Building High Performance IT Teams

Saturday, 10 September 2011 11:38 Admin CIO2CIO
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On the face of it, building high performance IT teams should not be different from building any high performance team; in sports, finance or even in construction except that domain technical expertise tends to occasionally skew the view of those who are appointing team leaders in IT.

As an individual evolves from pure technical roles to management, within an information technology department, they will hopefully observe that it isn’t the technology that is progressively becoming more difficult, but the people. Humans are dramatically different than machines or software programs. People have emotions, like to test the limits and often do not abide by the rules of logic. Building an effective information technology team is an important goal for any CIO whether he or she comes up though the raks of the IT organization or is appointed from outside the organization. The behavior and performance of the IT team is a direct reflection of the CIOs management skills. In terms of value center analysis, a concept by Michael Porter, negative team performance can affect the supporting role that information technology plays for a particular organization. To effectively create such a team, a CIO must define (or redefine) and understand the various roles within his organization, become acquainted with the team members, set goals, help the department to learn to function as a team, and successfully incorporate and integrate new team players when necessary.


The Role of the CIO
CIOs sometimes fail to realize that their new position distances them from a technological role and puts them in charge of human resources. Technology decisions are not the most difficult decisions in IT; people decisions are the ones that often create long lasting success or put you on a long bumpy road.  Information Technology managers have three critical roles: facilitate the processes which promote team building, ensuring that behavior and performance match expectations, and acting as a mentor to help other team members improve their performance. Hence getting to know the team is arguably the most important step to building the team experience. This is a process that occurs on a daily basis. As an information technology manager begins to learn their staff they can begin to make an inventory of their professional and personal skills which will be an asset to the team. This step can help the manager to determine the role of key information technology personnel. This allows management to delegate responsibilities to those whom are best qualified to handle a particular task.

Establish Roles and Responsibilities
During the process of learning the team, the manager will quickly be able to ascertain which team members should be assigned a particular role within the information technology department. These roles should be assigned based on two criteria: expertise and ability to work with others in the department to accomplish tasks that support the goals associated with the assigned roles. Precise role assignment will help to eliminate overlaps. Overlaps in job responsibilities oftern cause ambiguity. Ambiguity that is not resolved can lead to team conflicts and ultimately resentment, reducing team\s ability to perform and overcome it challenges.
The first role that a CIO must establish is arguably his/her own. After this role has been ascertained, the rest of the management roles must be defined and communicated in a clear and concise manner with each individual member of the team.

Setting Goals
Setting goals should be established after the various roles have been created in the department. During this stage, it is important for management to communicate with the organization as a whole to see where information technology can support the value chain. When determining these goals it is critical for management to establish reasonable projects and deadlines for their department. Should the expectations be set too high or too low, the impact on department morale could be damaging. Setting these goals requires intimate knowledge of key team players who will be involved with the project, their pace, and comfort levels, Once goals have been established between the CIO and other departments for information technology to support the organization as a whole, it is the CIO’s role to communicate expectation to his team leaders or managers who can then break these goals up into milestones and establish the methods best suited for accomplishment of those goals. Successful accomplishment of goals is critical because it will increase information technology’s stature within the organization as a whole indirectly leading to increased levels of trust.

Functioning as a team
Getting to know the team is a continual process that becomes intense when the information technology department begins to be assigned specific goals and projects to carry out. There are four stages to functioning as a team as defined by Psychologist Bruce Tuckman. These stages are: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. During the forming stage a team within the information technology department is selected to accomplish specific goals. When the team has formed and all team members have been introduced, the process of storming begins. This is often the most difficult stage for a team because of the various levels of knowledge, personalities, and experiences presented by each member of the team. The manager’s role is most critical during this process, they must ensure that personality conflicts are resolved and ultimately do not derail the team’s ability to meet its goals. After the resolution of most conflicts the process of norming occurs, where by a hierarchy for each project is established. The performing stage of team development where the team carries out its intended functions begins after that. During this stage, management needs to promote the team building experience, rewarding successes and helping the team learn from its failures.



The role of an information technology manager is complex and quite unique. Their first challenge is to discover their own role. This can be a challenge for some information technology managers if they have an information technology background. This is due to their comfort level with technology and lack of interpersonal communications skills in the work place environment. But it is important to remember that the CIO can’t perform these tasks if he/she does not know the people within his organization and that is something you can’t learn if you do not spend time both in formal and informal communications with the broadest possible group from the IT department. A CIO must be approachable, available and willing to listen and learn about his people.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 10 September 2011 11:54


0 #4 Rawya Nafie 2011-12-02 21:16
My question is where is the difference between building high performance teams or high performance IT teams .. or is there a difference?

In my mind the highly specialized nature of IT people makes it more difficlut but also more important to get the team right.

But this does not mean I can tell you how to deal differently with building high performance IT teams ..
0 #3 Vicotr Chammas 2011-10-20 20:51
Really it is people that is the hardest part of the CIO job, and this is just one of the difficult people issues .. building high performance teams.
0 #2 H Al Ajmi 2011-09-27 07:41
I feel the article misses two things, when you take over as a new CIO, there will be projects already running, teams in place which you cannot break in order not to geopardise ongoing projects.

The second thing missed by this article is how to deal with the status que .. people have been there, they have been assigned roles and responsibilitie s, they will resist change they do not want to go again into the melting pot.

Real life chanllenges for real like CIOs .. aren't they?
0 #1 Wagdi Shafique 2011-09-10 12:06
Thanks for sharing nice piece.
I would like to say that whather the CIO grew within the ranks of the IT organization or comes from outside, he should re learn about the people and re thing the organizational structure in both cases

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