Values and Vision

By Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl  |  Posted 2009-09-01 Print this article Print

IT organizations in need of cultural transformation could take some cues from the world of professional sports.

4. Triangulate your values: The foundation for a healthy culture is its values, and each leader was able to clearly communicate his values in three ways:

•       Verbally. Each leader was able to articulate his values through conversation. In doing this, each made his expectations clear, and each was clear on the behaviors and values that were important.
•       Day-to-day actions. Each leader was aware that employees, from players to front-office executives, were scrutinizing their actions on a regular basis. They had the insights to realize that even minute decisions and action had the potential to transmit their core values.
•       Critical decisions/crises. Crises always seem to arise in times of change, as there are those who resist change in order to maintain the status quo. During times of critical decisions, sport leaders were able to model their values through their actions.

In essence, leaders “triangulated” their values by communicating the same message to their followers from multiple directions.  They successfully removed the guesswork from their followers, many of whom were accustomed to toiling under less communicative leaders and their ambiguous guidelines.

5. Celebrate success: Although it would seem simple to determine whether a team has been successful in sport, this can be challenging at the beginning of a turnaround. After all, the team still lacks evidence in the wins column.

Therefore, it falls upon the leader to communicate smaller successes throughout the organization. Every success communicates a certain value (or values) that the leader wants to embed in the organization. By communicating successes, leaders were able to further engrain their values into the culture.

6. Think Independently: Each leader in this study made a concerted effort to continually question league and personal assumptions. “Why do we have to run 50 percent of the time and pass 50 percent of the time? Why can’t we pass 70 percent of the time?” These teams adopted processes to ensure that they anticipated and, in some cases, created the trends that lesser organizations fail to anticipate. To accomplish this, leaders surrounded themselves with individuals who were not afraid to challenge them. This free exchange of ideas allowed the organization to continuously improve, enhance their strategy and avoid complacency.

These sport executives realized that their product was people—and getting the players, coaching staff, front office, marketing team and scouting department to function like a unified team was the key to success.

Similarly, IT executives should examine the unity of their teams. The heads of infrastructure and operations, enterprise applications and the planning units in an IT organization often have competing goals—yet each group needs to work together in order to optimize the department.

Like successful sport executives, IT leaders should consider that their success lies not in their ability to identify and implement the latest and greatest technology. Evaluating, implementing and optimizing technology is what the department does, but an executive’s ability and willingness to lead others in the process of engagement will ultimately determine whether a turnaround is successful.

Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl are managing partners of Meno Consulting, a boutique-consulting firm that specializes in leadership development, organizational culture and team building.

Joe Frontiera, PhD and Dan Leidl, PhD, are managing partners of Meno Consulting,

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