Posted by: kenwbudd | March 2, 2009

Stay Focused – Tough Times ahead

Budget cuts. Layoffs. Doing more with less. Sound familiar? Every manager is suddenly tasked with putting out fires on multiple fronts, as businesses struggle to survive amid the economy’s smoking ruins. Don’t forget your day job, little things like keeping the service levels (SLAs), servers and network availability in the greenest of green.

The mounting responsibilities and demands can be both personally distracting and professionally discouraging for some IT and business managers: The US’s work-related worries jumped from 62 percent to 67 percent between April and October 2008, according to the American Psychological Association.

Now, more than ever, focus is the name of the game, especially when people and money are tight.

Finding and maintaining your office Zen isn’t as easy these days. Drawing on past experiences, here’s how some current and former CIOs have maintained focus in their role and within their department during a crisis.

“After the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, business was struggling and the workplace was pretty tense,” recalls Les Duncan, then senior vice president and CIO at Joann Stores.

To ease staff concerns, Duncan held regular meetings where he could speak directly about business conditions and highlighted that week’s or month’s hot issues. His staff knew how the company planned to weather the difficult times so they could focus on their work, he says. “This transparency also helped me to stay focused on what was really important i.e. the success or failure of the business during hard times.”

Get busy and stay busy. We’ve all worked at businesses where large numbers of employees were cut from the payroll. Most of the employees ran around huddling in small groups talking about the latest rumour, but you want to be in the group that stays busy and focused on delivering. So busy that you don’t have time to whine.

Positivity and flexibility is essential in staying on target at work. “Anticipate changes by checking in frequently with business decision makers and stay on the offensive by killing projects that are going nowhere”.

Try to see the opportunity in any major change. It’s a good time to offer assistance to colleagues and take on tasks that might normally be outside your scope. This is not the time to hide in an IT or business silo, but the ideal time to step out of it. Create the space and opportunity to innovate. It costs very little and can result in new opportunities and growth.

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