Block problematic IT clients with Vince Lombardi's classic 'run to daylight' strategy

Sometimes IT leadership has to create blocking so the team can finish a project. Here are three types of users to block.

Image: Jim Biever/

In 1963, then-Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi wrote a classic football book called Run to Daylight. It discussed a football strategy where a running back aimed for a zone where the blocking was concentrated, and then ran to where he saw daylight.

As a Wisconsin native and a Packer fan, I've often thought of the phrase--and how it applies to the role of the CIO and other IT managers.

When project snarls arise because of breakdowns in IT-user collaboration, and it's the end users who are causing the disruption, it is up to the CIO or IT leader to create the blocking and take the hits so the team can run to daylight and cross the goal line.

While IT leaders try to promote the idea of a service-oriented culture that satisfies the needs of end users, not properly managing the relationship between IT and the client can derail a project.

Here are three types of users, ready to disrupt your plays, and what to do about them.

The user who won't let go

There are users who refuse to sign off on a project, instead insisting on adding new enhancements and tweaks until the project becomes an eternal effort. This can impact IT productivity and it can also be bad for business because the end stakeholders are not taking ownership of their system. This is a situation where the IT manager, or even the CIO, should intervene to reestablish what the project's mission, scope, and end deliverable date are. Taking a stand prevents the project from getting weighted down by enhancement creep--and reaffirms the understanding that a new phase of enhancements will come later, after the project goes live.

The user who won't participate

A non-participator is a user who is so busy with daily work that he has little time left for the project he has agreed to be a part of. This failure to devote quality time is a productivity risk to IT projects, especially early on. If the user doesn't come to the table with a list of the specific business requirements that he needs before the system is purchased or built, it leaves IT in the precarious position of having to figure something else out that will work. This also introduces risk to the business, because the people in the business should be the ones who determine how the system's business process works. In this situation, the role of the CIO or IT manager is to step in and get guarantees of user collaboration before moving the project forward.

The user who participates too much

This is often the frustrated business manager who has a techie bent and wishes he were in IT instead. He will have suggestions on what to try, and may even try to micro-manage. In this situation, IT leaders should coach staff on how to handle communications correctly, no matter how tempting it is to shoot back an arrogant rebuke. A reaction like this can stall a project and even damage relationships.

Instead, IT staff should be trained to be open-minded to suggestions (sometimes they are great!) and, when necessary, manage the situation by carefully orchestrating meetings and project events that contain clear objectives that keep the armchair quarterbacking to a minimum.

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By Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...