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First workshop

I understand culture change and I have read a lot, but it is not a familar stamping ground. Until I grok it, the writing does not flow. What does one do? I called on trusted local friends and colleagues to help; organised a workshop, a brainstorm.

So I thank Pat Ryan, Jonathan Hay, Paul Monk, Gill England (my sister), Harvey Calder, Tracy Street, Mike Purcell, and Steve Swallow who all turned out (and Alison who tried but couldn't make it). And Pat's employer, Resultex, for their hospitality. This was the brief:

. As an industry we bang on about People Process Technology as some holy triumvirate, but far too many people at far too many organisations pay far too much attention to the Technology aspect. The industry is slowly being dragged toward a process focus –at last - by ITIL. The People aspect finishes a distant third.
Why is that? Why doesn’t IT value People as much as the toys? Is that true?
What really matters about IT’s people/culture?
How should it be?
What can we do about it?
How do we tell we are succeeding?
Come talk about IT culture. I value your thoughts, and I hope you will also be rewarded by the discussion.
If you want my views on PPT as background see http://www.itskeptic.org/people-practices-things

We had a great discussion. I had planned it ot be structured but it took on a life of its own and we gathered a lot of ideas, which I wrote down as best I could:

    In the mainframe days there were clearly defined procedures to be followed and disciplined environment controls. Operators dare not diverge. This was mature level 3 process – defined and documented and repeatable. But we did not think about process per se and we didn’t think about management, measurement or improvement much. It was at a work procedure level.

    Later people moved into IT from non-It backgrounds, from finance and admin and the shop floor. Another group arose from the freewheeling world of the web and 4gls and PC-based development. Both groups had less disciplined approach to computing and much process was lost.
    Now regulatory compliance and other forces are bringing back discipline and definition and frameworks.
    This is not always a good thing: we lose agility and responsiveness and lose focus on the business

    Certainly the attitudes were different “back then”. We were inward looking and technology-centric. We went to work for the challenge of the technology. We got paid to play with toys.

    Over the years awe as individuals and as an industry have had a few knocks and learned to pay attention to the business, to be outward looking.
    It is important to have line-of-sight: don’t need to understand business-speak but need to be able to see the end user, to understand the consequences of what we do. We need to have a sense of purpose, of connectedness with those who use what we do.

    Culture of the organisation is important, is key to success. Some good local examples are
    HP
    ASB (They use First Break All the Rules, Buckingham and Coffman)
    In fact all the banks
    HDS – a great turnaround success tory
    Air NZ
    Process may not be great but the attitudes and morale are.

    The sourcing/supply model of business is popular. A CIO sources services for the business. The supply may or may not come from within.
    Most problems are a result of a breakdown/disconnect in the value chain somewhere between supply delivery and sourcing requirements – supplying to the wrong model.

    What do we mean by people? Those within IT or those impacted by IT as well? [I like to say those who do IT and those who have IT done to them]
    Crossover with the business is improving. But there are those who get it and those who don’t, oil and water. Few people get both business and technology

    We do better at cultural change with the business than we do internal to IT. IT still treats too many things as out of scope, but the business picks it up and deals with it. Business readiness gets done. We don’t do IT readiness so much. Project planning for change should include getting IT to do internal cultural change

    We can find people obstructing communication at the business/IT interface even though people, on both sides want to engage.

    A flip side is getting business to take responsibility instead of leaving it to IT. Work around, really need it…?

    IT is maturing. We’ve gone from technology-centric to process-centric and now an emerging professionalism

    Culture means beliefs and values; and from those, norms: “how we do things round here”.

    People issues in IT include
    • Personal development – broader base of knowledge
    • Line management
    • Culture
    • Coaching (couple the geek to a generalist)

    IT people characterised by
    • High IQ
    • Technical orientation
    • Low EQ, people skills
    • Blue/green people [I forgot to ask – what model is this?]

    There is an IT skills framework, called SFIA [http://www.sfia.org.uk/]. Does SFIA cover soft skills? [Hmmmm “Human factors: Ergonomics, Usability. Learning and development: education, training, resources”. That’s a fail]

    Team learning vs individual learning. IT learning is often intensely individual, lonely. When it is team it can be unguided, feral packs of IT geeks creating their own introverted value sets (think Lord of the Flies, Golding, or Raising Boys, Bidulph)

    Often set our own limiters – need to break out of the shell. What if you had to do ten times as much? Break them (if they haven’t already bonded too strongly) then build them up again. Take out of comfort zone. Create intense boiler environments, e.g bid writing
    Spend a day at the start setting team values
    Boot camp, simulate experiences before they happen, understand what broken feels like

    Ethnic cultural diversity in teams is introducing breadth of ideas, ability to be more open minded, better people skills.

    Need to develop empathy between IT and users. IT don’t market ourselves. Folk don’t appreciate the mutual value

    What happened to the big glass rooms behind reception – used to be proud of our computing.
    Then the priesthood developed, got detached.
    Then everyone’s kid was a guru – lose respect, democratisation

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