As companies digitize their products, services, sales channels, and entire operations, all managers have to become more knowledgeable about and confident with technology. While this is undoubtedly a welcome move – given the huge role technology will play in all our lives – it does mean that line managers expect more from IT teams, and more quickly as well. They expect IT to be more agile in responding to requests and dealing with changes, anything from a project plan to an entire corporate strategy.
IT professionals themselves are feeling the pressure. More than one-third of IT employees say they complete their core work tasks too slowly, and their managers are even less charitable: over half report team execution is dragging, according to CEB data.
And this drag created by slow working doesn’t just generate waste within IT budgets, it also impedes major company initiatives like launching a new product or expanding to a new geography. In fact, 92% of IT employees admit they affect other functional colleagues when their work is too slow.
Two Ways to Change Behavior
While IT teams do hear the message that they need to speed up, this hasn’t been sufficient to change their behavior. Those IT employees who are most frequently the cause of gummed-up working say that it results from the importance their leaders, their colleagues – and sometimes even themselves – place on other priorities.
IT managers may think that they have appropriately communicated how important speed is to hitting corporate strategic goals, but employees still receive conflicting messages that then cause them to deprioritize it. Although employee skills and IT governance or assurance processes partly explain delays, employees place greater blame on team culture and the motivation they’re given to speed up their work
IT teams should take two steps to help their employees make speed a priority.
Help your employees make better tradeoff decisions: You can’t make senior IT execs a bottleneck. IT staff who work closely with business partners (such as, business relationship managers, program managers, and service managers) often have a better grasp of what’s needed and when, and so the best CIOs give them the tools and the discretion needed to make more decisions for themselves.
Although delegated decision making is faster than escalating decisions to a senior leader or a steering committee, unguided individual decision-making carries high risk. To get the benefits of delegated decision making without the pitfalls, CIOs should set guardrails. This can be done by providing visualization tools, decision criteria and objectives, and by moving decision making to virtual platforms that evaluate project requests before reaching IT.
Emphasize speed in both IT communication and performance measurement: IT leaders should not only make speed a clear and consistent theme in leadership communications, but should implement speed metrics and management objectives that measure and reward the types of behaviors they want to encourage.
In fact, performance metrics are some of the most effective ways to change IT team behavior, according to CEB analysis. Using metrics that emphasize speed and communicating how close IT is hitting those goals will quickly teach IT teams that their leadership cares about speed, and they should too.