Every day countless IT pros are out there ‘having a conversation’ about IT. Or more accurately about technology. Or both.
The world of corporate IT is awash with opinion.
Some people get paid very well for just having an opinion. Attend enough tech conferences, watch enough YouTube clips and read enough blogs you can come across as a ‘genius’. And you know what? People go along with these conversations every day as they search for the ‘answer’ or at least enough clues to make the right decisions.
Having an opinion of course is very important. How else are you going to direct the conversation or add substance to your point of view.
Anyone who has stepped in to the art of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming – will have learned about pre-framing, de-framing and re-framing. These words are all aimed at helping people come out of negative and confrontational situations by analyzing a problem in a different way by drawing a frame around the topic at hand.
So imagine a conversation you are about to embark on about any of the four nexus topics we discuss endlessly – take your pick – Social, Mobile, Cloud or Big Data. There is a chance that your conversation is laced with a wide view of opinion, and perhaps a lot of conflict and alternative arguments. Anecdotes abound. You will have all your ‘collateral’ and ‘data’ to support the conversation. You have done all the homework for the conversation and have done all the legwork on the individuals you need to convince. You are ready to rock and roll. Or are you?
You see from where I stand I see myself and others often struggle with the framing aspect of the conversation. What I mean is this. Whilst we have the story we lack the picture. We believe because our story is mainstream, out there and what everyone else is saying, the conversation is almost just part of the etiquette of doing business, and provided we have a decent brand, a good price model and can demonstrate capability then we are a shoe in.
We lack the picture. This is the point of this post. And I don’t mean pretty pictures of clouds and stuff. No I mean a picture that we can place inside a ‘frame’ that clearly describes what is going to happen, Or a way of describing how our stuff ( services etc ) will actually deliver.
Have you ever noticed that the most successful organizations’ have a picture. Have you ever noticed that their IT leaders are adept at putting their strategy into a picture, and therefore a frame? Have you noticed those simple but powerful info-graphic style pictures that sit inside a strong and compelling description of the plan they have.
OK so this is playground stuff. Well I thought this until it dawned on me that ‘we often fail’ because we have failed to de-frame the conversation first. By this I mean an actual conscious act of breaking down the original thought, perception and anticipated outcome. Or taking the picture out of the frame and find a more interesting one. Why? Well because the person the other side of the table still has their perception in a frame of their own. Perhaps their frame is all about cost ( it costs too much ) or security ( we will lose everything ).
What is important is that we all have frames. It’s just that for most of us, we didn’t know it. And for the majority of us we lack the confidence to ‘de-frame’ and then ‘re-frame’.
But doesn’t this just mean an agenda? Nope. An agenda is a list of points you want to discuss and success is being able to say you did.
But doesn’t this just mean a value proposition. Nope. A value proposition is how you demonstrate you are entitled to say what you can do. That’s all. Many great organizations failed despite having a great ‘value prop’.
Now imagine your role in this conversation is to sell something. Or to gain support for a business idea you have. Perhaps you are a decision maker and are faced with these different opinions.
What do you do?
Well first thing is you already believe you have the answer otherwise you wouldn’t be leading the conversation. Call it passion for your core proposition. Call it belief. You have it in abundance.
All you now need to do is understand the other people’s ‘frame’. Say your topic is cloud computing. Then why not draw on a piece of paper each person’s ‘frame’ as you perceive it to be. Call it getting ready for a meeting. Or being forewarned.
By putting the arguments, negatives, positives, emotions and concerns into frames allows you to see how the conversation needs to go for you to be successful. When seen alongside your frame you will see opportunities to steer, cajole or push through the conversation. It will allow you to concede on certain points and will allow you to coach colleagues. BTW they need frames as well.
And remember. If you believe that your ‘sale’ is going to hit barriers ( because IT sales always does ) then be prepared to de-frame the conversation first, and then re-frame it back up. An example? ” Cloud computing is not secure”. What do you do?
A. Show the dissenter all the data points you have on why cloud computing is secure (no frame)
B. Spend a few minutes understanding the specifics of the ‘not secure’ comment and work at mitigating or negating each one (de-frame) , until you have got enough headway to layer on the data points you have to sell your picture (re-frame)
You may have to be bold and up front do a bit of ‘pre-framing’ buy saying things like “I know you’re thinking cloud computing is not for you, but if we could demonstrate how we can overcome your concerns could you see yourself using the cloud?”
A sobering thought.
An individual may be the cleverest person on the planet but unless,they can engage their peers and change perception,then their ideas will hit a wall. I suspect in the world of technology ( or IT ) there are many capable and competent leaders who have failed to frame a conversation to such an extent as to convince others to affect change.
Whilst we have the story we lack the picture…………..