Leapfrog ahead by seeking out peers outside your organization
Posted on July 22, 2011Summary From talking to CIOs, CTOs, and IT directors I've discovered that few of them know their peers at other organizations. And even fewer regularly interact and discuss issues of substance with those same peers, even though they share many similar concerns. One of the benefits of a good consultant is that they can share what has worked elsewhere. But you can do a lot of this on your own. Here is how to do it.
In my consulting work I talk to a lot of CIOs, CTOs, IT directors, and IT managers.
I am routinely amazed at how few of them know their peers at other organizations -- let alone regularly interact and discuss issues of substance with them.
I've even joked that some of the advice they (my client) pay me for could be eliminated. After all, one of the benefits of a good consultant is that they can share what has worked elsewhere.
(Of course, in the next breadth, I also go out of my way to to remind them that they would not have gotten this idea if they hadn't made the wise decision to hire me on to begin with. Alas, they get any ideas...)
After pointing this out to several clients, I've suggested they do something about it. That is, they start benefiting from the sharing of best practices and commons struggles with their peers at other organizations.
If you want to start brainstorming with a trusted peer -- and I suggest you should -- here is how to do it:
- Identify other individuals who are in similar roles as yours, but in a different organization (and, perhaps, a different industry). You probably have some idea of where to look. If you need ideas, I suggest looking at the "management" sections of the web sites of other companies in your area and searching around on LinkedIn.com.
- Reach out to one of them, by email or phone, introducing yourself and explaining you'd like to get together over lunch or coffee to discuss best practices/etc. There is no need to feel like you might be hassling them. You are peers after all.
- Agree to meet for coffee or lunch informally in the near future.
- If you "hit it off" (it may take a couple of coffees or lunches before you decide to do this), suggest that you start meeting for coffee or lunch once a month or in each others offices for 2-3 hours once a quarter to brainstorm and share perspectives and best practices.
- Agree to keep whatever the two of you discuss just between the two of you.
- Start meeting regularly as agreed to.
- Keep the agenda casual, but specific enough to help you both appreciate the value of each others perspectives, advice, and ideas. The agenda should be something along the lines of the following, with each of you giving the other time to answer the following question while the other listens, possibly providing perspective and suggestions:
- What's your biggest problem right now?
- Why is this problem important?
- What's being done to address this problem?
- What's your biggest opportunity right now?
- Why is this opportunity valuable?
- What's being done to take advantage of this opportunity?
- Are you working on anything interesting or nifty right now? If so, tell me a bit about it and why you find it interesting.
The key to it being an effective investment of your mutual time, energy, and focus is to help each other brainstorm and create peer-level accountability that helps you both. By this I mean that you will be helped as individuals (in your professional roles) and, in turn, your organizations will benefit as well. To do this, you need to set aside time to meet regularly and both commit to candor, confidentiality, and thoughtfulness.
One to two hours every month or even two to three hours every few months is a modest investment to make relative to the benefits of collaborating with a peer at another organization. In fact, you may discover it is so rewarding and pays such dividends that you want to seek out more than one peer to do this with regularly.
If you end up doing the above, and feel like doing so, please drop me a note. I'd love to hear your story.
If you enjoyed this, you're invited to subscribe to be notified when I post similar items. I also invite you to connect with me by email or on Twitter if you have a comment, idea, or question.