Having just finished a 2 years at the OU, I have been reflecting on how to create high performing IT Teams. Whilst the concepts are in my view simple, doing them well is the hard bit that needs experience and practice. Here are my thoughts, I wonder what you think? Are these right or have I missed some?
Start with a desire to understand the business you are working in, what’s important. That will help you set the right direction and priorities. Don’t be one of those managers who thinks they know the answers before they start. Couple that with a desire to understand your people and care for them…one of the best CEOs I ever worked for knew about his staff because he genuinely care about them…and it showed. Oh, and a passion for communication is essential.
Start by listening, to your customers and your staff. Get out there and don’t sit behind your desk. I developed a weekly blog that went to staff and business colleagues that proved to be very effective which I touched on in this blog. I also ran training sessions for business colleagues on collaboration tools, my way of getting back to the floor with the users of our systems. What ever works for you, take any opportunity to listen and engage.
I think you need a strong background, to know the right questions to ask, to understand what you are being told, and be able to shape the direction for your team. That’s hard to build up, but essential. A CIO of a multinational once taught me his top tip – know the right questions to ask by finding the experts and asking them what questions are best.
Enable your team to do their job
This bit is critical. there are those managers who believe their team can achieve great things, and those that believe they can’t. Both are right! I think this is all about coaching and developing your team, along with enabling them to do their jobs. that needs the leader to set a clear direction, provide air cover when needed, and listen hard to make the team part of that direction setting. And by the way, avoid the temptation to restructure too often, most of your team will welcome stability and the ability to get on and make things better. Here is a blog I wrote on leadership
Focus on customer not just metrics and numbers.
Process and metrics have a place, but in IT you are likely to have too many rather than too few. So ask what top 3 metrics should I focus on, and when something is sorted , move to a different metric. Here are my thoughts on metrics. Process is critical, I need to know when something goes into a process such as change or problem management I can rely on an outcome to be delivered. But ultimately, the people that tell you if you are delivering are your customers. So get out there and listen to them.
When it works, a team that clicks that delivers great service and is highly regarded by their business colleagues. Hugely satisfying but a bit daunting if you do the job well enough not to be needed any more!