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StrategySep 24, 2015

IT Velocity Secret Weapons: Culture & Employee Engagement

Justin Bell

Many organizations are currently looking at how to make their IT function go faster.  There are often opportunities to improve processes and tools, including streamlining initial governance / initiation, adopting Agile methodologies, automating build-test-deploy (“DevOps”), modernizing architecture and identifying any other bottlenecks or friction points in the IT workflow.

In addition to these areas, I believe two of the largest gains (and potentially most difficult) are to focus on culture and increasing employee engagement.  No process, methodology or tool can fix a disinterested workforce or a stifling / low-performance culture.  Conversely, I believe that talented and highly motivated teams can accomplish great things – regardless of the processes and tools in place (they’ll often put them in place themselves and optimize over time).

A recent Gallup poll determined approximately 32 percent of US employees are “engaged”.  The ratings are defined by employees who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and commited to their work.

Improving culture and employee engagement are challenging initiatives.  It starts with the core leadership team of the company or department.  How they lead, conduct themselves, prioritize their time, interact with each other, and treat everyone around them will have a “trickle down” effect on the rest of the team.

Do you have a culture that encourages autonomy and de-centralized decision making?  Does it encourage collaboration and transparency?  Does it allow for small, occasional failures to allow for faster progress?  Does it encourage or stifle innovation and new thinking?  If not, it’s unlikely you’ll move fast until you change those things.

I recommend starting by conducting an employee (or team) survey to understand where you are today and identify areas of improvement.  From there, conduct a similar survey once or twice per year to compare to your baseline to see how things are improving over time.  If you improve your employee engagement and have an open mind to process and tool changes, then velocity will improve also.

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