Monday, January 12, 2009

Team Values

Values are the core of any team. It is even more important for Information Technology Teams. The problem with most IT groups today is that they hide behind lingo and processes. The goal of IT is to leverage the technology to move the organization forward. To do this your solutions must be values based. This is a tall order in a society that rewards the "passive aggressive" and the "techno weenies".

The value element of Courage is the one I encourage the most. Courage means many things to many people. One of my favourite quotes regarding courage is from Ambrose Redmoon and it reads like this "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important". Within our Team "Courage" refers to the courage to ACT. Do something. Analysis paralysis is not an option. The action must have been thought out and must be sensitive to what problem is being solved. Once the action is done, you must review and followup your assumptions t0 ensure your action had the desired affect. Failure to do so, creates havoc. My team will be given great latitude for a thoughtful and purposeful action. Inaction must be weeded out and people's tendency to stay safe must be discouraged. I make reference to the "hero" syndrome created by the engineer who wrote one email on the POTENTIAL of the O-rings failing on the space shuttle. After the crash investigation this person was given hero status for his ability to highlight the problem. The sad part is upon further investigation it is found out the email does not provide options or even a detailed occurrences of solutions. Just the basic, its broke, and I have covered my position. This is not helpful. We as a human race have never accomplished anything from the comfort zone. People must act to progress. Staying safe and looking for the "OUT" instead of "How can we" is not the recipe for success. This comes with a great burden though, for the action comes with risk and is fraught with naysayers. Place your compass on doing the right things for the right reasons and look beyond your department for what is really needed. Action to move forward, in the end will always be the better approach than, sitting back and letting the inaction take on a life of its own.

HONOUR to be accountable is the next value statement. This means, in our Team's context to stand up and be counted for the decision that was made and/or the action taken. Facing the music as it were. Not just for ones action but for the actions of the team. Accountable to self and to team is just as important. The good news in this regard is that if you are person who not only takes accountability but encourages it, your team will be known as people of Honour and your word is golden. This is proved by the actions taken and the commitment to see it through. By being accountable you open your team up to public failures, however, this is offset by being openly invited to those decision making tables. This gives you and your team personal currency and places you at the decision table. Without this, your team will just be "order takers" and not solution providers. Always being accountable is hard work and sometimes it is perceived as witch hunting. When done consistently and promoted effectively it will become an organic continuously improvement exercise. Your team will also become the benchmark for other departments to emulate. I quickly weed out those individuals whom look outside themselves in time of crisis and internally in times of success. A good leader corrects an issue internally and quietly. Along with this, a Good Leader compliments his team externally and internally to promote good behaviour. This latter part is not trite or a facade but rather an acknowledgment the team succeeds and the individuals within the team must be recognized according.

Integrity is the last element of our value proposition. It is also, I find, the most difficult for our industry to live up to. In our team context, it refers to Integrity to work with others. To some degree we, in the technology arena, have become snobbish and arrogant. This is not how to become a trusted adviser to the organization. Information Technology cannot be successful by working in isolation or in silos. They must work cohesively within the team and more importantly with the organization as a whole.

The next part of this is the part some IT group will hail as blasphemy. Within the larger business context, the IT department does NOT, yes NOT make decisions we make recommendations. Information Technology should be looking at all solutions from the business/ organizational context. They should not be making decisions from an engineering or techno gissmo perspective. Come on, we have all done this in our personal lives. The shiny pots and beeds, the flashing lights, we can't help ourselves. This is the technology trap. Having said this, I am not recommending you let the business run information technology cart blanche. For I also have another saying. "those who think they know, really annoy the ones who do". To counterveil the latter from the former, it is imperative the solutions provided must solve the business problem. You have to bring all elements to the table, not just the shiny ones with all the lights or from the vendor that keeps you nice and comfy in your Management chair.

Search deeply, look into the organization. Get out of your office, walk the floor, know what your organization does from all aspects, not just how they interface into your technology. I pride myself at providing solutions that take the other side of the glass into consideration. If you had to do the job all day would the solution be something that helped or hindered. To know this answer you MUST work with them and be a leader to them. It is a tough balancing act but one that is worth the effort.

In conclusion our teams values are the Courage to Act, the Honour to be accountable, and the Integrity to work with others. Don't just say it or put it on your screen saver. Live it for deeds speak.

1 comment:

  1. How about a future post on one of the key problems in implementing this excellent model for IT -- management paralysis. Even with a willing team, I have seen this tripartite structure fail often because responsibility ends up extant without authority to execute.

    I am going to send some folks to your blog today, as they need it.