Friday, October 10, 2014

Creating an IT Culture: What You Want "IT" to Be

10 Key Strategies to Transform Your IT Culture

In many IT departments it is readily apparent there is employee disengagement, dissatisfaction, and a lack of empowerment. It many situations, as an outside observer, you can simply feel these negative vibes as soon as you walk into through the door. The question for technology managers and administrators, "How can you effectively change an IT culture to transform it into a vibrant, engaging, and effective department?"  There are 10 key strategies that work in tandem to create this much sought after goal. These concepts to transform IT Culture were initially presented at the 2013 EDUCAUSE Regional Conference in Chicago, and refined and expanded at the 2014 EDUCAUSE International Conference held in Orlando. The room was filled to capacity with CIOs, technologists, and faculty from around the world, all with one important. Let me explain a few of these strategies.

The 10 key transformative strategies to change your IT culture include the following:

When you embark upon a change in culture, it is first important to ensure that you precisely define your STRATEGIC VISION to the staff. This statement should be clear and simple so that all of the employees can explain it to others. For example, one potential version may read: 
 "Build a more focused IT organization with the ability to proactively adapt to new technology, new roles and implement seamless and customer centered process."
Trust is another important element in building an effective team. Without trusting in your leadership, and your co-workers, it makes for an environment which cannot function effectively and efficiently. To continually build trust, the workplace must instill a sense of accurate and consistent communications.Trust is a long term process to earn, but much more difficult to get it back once it's lost. As defined, trust is the "belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, and effective."

Another key component for a successful IT is how we EMPOWER our employees. As a manager, it is question that we too often fail to ask our employees.  Perhaps we just don't think about asking "the question" or on a more subconscious level, maybe we don't want to take the risk of hearing the answer.  Finding ways to empower employees takes time and effort. One of the best ways to accomplish empowerment is to put employees into lead project positions and let them succeed, or fail.  Failure is one of the 10 core strategies to change IT culture. The Honda Motor Company created a series of documentaries around the theme of The Power of Dreams.  One of these films, "Failure-the Secret to Succcess," deals with our ability to deal with Failure and to first admit it, then learn from it.

With the realization of failure also comes with the potential for success. It was Thomas Edison who once said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  To encourage success it is important to innovate.  For example, providing a wide, diverse, and innovative technology training programs not only energizes the faculty to learn, but it also supercharges the staff presenters to learn, stretch themselves, and motivates them to lead.  Innovative events such as HOT-Hands on Technology, Passport to Technology, and Tech 4 U serve to create interest and excitement and help to sustain the technology training program. You can learn more about these interesting technology training sessions by going to the UW-La Crossse ITS web site.

One event that accentuated the concept of Innovation, and which promoted collaboration and teamwork within the IT culture was the Technology Tomorrow, Today- a technology showcase. This event brought technology companies from around the U.S. and Canada, car manufactures, technologists, CIOs,faculty, staff, and students throughout Wisconsin. Local TV stations covered the event.

In addition our internal video unit captured the event. This was an excellent example of IT staff leading, taking ownership, and collaborating towards a common goal. The video captures the energy of IT staff on display, bringing technology to nearly 300 registrants. When you watch the video you will get a sense of excitement from the participants, corporate partners, and students.

One lingering strategy that is rarely discussed in transforming IT culture is the concept of EMPATHY. The notion of empathy extends from teh manager to the employee, but also from the IT staff to the client. As the definition tells us, empathy is "our ability to understand the feelings of another."Understanding the backgrounds, work and personal lives helps the employer make strategic yet empathetic choices when working with employees.  Understanding these same things when working with clients and stakeholders helps to provide a point of reference when searching out technology or process solutions.

For more information on all 10 of the core strategies to Change IT Culture, send me an e-mail or Tweet.  You may also find the 2014 EDUCAUSE session here. Follow each of these strategies and you too will be well on your way to change your own IT Culture- for the positive.