people are the dark matter of tech projects #13ntc
I have a recurring dream where I’m at work. In a meeting. And we’re talking about a new technology project and everyone’s excited, even the managers who don’t know all that much about tech.
Or maybe I’m not remembering it right. Maybe the managers are skeptical and annoyed, even though they do know a little about tech. Or maybe no one’s excited, and we have to explain the whole plan again from scratch. And I’m dressed in a towel. It’s all blurry and I can’t remember if people think the new tools are a great idea or some overhyped add-on that makes no sense.
And that’s when I realize: I am wearing my clothes, but it’s not a dream.
In the work of a digital manager, how we relate to our colleagues, and whether they can relate to us and our work, is fundamental to online success. People are the dark matter of tech projects. They account for more than 80% of the gravitational force in the universe of getting things done, but technology won’t help us see them more clearly.
To examine this space more closely, three veteran colleagues and I held a panel at last month’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (#13NTC): Laura Brahm of OSF, Danielle Brigida of NWF and Yesenia Sotelo of Smartcause Digital.
Our premise was simple: Since every organization has a different “culture of tech,” and every digital manager has a different personality, your styles for managing change are as important as your tools or your budget.
You might be the ever-supportive “Perfect Boyfriend,” for instance, listening intently to colleagues and doing all you can to match your work to their needs — possibly including chocolate. Or you might be the “Tough Cookie,” setting a digital vision and fiercely keeping colleagues gung-ho and on task as you hack your way (literally or figuratively) into new digital strategies that the whole organization will … eventually … embrace.
Or you might be Michael Jackson. The one-in-a-million talent who doesn’t need to “ask for permission” or “build alliances” to succeed, because they do what they do so well, and dazzle everyone so fast, that they get the permission retroactively. Lover. Fighter. And Thriller all in one.
There’s no right formula for the successful digital manager. But you can do more, and bring more colleagues along with you, if you know your own style and choose the right suit for the right meeting. Sometimes it’s pinstripes. Sometimes it’s a white glove.
You can watch a video of our NTEN presentation below. While you’re watching, think about the persona (or personas or personae) that describes you best. When did you have to bring people tea? When did you have to dance?
Veteran digital leaders Jason Mogus and Michael Silberman look at some of these same questions in a superb article from 2011, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Digital Team.”