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Pick up your heels — a new stance for IT

by Mark P. McDonald  |  October 14, 2011  |  Comments Off on Pick up your heels — a new stance for IT

Most likely you are reading this sitting down.  If you could indulge me for a few minutes I would like to illustrate the need for IT to change in a physical way.

While you are sitting, put both feet down flat on the ground.


Now pick your heels up off the ground.

Notice any difference?

Probably not.

You have changed your stance as you are on the balls of your feet, but you don’t feel all that different for the simple reason that you are sitting down.

Now try that again, except standing.

Start with your feet firmly on the ground and rather than getting on your toes, just pick your heels up.

Feel different now, standing up.

Most likely it does.

Because, your feet support all of your weight when you are standing up.  Rather than your weight supported by you bottom in the chair.

Now that sounds so obvious as to not be worth mentioning.

But think about your stance as you stand there with your heels up.

You are more mobile, agile, and able to move in different directions.  It also feels a little uncomfortable, less stable, and you have to concentrate more to stay in balance.

That is the point.  IT has been sitting around too much lately.  We have sought stability by placing our backsides in the comfort of a chair that forms our legacy and infrastructure.   Think of all the surface area we have connected to that legacy, our bottom, back, thighs all connected and supported by the past.

Sure we can get on our toes while we are sitting, but being more ‘agile’ while sitting down just is not the same.

IT needs to change it stance in the face of new technologies, business demands and economic realities.   IT needs to GET SMALLER, in terms of the surface area that holds us back to the legacy and in the process gain agility.

IT will gain that agility by PICKING ITS HEELS UP, rather than getting on the balls of its feet.  The difference may sound semantic, but it is important.  Getting on your toes, is an often used metaphor, so used that it has lost it meaning.

When you get on your toes, you lean forward, change your balance, and feel unsteady.  If you stand there long enough, or have not been on your toes recently, your calf muscles may begin to hurt.

It is easy to get an organization on its toes, but it is hard to keep them there.

Think instead about picking up your heels.  It is much more comfortable, you stay in better balance.  It builds on your current stability without causing you get out of balance.

Why make a point about the difference?

Well if its more comfortable and natural to pick up your heels than get on your toes, you are more likely to do it and more importantly change your stance and stay there.

Getting in the right stance, one that feels comfortable, one that you can hold is an essential part of your and the IT organization’s ability to be successful.  Use the last quarter of this year (2011) to begin to change the stance of IT.

Start by getting IT out of its chair, thinking about the future without the comfort, support and inertia of the legacy

Standing up IT requires re-imagining The IT organization; it’s governance, it’s metrics, skills etc.

Getting IT off its heels puts all of that into motion.  Making you more agile and open to new possibilities from a position of balance and comfort rather than just creating imbalance in the hope of stumbling forward.

OK, out of your seats, and off of your heels.

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Category: 2012  it-governance  leadership  management  

Tags: 2012-planning  change-leadership  cio-leadership  cio-strategy  small-it  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.

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