What Kate Did
Kate, the healthcare executive whose story opened this article, made the best of her first opportunity to influence senior managers in a council setting. She took care not to ambush any of her colleagues. Instead, she met one-on-one with the executives who would be affected by her plan to create a single IT platform before the council meeting, so she could explain why her recommendations were critical to the company’s future and why the business units needed to bear the costs. She was fully transparent about the decision criteria that led to her recommendations, and she was consistent in the arguments that she made for her plan privately and publicly.
Kate recommended an ambitious solution, but the way she formulated and presented it to the council made all the difference. Mixing candor with openness to others’ opinions, balancing humility and courage, and making a concerted effort to keep top executives on board — before and after the difficult decisions were made — Kate was able to lead the council to adopt her plan of unifying IT systems on one platform. She was so successful in this effort that the council’s members agreed to shut down existing projects that were not well aligned with the new system, even though this incurred unexpected costs for the business units over the short term. Instead, the council invested in an integration initiative that enabled the company to substantially reduce its overall IT costs and, over the long term, bring its IT spending in line with the industry.
Kate, meanwhile, gained a great deal of credibility among her colleagues for wrestling IT costs down to a level that the company could live with and for shepherding a much-needed overhaul of its technology networks. But perhaps as important, her new approach to collaborative decision making provided her co-workers with a model for undertaking difficult decisions in a less contentious and ultimately more successful way.
Reprint No. 11104
- Perry Buffett is a senior associate with Booz & Company based in Chicago. He specializes in leadership alignment and organizational change.