The foundation of any high-performing organization is talented, experienced, and motivated staff. Attracting and retaining these staff members requires that the IT organization be seen as a great place to work. Over the years, I have learned that six factors form the foundation of an organization that people want to work for.
- For any organization to function and for its staff to get work done, it must be organized. Departments must be formed. Processes are needed for making decisions and performing recurring activities such developing applications. People want to work for well-managed organizations.
- The IT organization must hire well, bringing in the talent, skills, and experience that it needs. If a person turns out to be a less than satisfactory addition to the team, the organization has to handle the situation quickly and with humanity.
- The IT organization has to help its staff grow and learn. Training and professional growth opportunities are needed and staff must be given time to pursue them.
- There should be ongoing efforts to improve the work setting. These efforts can range from events such as social functions to tele-work programs to improving space.
- Organizational problems need to be fixed. Process redesign efforts that streamline requests for new applications. Changes to the organization structure to reduce confusion over accountabilities. At any point in time, the organization is not firing on all cylinders across all functions. Problems need to be assessed and fixed.
- And finally, a tone must be set. I am not sure that I have a good definition of tone other than it is the climate of the organization. Tone results from the daily actions (or inactions) of IT management and IT staff. It seems to me that the tone of a great IT organization has several characteristics. The actions:
- Inspire and motivate. The work is interesting. We believe that the work is important and we know that each of us is needed if the work is to happen well.
- Exhibit integrity. The actions and words of individuals are true to their values and beliefs. There is little tolerance for dishonesty and “games.”
- Demonstrate courage. There is a willingness to make hard decisions and stand by them. There is a realization that you may personally have to absorb the blame and anger of others.
- Show caring. We reach out to those who need personal or professional help. Disagreements and debates avoid personal attacks. We take the time to give someone a heads-up.
- Are demanding, but tolerant. The organization sets high standards for the work that it does. However, it recognizes that even the best people screw it up from time to time (sometimes in very big ways) and the organization does not eviscerate those who make mistakes.
- Exhibit accessibility. Those who need us can get to us. One may or may not be able to help or help right away, but one is not sitting behind a moat.
- Are comfortable with personal limitations. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. It is important to know yourself and be comfortable with the fact that, in some ways, you are limited. And it is a sign of personal and management strength to surround yourself with colleagues who have the strengths that you do not.
- Being a great place to work is important. While making sure that the necessary factors are in place is a key responsibility of IT leadership, this responsibility is shared by everyone in the organization.
Of all of the factors, tone is the most important. If the tone is a good one, the climate will exist that enables all of the other factors to happen well. And tone is set by everyone.
Making sure that the IT organization is a great place to work is something that each of us does every day.
John Glaser is vice president and CIO at Partners HealthCare System. He describes himself as an "irregular regular contributor" to HIStalk.