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Letters to a Young Manager

Draw Another Picture, #46
LTYM > Strategy

Dear Sophie,
Early in my nonprofit career, I was working on an IT strategy for my organization. In a number of small group meetings, I began to hear a common issue: how could we use technology in our field work if we couldn't get connectivity out the last 100 kilometers. At the time, even larger cities in emerging countries were a telecommunications challenge.

One of my colleagues told a story of having to travel four hours to a hotel on the coast in the Dominican Republic for a one-hour conference call on a pay phone and then drive four hours back to his office, a nine-hour day for one meeting!

In one of the small group meetings, I drew a picture (below [1]) of how information flowed from headquarters, to regional offices, to country office and program areas and back again. It was clear that there was a "red zone" around program areas. Like the old Get Smart TV show, this was a cone of silence. [2]

The one-page diagram became the core of the IT strategy. We needed to break through the "red zone" and "wire" our field offices. This basic objective became a focus for global IT for the next 8 years, first from the US and later from the UK HQs. Indeed, one of our key accomplishments was connecting 186 field offices with broadband communications. It became the foundation for operating a digital business. And it began with a single drawing.

[1] the slide from my 2001 presentation deck:

[2] "Get Smart", the Cone of Silence,
With a delightful video clip from the show illustrating the problems of primitive communications technology

Moral of story:

A drawing is worth a thousand words

Discussion Questions:

1) Can you draw your IT strategy on a single page? Does this force you to bottom line the strategy? (Also see "Three Things," Story #120)
2) Where is the technology pain point or "red zone" in your organization? How are you addressing this; what's the picture?

For Further Reading:

1) Also see "Draw Picture", Story #3

Copyright 2005, 2017, E. G. Happ, All Rights Reserved.