Build and maintain an efficient IT department
As the IT profession emerges from America’s worst pandemic in 100 years, a new landscape of work exists for employer and employee. Some departments have migrated to fully remote operations, some have created a hybrid device, and still others have returned to face-to-face technology support. Meanwhile, US companies are actively recruiting IT talent with attractive salaries, telecommuting, and work-life flexibility. The challenge for public and private institutions is to find the right strategies to build and maintain a strong IT team. And while there can be a lot of excitement and opportunity in building an effective IT department from scratch, it can be just as difficult to watch a dysfunctional department lose its once solid foundation, block by block.
So how can IT managers first create an efficient department and, once that is achieved, retain their best employees? For starters, building a strong team is more than just hiring the best people. Like Jim Collins, author of business books such as Good to excellent and Built to last, says, “If you have more than three priorities, you have none.” Collins means that having too many priorities, without a specific roadmap to success, complicates efforts to build a productive team. Building an effective team requires a specific, streamlined plan that is communicated in a clear and consistent manner. This is important for creating and maintaining a positive team culture which ensures that each member clearly understands their specific roles.
By building a new IT team, you need to build trust and earn respect from employees. It can’t and won’t happen overnight, but it does happen when you are honest with your team. Making sure your staff know and understand your department’s goals and objectives, as well as the roadmap to achieving them, will help create an environment of trust, which in turn helps retain and recruit employees.
If your existing team has become dysfunctional, determining the root cause is extremely important. Patrick Lencioni, business writer and founder of the consultancy firm The Table Group, identified five elements of dysfunctional teams: at the grassroots level, a lack of trust, followed by fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of responsibility and finally inattention to results. . Each of these elements contributes to an environment that negatively affects communications, morale and productivity. Poor organizational health will also affect your end users, creating an endless loop of ineffective support and poor customer service.
If your department has identified poor or inefficient performers, you should fix the problem as soon as possible. The longer it takes to take corrective action, the more likely it is that top performers will become demotivated, disillusioned, or simply quit the team or their job. If a team has an underperforming employee, the manager should identify the negative behavior and its causes, then provide clear direction for resolution. Although conflict can be difficult to resolve, employee and group interventions are important and can resolve a wide variety of issues.
Erika Andersen, founding partner of business management consultant Proteus International, wrote in Forbes in 2013, “Almost all the managers I have consulted or coached have told me about having at least one employee who is not so good. I have come to see it as an almost inevitable part of the managerial professional landscape. One of the challenges for an IT manager who is starting a new team is not spending more time on a problem employee who would be better spent with those who enjoy teamwork, collaboration and cooperation.
In her Forbes chronicle, Andersen emphasizes this point by saying that “most managers are held hostage by these people, devoting a disproportionate amount of time, thought and emotional energy to them. Often on the verge of letting them go for years, but never quite able (for various reasons) to pull the trigger.
Another challenge in managing an IT workforce can be the significant and constant change that goes with the profession. Two key words in IT vocabulary are “agile” and “agile,” describing the process of improving software over time through small iterative changes, as opposed to delivering a final product all at once. In the 2016 Harvard business review “Agile Embracing” article, point out authors Darrell Rigby, Jeff Sutherland and Hirotaka Takeuchi: “Agile innovation methods have dramatically increased success rates in software development, improved quality and speed to market, and boosted the motivation and productivity of IT teams ”.
For IT management, ensuring that the service is “agile” – able to improve and adapt to circumstances – requires buy-in from the administrative and operational levels. It pays off in innovation, collaboration and successful teams.
How does all of this translate into building blocks of a new IT department or keeping an existing one? The answer is easy to distil and does not require a high level of technical computer knowledge. Quite simply, the manager must develop a climate of trust, have a clear vision and communicate it precisely and succinctly to the team. If ineffective employees are part of the team, identify them immediately and engage in corrective and positive actions.
Managers need to articulate a set of consequences if positive change is not made, work collaboratively with human resources and their processes, and move to more effective resolution. It is not an easy process, but eliminating negative behaviors in the workplace will improve the environment. This will demonstrate to your top performers that you value excellence and to the bottom performers that their jobs need to improve. That said, with any employee, it’s important to be fair and empathetic. When hiring or retaining IT staff, always consider whether they are a good match for the institution and if the institution is a good match for the employee.
The foundation and cornerstone of an effective IT department is trust. As Colin Powell once reminded us, “Confidence is the essence of leadership”. Start with trust and you will ensure the success of your IT team.