  • ensure good corporate governance
  • provide outside experience of the workings of other companies and industries, and have beneficial sector contacts and experience gained in previous businesses
  • have the ability to clearly communicate with fellow directors
  • have the ability to gain the respect of the other directors
  • possess the tact and skill to work with the executive directors, providing support and encouragement where difficult decisions are being made
  • have contacts with third parties such as financial sources, grant providers and potential clients

Looking for a NED?

Now that you understand what a NED can do – What are you waiting for?

Contact Renier Botha if you are looking for an experienced director with strong technology and digital transformation skills.

Renier has demonstrable success in developing and delivering visionary business & technology strategies. His experience include Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A), major capital projects, growth, governance, compliance, risk management as well as business and organisation development. From startup to FTSE listed enterprise, the value Renier can bring as NED is substantive, driving business growth.

What is P3M3

Maturity models are tools that can benchmark current performance against best practise. It provides valuable information on the current status of operations and point out areas for improvement that could increase the operational effectiveness, not just from a processes perspective but also the involved people, the tools used and the interaction of different disciplines within an organisation.

P3M3 is a management maturity model looking across an organization at how it delivers its projects, programmes and portfolio. P3M3 is unique in that it considers the whole system and not just at the processes.

P3M3 provides three maturity models that can be used separately to focus on specific areas of the business, or more generally to help the organization assess the relationships between their portfolios, programmes and projects.

The three P3M3 maturity models are:

  • Portfolio Management
  • Programme Management
  • Project Management

Structure

Each sub-model is further broken down into seven perspectives:

  • Organizational governance
  • Management control
  • Benefits management
  • Risk management
  • Stakeholder management
  • Finance management
  • Resource management

The P3M3 model has five maturity levels:

  • Level 1: Awareness
  • Level 2: Repeatable
  • Level 3: Defined
  • Level 4: Managed
  • Level 5: Optimized

P3M3 allows an assessment of the process employed, the competencies of people, the tools deployed and the management information used to manage and deliver improvements. This allows organizations to determine their strengths and weaknesses in delivering change.

There are no interdependencies between the models so an assessment may be against one, two or all of the sub-models. It is possible for an organization to be better at programme management than it is at project management.

Benefits

Through baselining an organization’s performance it is possible to identify areas where an organization can most effectively increase its project, programme and portfolio capability. Therefore the sort of benefits expected from using P3M3 to develop and implement an improvement plan would be:

  • Cost savings
    • On delivering project outputs and programme outcomes
    • Integrate processes across an organization
    • More effective use of budgets
  • Improved benefits delivery
  • Improved quality of delivered projects and programmes
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Increase return on investment
  • Providing plans for continual progression
  • Recognizing achievements from previous investment in capability improvement
  • Focusing on the organization’s maturity, not specific initiatives (you can run good programmes and projects without having high levels of maturity – but not consistently).

Bimodal Organisations

The continuous push towards business improvement combined with the digital revolution, that has changed the way the customer is engaging with business through the use of technology, have introduced the need for an agility in the delivery of IT services. This speed and agility in IT delivery, for the business to keep abreast of a fast evolving and innovative technology landscape and to gain an competitive advantage are not just required in the development and/or introduction of new technology into the business, but in the way “keep the lights on” IT operations are reliably delivered through stable platforms and processes enabling business growth as well.

IT Bimodal

We can agree that once systems and solutions are adopted and integrated into business operations, the business requirement for IT delivery changes with IT stability, reliability, availability and quality as key enablers to business performance optimisation. There are thus two very distinct and equally important ways or modes of delivering IT services that should seamlessly combine into the overall IT Service Operations contributing to business growth.

Gartner minted in 2016 the concept of IT Bimodal – the practise to manage two separate coherent modes of IT delivery.

Mode 1: Focussed on Stability Mode 2: Focussed on Agility
Traditional Exploratory
Sequential Non-linear
Emphasis on: Safety & Accuracy Emphasis on: Agility and Speed

Each of the delivery modes has their own set of benefits and flaws depending on the business context – ultimately the best of both worlds must be adapted as the new way in which technology delivers into business value. Businesses require agility in change without compromising the stability of operations. Change to this new way and associated new Target Operating Model (TOM) is required.

Bimodal Organisation

This transformation is not just applicable to IT but the entire organisation. IT and “the business” are the two parts of the modern digital business. “The Business” needs to adapt and change their work style (operating model) towards digital as well. This transformation by both IT and “the business”, branded by Gartner as Bimodal, is the transformation towards a new business operating model (a new way of working) embracing a common goal of strategic alignment. Full integration of IT and business are the core of a successful digital organisation competing in the digital era.

The introduction of Agile development methodologies and DevOps, led to a transformation in how technology is being delivered into business operations. IT Service Management (ITSM) and the ITIL framework have matured the operational delivery of IT services, as a business (#ITaaBusiness) or within a business while Lean Six Sigma enables business process optimisation to ultimate quality delivery excellence. But these new “agile” ways of working, today mainly applied within IT, is not enough for the full bimodal transformation. Other aspects involving the overall organisation such as business governance and strategy, management structures and organisational architecture, people (Human Capital Management – HCM), skills, competencies, culture, change management, leadership and performance management as well as the formal management of business and technology innovation and integration, form additional service areas that have to be established or transformed.

How do organisations go about defining this new Bimodal TOM? – In come Bimodal Enablement Consulting Services in short BECS.

BECS – Bimodal Enablement Consulting Services

Gartner’s definition: “An emerging market that leverages a composite set of business and technology consulting services and IP assets to achieve faster more reliable and secure, as well as business aligned, solutions in support of strategic business initiatives.”

To establish a Bimodal enabled TOM, organisations need to architect/design the organisation to be customer centric, focussing on the value adding service delivered to the client/customer – a Service Oriented Organisation (SOO) designed using a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). This set of customer services (external facing) should relay back to a comprehensive and integrated set of supporting and enabling business services (internal facing) that can quickly and effectively enable the business to innovate and rapidly adapt and deliver to changing customer needs and the use of technology within the digital era. This journey of change, that businesses needs to undergo, is exactly what digital transformation is about – not just focused on the technology, processes, quality and customer service, but on the business holistically, starting with the people working within the business and how they add value through the development and use of the right skills and tools, learning an applying it rapidly throughout the business value chain.

A customer centric delivery approach requires the development and adoption of new ways in which work are conducted – new management structures, building and enhancing A-teams (high performing individuals and teams, getting the job done), optimised processes and the right tool sets.

BECS must address the top bimodal drivers or goals, as identified by Gartner research:

  • Deliver greater IT value to the business
  • Shorten the time to deliver solutions
  • Enable digital business strategies
  • Accelerate IT innovation
  • Transform IT talent/culture/operations
  • Increase the interaction between business and IT
  • Embrace leading-edge technologies, tools and/or practices
  • Reduce IT costs (always a favourite)
  • Change the organisation’s culture

Take Action

Are you ready, aligned and actively engaging in the digital world?

Can you accelerate change and enable revenue growth with rock-solid service and business operations?

Are you actively practicing bimodal, continuously adapting to the changing digitally empowered customer demand?

The ultimate test to determine if you are bimodal: Every business process and every enterprise system needs to work without a blip, even as more innovation and disruptors are introduced to make the business more efficient and responsive.

It is time to be a bimodal organisation!

___________Renier Botha specialises in helping organisation to optimise their ability to better integrate technology and change into their main revenue channels – make contact today.

Related post: Success – People First; Performance ImprovementAGILE – What business executives need to know #1; AGILE – What business executives need to know #2; Lean Six Sigma; The Digital Transformation Necessity; Structure Tech for Success

Performance Improvement: Effective & Efficient

Performance is simply the action taken or process followed in doing a task or function.

Performance improvement – the continuous driver to be better, to grow, to achieve great things!

Directly related to business performance is the ability to change the business processes for greater effectiveness and efficiency increasing productivity while terms like specialisation, standardisation comes to mind followed by measurement, data analysis, statistical analysis, root cause analysis and finally process control and quality control and the overriding metric – customer satisfaction.

Remember the saying by Peter Drucker: “What gets measured, gets improved”…

Measuring performance involves the ability to measure the effectiveness of an initiative or action as well as the efficiency in which it is achieved. Similarly performance improvement involves the enhancement of effectiveness while optimising the efficiency.

Effective: Success in delivering a desired or intended result.

Efficient: Achieving maximum productivity through optimal use of resources with minimum waste or expense.

Depending on your business and your situation you must select or develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to calculate the effectiveness and efficiency of your activities – for business this is usually calculated in monetary terms. Once you understand your current performance you can set KPI targets and work on improvement initiatives.

I found this flow on Pinterest that gives a great overview of the processes involved in enhancing effectiveness and efficiency to increase business performance summarised in 5 habits of the mind:

  1. Know where time goes
  2. Focus on outward contribution
  3. Build on Strengths
  4. Concentrate on selected area that produce outstanding results
  5. Make effective decisions

Linking appropriate KPIs to this flow can measure progress and deliver improving results.

Effective_Efficient

Performance Management

Performance (Effectiveness and Efficiency) can be influenced by various different factors – illustrated in the diagram below.

Performance_Improvement - CP.png

In using this diagram, a critical path (Shown in red above) can be drawn to improve performance in a specific area i.e. staff performance.

  1. First performance is defined,
  2. then measured to get a specific result (and understanding the impact it has overall).
  3. Understanding the results to determine which key skills, abilities and competeencies or lack there-of are contributing to the specific performance.
  4. Talent is needed to deliver performance – talent skills, abilities and competencies can be trained or recruited.
  5. Engagement is key – involve, motivate and empower your talent to respond and interact with the business – engagement brings a sense of happiness, which is a great motivator for creativity and performance.
  6. And the cycle repeats in never ending quality improvement loop.

This methodology can be adapted and used for performance improvement in any area of the business value chain.

Remember performance improvement is always reflected in the customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers engage with the business recurrently – hence revenue growth!

Let’s Talk – renierbotha Ltd specialises in the performance improvement of business and IT operations. Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!

Lean Six Sigma – Organisational Development and Change

Directly related to business performance is the ability to change the business processes for greater efficiency and productivity while terms like specialisation, standardisation comes to mind followed by measurement, data analysis, statistical analysis, root cause analysis and finally process control and quality control.

Remember the saying by Peter Drucker: “What gets measured, gets improved”…

Improvement initiatives bring change.

A brief history of organisational change

Change management has evolved from Organisational Development OD – focused on helping people to manage change and to stay alive post the world war in the 1940S. That lead to Change Management thinking in the 70s and 80s and in parallel project management as another management process, was developed. These processes saw change as linear and hence can it be managed tightly. It starts with a burning platform and a vision to resolve the problem followed by the change journey of solving problems and overcoming obstacles. In the late 80s Appreciative Inquiry emerged changing the focus of change to “best that can be” and driving “what should be” rather than “what is wrong” and driving the “fix it”. The 1990s and 2000s brought more collaborative models and tools to manage change and solve problems and performance coaching got commonly accepted and used.

The drive to improve business performance gave life to various methodologies and frameworks for example:

  • Toyota Production System (TPS), the origins of Lean Thinking, included the prominent problem solving tools through the “five why’s”, continuous improvement, “Just in Time” production and the elimination of waste.
  • Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) which encouraged the outsourcing and off-shoring of work deemed to be non essential or too costly to perform.
  • Balance Scorecard which aims to provide a well-balanced view of the health of an organization through key performance metrics representing the financial, operational, human and environmental aspects of the business performance.
  • Project Management methodologies and frameworks: PMI, Prince2, Agile SCRUM, LEAN, KANBAN
  • Quality Control frameworks, methodologies and standards: ISO9001, Six Sigma
  • Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) frameworks: ITIL

 

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a quality improvement approach that seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability in the delivery processes. This is done through a set of quality tools management tools and statistics.

Another definition – the ability of processes to deliver a very high percentage of the output within a defined specification derived from customer specifications. A key KPI is the defect % and the process to reduce that to be within specification of tolerance – where a defect is defined as any process output that does deliver to customer requirements.

Running a process at Six Sigma quality is defined as defect levels below 3.4 defects per 1M cycles of the process!

Six Sigma principles:

  • Continuous efforts to achieve stable and predictable process outputs are vital for business success.
  • Operational business processes can be measured, analysed, improved and controlled.
  • Achieving sustained quality improvement requires commitment from the entire organization, particularly from the top management.

Each Six Sigma project has a five step sequence (DMAIC):

DMAICProblem solving approach:

D – Defining

M – Measuring

A – Analysing

I – Improving

C – Controlling

  1. Defining the problem, and setting a project goal.
  2. Measuring current process performance and collecting relevant data potential root causes.
  3. Analysing the data to investigate and verify cause-and-effect relationships. Determine what the relationships are attempt to ensure that all factors have been considered. The analysis should reveal a root cause of the defect under investigation.
  4. Improving and optimizing the current process by introducing changes that reduce or solve the impact of the identified root cause.
  5. Controlling/Monitoring the newly changed process to ensure no deviation from the expected results occur and that the new process is stable.

 

LEAN Thinking

You are lean when all you resources are used to deliver value to the end customer – nothing else. This value has to flow through the value chain without any interruptions. All activities not directly supporting in the creation and delivery of this value is considered as waste and therefore reviewed for potential elimination.

Another definition: Lean is focused on getting the rights things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity while achieving a perfect workflow that is dictated by the customers demand to deliver the goods just in time.

LEAN – Five Principles:

Lean_principles

  1. Specify value from the customer’s point of view. Start by recognizing that only a small percentage of overall time, effort and resources in a organization actually adds value to the customer.
  2. Identify and map the value chain. This is the te entire set of activities across all part of the organization involved in delivering a product or service to the customer. Where possible eliminate the steps that do not create value
  3. Create flow – your product and service should flow to the customer without any interruptions, detours or waiting – delivering customer value.
  4. Respond to customer demand (also referred to as pull). Understand the demand and optimize the process to deliver to this demand – ensuring you deliver only what the customer wants and when they want it – just in time production.
  5. Pursue perfection – all the steps link together as waste is identified – in layers as one waste rectification can expose another – and eliminated by changing / optimizing the process to ensure all assets add value to the customer.

LEAN Tools:

  • Five S (5S): A process of keeping the workplace ready for use exercising a discipline of 5 workplace practices beginning with S.
    • Sort
    • Set in order
    • Shine
    • Standardise
    • Sustain

5S optimally prepare the workplace to perform optimum tasks in the future including the idea of visual management.

  • Seven Wastes: Waste is any activity that consumes resources but do not not creates value for the customer. The purpose of seven wastes is to identify and eliminate waste in processes hence delivery greater customer value.                                              7 Catagories of Waste: Defects, Overproduction, Unnecessary transportation, Waiting, Inventory, Unnecessary Motion, Over-processing
  • Takt Time: The average rate at which a deliverable item is required to meet the customer demand. It is used to create the balance in the process between supply and demand and to help calculate the resources required to efficiently process a process just in time.
  • SMED
  • Kaizen
  • Value-Stream Mapping

Underlining the success of Lean is a culture of respect of people – at all levels. As Lean is a whole-system management methodology that requires a overall culture change to be successful – starting at the top.

 

Lean Six Sigma

General Electric (GE) adopted Six Sigma in the 1980’s – combining that with the principals adopted by the Toyota Production System (TPS), the origins of Lean Thinking provide the methodology of LEAN SIX SIGMA.

It is a complementary combination between the best of both worlds – Lean Thinking, which is focused on process flow and waste elimination and Six Sigma, which is focused on process variation and defects – driving business operational excellence.

 

Other relevant posts: Executive Overview of Agile #1 and #2

Let’s Talk – Are you looking to achieve your goals faster? Create better business value? Build strategies to improve growth? We can help – make contact!

For High Performing Teams, CIOs must Lead by Character

Guest Blog: Doug Moran via Heller Search Associates

As CIO, you can lead with character, by knowing what are your values and what you believe.

Character is the attribute we ascribe to people whose lives and actions reflect their beliefs and values.  Strong character requires emotional maturity and self-confidence.  But leading with character goes beyond simply havingcharacter.  Our ability to lead is in large part based on our ability to trust ourselves and  instill trust in others.  Those we lead want and need to trust us.  And to trust us, they must know us.  That means allowing them to get close.  It means sharing and exposing our beliefs and values.

Leading with character can be uncomfortable.  We are in essence giving others insight into who we truly are.  Leading with character also means exposing ourselves to criticism and doubt, especially when our actions diverge (or appear to diverge) from our stated values.

The Part Character Plays in the CIO Role

Character has special importance for CIOs and other IT leaders.  This has nothing to do with moral superiority.  It is simply a function of the unique perspective our roles provide.  Because technology is a critical enabler connecting and touching every part of the enterprise, we have the ability to see how the groups or functions interact and interrelate.  We can see what works well and where challenges exist.  We can see the unintended consequences of actions and the knock-on value that no one anticipated.

“Strong character forms a strong leadership foundation.  It gives us the confidence to do what is right regardless of the doubts and complaints of others..”


Connecting Character to Great Leadership

Our unique perspective is an invaluable resource.  Unfortunately, we often fail to exploit it fully.  The problem is that most of us fail to see how important our character is.  We fail to see the connection between our beliefs and values and the service we provide.  Great leaders, however, see the connection.  They recognize that their character enables them to guide and propel their organizations into the future.

Although I’ve spent nearly 20 years working in IT, my greatest challenges have rarely been technical.  My biggest obstacles to overcome have been organizational complexities or dysfunctions.   These challenges provide CIOs many opportunities to develop their ability to lead with character.

CIOs play a key role in the softer side of business.  We are key contributors to things like defining and promoting corporate culture and organizational identity.   The character of an organization is often a reflection of its leaders’ beliefs and values.  As we provide solutions that cut across the enterprise and connect different parts of the organization together, we can often see things as they really are.  We observe the behaviors that reinforce or undermine the organization’s values.  For example, an organization may place a premium on collaboration and honesty.  Do our business partners look for ways to share resources or collaborate when they acquire new capabilities?  Does our reward and compensation system promote or discourage this type of behavior?  Our perspective enables us to see the interactions that either reflect a particular value or run counter to that value.

Why Character Matters in IT Leadership

It is easy to see the role character plays in the softer side of business.  What about the more objective functions?  How does character contribute to things like strategic planning, R&D, technology innovation, project prioritization, capacity planning, vendor/product selection, and the myriad other tasks for which we are accountable?  Character matters for these things, because our values determine what and how things are done.  For example, we all strive for objectivity and intellectual rigor in our decision-making processes.  Look at how business cases are evaluated and priorities are set.  How often do sponsors “game” the system to get their project done?  Does the CEO’s pet project that has questionable value make the cut because no one is willing to ask the hard questions?  How can you influence those processes to ensure that they remain objective and analytically sound?

Ultimately, we can use our position and visibility to understand and change fundamentally how our organizations operate and behave.  We can encourage positive behavior while identifying and correcting problems.  The challenge for us is to overcome our trepidation about the personal (and often polarizing) aspects of character.  It is important to find balance in how we express our values and beliefs.  At one extreme, we can come across as self-righteous.  At the other, we seem irresolute.

Strong character comes from knowing oneself.  Self-knowledge gives us the confidence to trust ourselves.  The more we demonstrate the strength of our character – by ensuring that our words and deeds are consistent with our beliefs and values – the stronger that trust grows.  Strong character forms a strong leadership foundation.  It gives us the confidence to do what is right regardless of the doubts and complaints of others.

How do we build and demonstrate a strong character?  Here are five steps that one can take to begin the process.

  1. Decide that character matters.  The simple act of making character important will raise your awareness of whether your actions are harmonious with your beliefs.
  2. Take time to inventory and examine your beliefs and values.  Your beliefs and values are your character’s foundation.  The process of fully understanding them is unending, so get started now!  While you are at it, take a look at your organization’s beliefs and values.  Examine the character of other leaders around you. Are your beliefs and values aligned?
  3. Share your beliefs and values.  Leading with character means being open and explicit about what truly matters.  This means talking about your personal beliefs, your organization’s beliefs and what they mean to you.
  4. Test your actions and decisions. Critical self-examination will help us maintain alignment between our actions and our beliefs and values.
  5. Have the character to act on your self-examination.  It takes character to stay the course when all doubt you.  It also takes character to change your position, especially one that you hold dear.  Leadership demands that we be able to do both as the situation dictates.

Character builds our self-confidence and trust.  It allows us to trust ourselves and others.  Being a leader often means taking unpopular positions.  It means making difficult decisions.  Our positions and decisions may cause others to doubt us.  At times, we may even share their doubt.  When our actions are based on who we are and what we believe, we will have the strength of character to endure these doubts.  Success in the face of doubt depends on our ability to remain true to our principles and beliefs.  Failures will occur, and we will make mistakes.  Character is not about perfection.  It is about striving to seek the wisdom to know what is right and having the conviction to do it regardless of the opinion of others.