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Formulating a new IT Team from legacy staff

By John Freemont ·
I've recently taken up a newly created position within a Government institution to bring together disparate teams and make them a working and cohesive unit.

My situation and the challenges I have are as follows and I would appreciate any advice from anyone who has gone through this before or any ideas on how to effectively handle the change management.

The individual teams (comprising any where from 1-5 people) are currently isolated in individual departments and have originally been directly responsible for the management and control of the IT infrastructure in those departments. Most of the staff within the teams are legacy and have been with the Government institution for anywhere from 5-25 years. Some are now feeling that the organisation doesn't value them as they were overlooked or rejected for the current position I hold and that the organisation felt it had to employ from external resources. There is also an overriding negativity towards the institution as a whole due to devaluation of the respect of the inhouse IT Staff and their ability to support a diverse infrastructure (some of this may actually be justified). Also amongst the staff themselves there is some negative attitudes towards other staff within the other teams.

So from all this I am meant to bring them together and form a working and customer service orientated support unit.

So I would really appreciate any suggestions as to supporting the change management process for this infrastructure.


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work on the positives

by Black Panther In reply to Formulating a new IT Team ...

What is the major reason for the change and how will the end user, the individual in the teams, the departments and the new cohesive unit benefit from these changes.

Do the teams all perform similiar support functions? Is their a mixture of Hardware and Software platforms supported different in each of the departments ie different skill sets required?

Find out what is happening now in each of the departments. Can their be one helpdesk or is it too diversified?

Will there be more opportunities for current IT staff, training, career advancement, job relocation??

Put yourself in their shoes and imagine it was happening to you!

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More details about you, please

by DC_GUY In reply to Formulating a new IT Team ...

You don't say much about your own history. If you don't have a long career in civil service, then there is a whole laundry list of things you need to learn in order to make sense of this situation.

I spent almost thirty years in municipal government IT and developed a reputation for being able to handle "personnel problems" such as some of what your facing. As a result, my unit became the dumping ground for all the "problem personnel."

Tell me more about your own background, perhaps I can help.

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More detail...

by John Freemont In reply to More details about you, p ...

Well, I've been involved in government organisations before but only for a relatively short period of time (about 2 years) and generally contracting. Have dealt with Government from the outside in due to corporates I have worked for as well and have seen some of the Government "mentaility" first hand but I don't believe enough to absorb all the "rich" culture this environment develops. So DC_Guy, I'll take whatever you can give in the way of advice :)

And thanks.

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You probably don't understand the workers

by DC_GUY In reply to More detail...

(Sorry I didn't catch your post sooner.)

Your use of the word "mentality" belies this, because it's really a "culture." The civil service environment selects for two specific demographic groups: those who can stand it, and those who, often because of discrimination, haven't been too lucky in the private sector. Various traits that characterize it include the following.

The patience of the Sphinx. Governments move at glacial speed. These folks haven't bothered to adapt to you because they figure you'll run away screaming in frustration before you can accomplish anything. There have been hundreds before you.

Little respect for authority. The only reason governments get anything done at all is that the little people keep them running DESPITE management. You're just the new authority. You can't fire or discipline anybody, and you don't even understand how the place works yet. They see you as in ineffectual impediment, not a resource. Guvvies speak their minds with impunity.

Leftists. Civil service is a quasi-socialist society. Rewards are not linked to production or merit. The man at the top makes less than ten times the man at the bottom, the classic egalitarian formula. Except for the few untouchable and unreconstructed old-timers, guvvies tend to be textbook liberals in their embrace of difference and compassion for the unfortunate. Most of them actually believe in their mission and have made peace with the fact that much of the money they take from us is wasted, because what they do accomplish with it is so grand.

If you are trying to sell your process improvements using the jargon of the right, you've already alienated them.

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These insights amaze me

by thelastword In reply to You probably don't unders ...

I am totally impressed with what I hear in these forums. Working at a gov't institution has been a HUGE culture shock for me and the insight I have gotten in here has been just great. I understand the situation way better now. Yes, it is a leftist vs. rightist thing, but the lefties are that way because they have no choice but to conform!! The trick is to not involve the people that much! Don;t even bother trying to manage them or anything else!!! Just find out your own project definition and see how the thing can get done somehow and by who depending on what you can squeeze from each individual personality.

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same sick institution I work for??

by thelastword In reply to Formulating a new IT Team ...

Change management will be another word for, there is nothing else to do here so here is your new job. Shutup and you can collect the check and eventually retire. You probably do not have the ability to do much about that in your own project either, be careful - you might end up like them! Change management will maybe be to listen and understand their gripes and help them somehow get to retirement which is what they have been trained to do - wait for retirement.
Due to lack of normal IT management, lack of training and opportunities, squelching of initiatives, they CAN'T do anything else, so how can you help them and at the same time say you won't be getting trained NOW either, we are hiring from the outside. If you want to manage change, you have to change something first. Inability to support a diverse infrastructure comes from the lack of ability of the institution itself to support ANY Kind of diversity, training, initiative or anything else. I would look at the current management, programs, staff opportunities,review process etc. What has ever been done to SUPPORT a diverse infrastructure by management. How has management Kaiiboshed ALL efforts by thwarting training programs, squelching initiatives and upgrades and otherwise abused and mismanaged the people, making them pay for the government free ride. And how are they again trying to make it look like the workers themselves are incapable thereby feeding the negativity so they can hire outside rather than train people. Its the same pathetic institution I work for! A ship that sunk a long time ago due to bad management, the only part floating is the parts directly attached to government funding. LOL

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The real challenges are not technical

by Potato Chip In reply to Formulating a new IT Team ...

From the looks at some of the responses, the "nothing satisfies me like blaiming someone else" crowd is still alive and active. I came into a situation somewhat similar eight years ago. I have been in IT management for 24+ years, and have been in IT for 36 years. I have worked in government, higher education, and for the past eight years have been director of an IT shop for a private organization. For the record, the best manager that I ever had was in a govt agency followed closely by higher education. The worst that I have ever had is in the current organization. I was hired unbeknownst to the staff to replace the current manager, but the current manager was left in his position, and I was told to make good use of him. Eventually through expansion and people leaving, we have now formed a very workable team. Started with 14 eight years ago, now have 55.
I was able to develop functional work teams utilizing supervisors both from within and outside. It's a continual job, however, to keep things running smoothly and requires communication overload. One of the traps that I fell into that I would recommend avoiding is solving their problems for them. Most workers are perfectly capable of solving their own issues and problems if they are given the authority and responsibility. Moving to that, however may be frightening for some of the staff.
You might start by having team meetings to determine strengths and desires followed by plans. I would also recommend as some point within the first 3 months, work with your HR division to bring the entire group togther to help formulate a new org.
Good luck

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That is precisely what is stifled in govt

by thelastword In reply to The real challenges are n ...

'They are capable of solving their own problems given the authority and responsibility'. Well in some of these institutions, that is the part that is totally lacking and has never been allowed so instead what you get is a bunch of complaining and passing the buck and even downright dirty tricks. This is a problem in the culture that is created by old-fashioned management techniques. Pretty soon, the workers and the management are enemies so to speak, one thinking the other is lazy, the other thinks the management is incompetent. The model doesn't include project management, business goals, and tangible results or recognition of efforts, training and all that normal stuff you see in a business organization so without that stuff how can you just sit there and say ok, how do we change the people. First, lay out the projects and then start doling them out to people and give expectations on methodologies, results, time limits etc. What is the end goal of the project and what are the barriers the people are coming across, maybe if the people can discuss the barriers as they see them, openly, then some of that can be moved away from...

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Positive . . .

by Meesha In reply to That is precisely what is ...

. . . change is quite difficult within a public sector environment. Culture is everything. If the "apple" at the top of the barrel is bad does this mean every apple on down is? I choose to manage my teams with positives rather than negatives or micro management, for example, when a team member has an idea of how to "better service" or a better development direction/idea I request a proposal from him/her and we then acknowledge, evaluate, discuss and approve as a team. Everyone has an equal say. I found that although the buck stops with me, they never let me down when they have direct input. We still have bad leadership at the top but we've overcome as much of it as possible by being respective and inclusive to each other. For public sector environments this sounds like "pie in the sky" but trust me we have had measurable successes as a large team as well as independent teams. Our group is now recognized and valued, a sort of measuring stick for other areas of our public corporation. No, we can't reward with monetary incentives but allowing these very competent people to drive where ever possible allows them to rise to the challenges. Corporate culture doesn't change because you want it to. It has to start somewhere, why not with you. Find out where the changes you need to make will deliver the best bang for the buck, not just corporately, but for each individual.

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Negative? Disgruntled?

by royala In reply to That is precisely what is ...

Looks like we have a negative and disgruntled opinion of government management, for whatever reason. Management is management, period. And it's what you make of it, or what you learn about it before you try to make something of it.

THERE IS a new management style taking over the business world, and it will happen....and those who cannot change the old culture and hierarchical method of thinking are going to be left behind, as well as the entities/organizations that support it.

DC guy, if you want to get some advise from an expert, get the book Internal Markets: Bringing the Power of Free Enterprise Inside Your Organization by Bill Halal. He is the Professor of Management at George Washington University, and has consulted to AT&T, General Motors, and the US Government to name a few. The book highlghts may organizations, and Part Three is about the Public Sector with a chapter called "10 ways to Turn DC Around" and "Restructuring the Federal Government".

If you don't get any ideas to use from this, then I would say fall back on one-sided opinions like the previous one which are of no help, just frustrating!


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