While most of these tools can be valuable in helping improve technology
organizations, few are precise about the issues that they address
and the limited conditions under which they should be used. So overworked
managers under constant pressure to improve their organizations often
adopt the use of these tools without a clear understanding of the
problem they are trying to solve.
So only after completing the clarification phase are you in a good position
to begin planning how to improve your organization. Then you can select one or
more tools to use to improve the group function.
As you are selecting tools, it’s also important to recognize
the full range of options. Here is a short list of 15 categories
of tools that you can consider when planning to transform your organization
along with a few notes on their strengths and weaknesses.
1. Training – Usually training (either technical or
soft skills) is the first thing that we think about, but it has only limited effects
unless combined with other reinforcement mechanisms.
2. Organizational structure change – Restructuring can
be a powerful approach, but requires careful attention to both the new structure
and the transition. It is usually disruptive in the short term and you have to
be willing to absorb a short term productivity hit until the benefits arrive.
3. Policy change – Policies can be useful tools. They
are clear directive statements. They are simple to issue, but hard to enforce
and sustain. Too many policies can combine to stifle an organization rather than
to improve it.
4. Process improvement – Processes address
the selection and sequencing of tasks as well as the approach to
how people work together mechanically. Too often, managers try to
use processes to mitigate cultural and human relationship issues
that remain unresolved.
5. Culture change – Culture change can be a very powerful
tool, but is also very difficult to do well. Organizational cultures are remarkably
resistant to change.
6. Staffing change – Sometimes, you really just have
to move people in and/or out of the organization. New blood can help transform
a group. So can jettisoning those toxic people who constantly infect others with
their bad attitudes.
7. Technical review – Either at the enterprise or the
project level, a coherent fresh eyes view of your technology can reveal both technical
and human issues.
8. Compensation Rewards and Incentives Changes –
Adjusting compensation plans is always difficult. Not only do the
incentives change in often unintended ways, but employees often
have emotional reactions to the changes even if they are largely
9. Strategy and Planning – For many groups strategic
planning has become an annual ritual, but it frequently becomes an exercise in
tactical planning rather than true strategy development.
10. Mission, Vision, Values – The experience of writing
mission, vision and values statements can be a great opportunity for debate and
clarification for a group. But, leaders have to be cautious about declaring grandiose
visions that elicit more eye-rolling skepticism than aspiration.
11. New Technology Tool Implementation – While rarely
living up to the marketing hype, there are many new technologies that can help
improve communication, collaboration, management, and monitoring.
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I mean, it can programaticaly open a hole in a firewall... then any clever virus can do the same.
12. Assessments – Psychologists and consultants
have developed batteries of tests and surveys that can help clarify
the true state of your organization. In addition to your gaining
a better understanding of reality, the simple act of asking the
questions can help to raise awareness of issues in the group.
13. Coaching – Over the past 10 years, the formalized
process of individual coaching has become common in the corporate world. It provides
people with a coach who serves as a safe sounding board and provides unbiased
feedback. A coach also helps hold people accountable for commitments they make.
14. Mentoring – Mentoring differs from coaching in both
content and duration. While coaches allow the person being coached to drive the
process of individual improvement, mentors take a more active role in directing
the progress of the “mentee.” Mentors also work with their charges
for long periods of time, often years.
15. Outsourcing – With the constant pressure to reduce
costs, many large organizations have turned to outsourcing, especially outsourcing
services overseas. This approach is an attempt to improve the ROI on people not
by improving the return on investment but by reducing the investment. The jury
is still out about what sorts of work can be successfully outsourced. There is
also a growing backlash with many organizations re-insourcing their previously
The key to planning a successful organizational transformation is to select
the appropriate combination of interventions to meet the clearly articulated goals
around which you have already built consensus.
About the Author:
Paul Glen is the author of "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People
Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey Bass Pfeiffer, 2002) and Principal of C2
Consulting. C2 Consulting helps clients build effective technology organizations.
Paul Glen regularly speaks for corporations and national associations across North
America. For more information go to http://www.c2-consulting.com.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read this newsletter at: http://www.itmanagementnews.com/2003/0908.html