Tuesday, 16 February 2010

My Dream IT Workplace

File this one under 'Something to aspire to'.

This is what my dream (evidence-based) ITSM workplace would be like. Cue the sound of harp strings...

Fisrtly (and continuing where I left off in my last post) when hiring or promoting permanent or even contract staff, the recruiter would perform job analyses and create person specs so that they increase their chances of bringing in someone who identifies with their work, and for whom the work has significance. This would mean that we'd be able to give the staff greater autonomy and we'd reap the myriad benefits that this brings (e.g. receptivity to change, motivation, innovation, job satisfaction, well being etc..). We'd also be recruiting individuals who have the values that can shape the organisational culture towards what we wish it to be.

Secondly the organisation would not have a formal hierarchy. If the selection was done correctly staff wouldn't need to be coerced to do their jobs. Authority wouldn't be built-in to the organisational structure rather it would - like natural leadership - wax and wane depending on a particular situation. Here's an example: if a new intranet needed to be built to enhance internal communication and knowledge, this project would be led by a couple of techies who had built excellent Ajax-based systems in their previous jobs or their spare time. Thus these knowledgeable people wouldn't be led by a clueless manager (perhaps who was promoted for all the wrong reasons). They would be appointed to lead the project based perhaps on some kind of internal bid process. Thus the enterprise would be run along the lines of Ricardo Semler's firms and perhaps based on principles of thinkers including Albert Cherns, Gerald Fairtlough and Claus Langfred with a few complexity principles thrown in. Check out these writers - they have lots of great stuff to say.

Thirdly, service and innovation would be promoted and rewarded. The enterprise owners would reward any initiative that resulted in these two outcomes. These values would be reinforced via the simple enterprise goals: "Innovative and exceptional service". This organisation would be closely entwinned with the business(es) it served and all staff would spend time with the customers understanding their issues. They would be positively encouraged to think of innovative service offerings and products to address customer issues and to make their working lives easier. In the world of web 2.0 we can all be doing this. They would also be rewarded for innovations that improved the internal operations of the organisation. And not only rewarded: they will also be given responsibility and autonomy. So if two hypothetical female staff had the idea to use a twitter-like tool to keep staff and customers informed during infrastructure changes, they would become responsible for the training, marketing, documentation and roll out of the utility. If it goes well they'll be recognised by colleagues and customers. If it goes badly... Well it won't. We hire the best remember?

In general staff would be involved with many aspects of the organisation. This organisation would turn textbook concepts like empowerment into real-life practices that power the organisation into the future. In a knowledge sector like IT why only tap into the learning of a few people at the top when you can use what is in the heads of all two-hundred people in that organisation. They'll have all sorts of tacit and additional knowledge that can help you. One may own a property in Croatia and may have ideas about ways in which you can penetrate the market there. Another may have worked for a medical organisation and sees the perfect application for one of your software products within that domain. If you make it difficult for them to innovate or offer good service they won't.

It sounds so good I wish I was working there now - but it's not pie in the sky. I've worked for some companies that have come close to the above and others who are the diametric opposite. Funnily the fortunes of these organisations tend to mirror the level of maturity of their people policies. Perhaps organisations should do more than just aspire to this. They should make it the reality and not just a reverie.

Ricardo Semler - Leading by Omission
Good introduction to complexity theory
Innovation & Autonomy at Ideo, California

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