Home > IT Management, Leadership & People, Management > Setting up the IT organization for success – Part 1

Setting up the IT organization for success – Part 1

Continuing the series started from the past few posts this week*, we started with the situation of Building an IT team/organization – namely how would one go about it. (Incidentally, I think this is generic enough to apply to any organization, not just IT.) Drawing from various sources, I looked at startings points to help me construct a blueprint, a framework to start the process. At the end of a pretty tortuous route, it seems that the key guiding point was to build for organizational sustainability**. Perhaps it seems like a commonsensical if not obvious approach, but I can’t say for certain that most managers and leaders hire with this intention in mind. Often times, I hazard to say that managers hire for immediate need, not long term sustainability. (If you asked me what is “long term”, I’ve no idea exactly what it is. For me, it seems that we’re talking about a period greater than 24 months but less than 48 months.)

Characteristics of an organization built for sustainability means that we would have to get a “diverse mix of skills, capabilities, expertise, personalities togethers as broadly and deeply as possible” in place. That’s quite an order:
1. Skills & Capabilities – Soft skills
2. Expertise – Functional/Technical/Business know-how
3. Personalities – psychometric testing for “chemistry” – knowing the Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes in your team seems awfully sensible but why so many organizations don’t use them? I tend to prefer the 4 quadrant tests such as DISC, because it is KISS and satisfies the 80-20 Rule. However, I’ve taken other tests as well such as Belbin Team Roles and MBTI*** and are all useful in their own way.

So now that we’ve got the blueprint, it’s time to find people – based on one’s own competencies and capabilities defined in your foundational blueprint. Personally, after the technical expertise questions out of the way, I go straight into behavioral interviewing mode. That’s not exactly the prescribed methodology but I prefer it when I’m trying to understand how the person ticks and whether or not they’ve got transferable skills. This is important in IT because the IT individual I’m looking for is (1) a generalist in outlook and (2) a technologist at heart. For good measure I throw in some work-related hypothetical scenarios to see how they problem solve. This means that on average I will spend approximately 3-5 hours (my company runs an HR assessment center which I sit in on) with any candidate before being hired. This may seem excessive, but the cost of wrong hires do a lot of organizational damage that may be fatal, especially at management grade levels. Failure is not an option.

So, now you’ve identified the folks for your organization and have hired them on board, all ready, willing and able to go…where no man has gone before? Star Trek missions don’t work so well in corporate life usually so you need to have to continue building – directional setting now, mission, vision, values/culture.

The last, values/culture, to me is the key****. Mission and vision will change. But values/culture are/should be enduring and the bedrock for an organization to succeed and thrive even when the going is tough. It’s elusive and difficult for a manager to instill. Hence the leadership question comes into play. What does one do?

Stay tuned for Part 2 as the journey unfolds…

*See Article 1, Article 2, Article 3
**An example of organizational sustainability comes from Vincent van Wylick’s nice story on what makes a good sports coach:

In my opinion, the important qualities of sports-coaches are these three things, and I hope they translate to other disciplines as well:

Knowing your craft really well;
Planning for different abilities in your team;
Making your craft transparent so others can take over

If you make yourself obsolete to the organization, you’ve achieved the ideal model of organizational sustainability.

*** I’m an INTJ
**** Check out Scott Berkin’s interview with Grant McCracken on winning by studying culture.


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