Tech & Work

Is your IT department governed by shared values?

Every IT department usually has a mission statement. It is

usually more verbose than necessary and drones on about how the IT department

will support the mission and objectives of the organization. They (mission

statements) are usually created because of the need to document the fact that

you have one.

Values are something different. The dictionary defines

values as: beliefs of a person or social group in which they have an emotional investment. Your IT department is a social group. What does it believe

as a group? Are these values expressed or are they just intrinsic to the group?

Does your IT department even have shared values? Or is it just an amalgamation

of people doing prescribed work from 8 to 5?

I personally believe that values are hugely important in an

organization. I think they are the heart and soul of the work group and are

what drives us to excel. I believe they play a huge part in creating an

environment where people like to come to work and a significant role in job


Values/beliefs of a workgroup come from management. Not just

in the form of words, but more importantly, through actions. Everyone can tell

when beliefs are only hollow words, just as they can tell when they are full of


I think it is an important and worthwhile exercise to put

down the values of your unit on paper. Are they what you want them to be? Will

these values guide your unit/workgroup towards excellence? Do they conflict

with your organization's mission? If you are not satisfied with the values,

then you must work to change them. Discuss them with your staff. Talk about why

they are important and how they are guidelines for how work is performed. Most

importantly, manage in a way that is consistent with them and that showcases


I recently came across a brochure from my old Government IT department

that I directed. On it, we had listed our values for our customers to see and

to judge us by. As I read these values again, several years after I had written

them, I realize that they are just as relevant now as they were then. More

importantly, I still believe them and

am confident of the fact that my staff shared in them as well. We all had an

emotional investment in them that drove us to excel.

I thought I might share them with you in the hopes that they

can help you as you develop the values for your own IT organization. Here is a

section from our brochure:

"We believe that we are different from your garden

variety technology organization because of our values. Our values set the tone

for everything we do and how we approach our work. These values are:

  1. We are a customer-focused, quality driven-organization.
  2. Flexibility, creativity, and initiative help set us apart from the ordinary.
  3. Teamwork:

    We value individuals ability to work together to achieve a common goal. We

    are able to compromise and learn from others. We promote cooperation and

    building consensus when working with others.
  4. Ethical

    behavior: We maintain a personal commitment to professionalism and

    integrity. We will bend over backwards to keep our promises.
  5. Leadership:

    We value those that lead by example. We encourage everyone to be a leader

    in his or her job.
  6. "Just

    do it:" We refuse to be mired in bureaucracy. We will seek to change

    established processes if they are ineffective or inefficient. We seek to

    avoid blaming processes and personnel as an excuse for delays or lack of

  7. We

    take pride in our work and strive to raise the standards by which we are

  8. We see change as an opportunity."

As you can tell, these are common themes that you have

probably seen before. Individually they are ordinary statements of commitment.

Taken as a group however, they form a strong foundation for providing excellent

services to customers and the organization.

These values were quite successful for us as a group and

went a long way towards helping to create a unit that performed far greater

than one would have expected given our numbers and our budget.

The point of this essay is not to force my values on anyone,

as they may not apply to your group or situation. Its purpose is to make you

think about values for your organization. It is worthwhile to document them,

not only because it makes you examine them in the context of your situation,

but it helps to establish a road map towards goals you wish to obtain. Additionally, you might find that the beliefs

of the group, while perfect for the organization, don’t fit your personal

beliefs. That then becomes the subject for a lot of soul searching…and another


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