You’ve probably felt the strain. It’s the strain of working within an organization that doesn’t do what you do. For example, your organization might create and sell sports equipment. Maybe you love sports, but there’s still a definite split between what you and your IT team does and what the rest of the organization does. Everybody else has one objective: Serve the customer. Your job, on the other hand, is to make sure everyone else in the company can do their job.
This strain can create a disconnected between your organization’s purpose and values and the purpose and values of the technology team. This threatens the structure, identity and efficiency of your team. If your team is struggling to stay healthy and motivated, consider these approaches to help build values, structure and identity into the DNA of your team.
Talk About Culture
Ask your team what’s important to them. Anything goes in this discussion. This is a time for the team to decide what kind of environment they want to work in. Suggestions will range from office items (like needing a refrigerator) to how meetings are run.
It’s your job to make these things happen (within reason). For example, the team might ask for a more relaxed environment. One approach to make this happen might be to start the day with donuts (once in a while), play some music and arrange the furniture to create space and comfort.
Discuss the Organization’s Purpose
How does your team view the organization? Then ask the team if that purpose applies to them. You might be surprised by the team’s response. Some will feel that they directly support the organization’s mission while others will feel that it’s totally irrelevant to them. Your goal is to line up your team’s purpose with the organization’s purpose, and to create values that support the purpose.
That’s easier said than done, so let’s use the sports and recreational equipment example. The organization’s purpose might be, “To provide high quality equipment that helps people have fun and connect with the world around them.” Decide on which part of the mission statement means the most to your team. “To provide high quality equipment” probably wouldn’t be that motivating to your team, but what about “helps people”? Most people find value in making other people’s life better.
Of course, you don’t serve that customer directly so you need to draw a line between that purpose and your team. Talk about how the supports that part of the mission. Talk about why what you do is valuable. And bring this subject up more than once. Try to discuss it, at least for a few minutes, once a week during a meeting.
Build Structure That Accomplishes the Purpose
Talk about the processes that will allow you to accomplish your purpose. This might mean that you need to reorganize the order in which you complete tasks. It might mean assigning a single person to monitoring the database full time. It might mean putting a more concerted effort into managing remote campuses. The structure really depends upon you and the team. But it’s very important you have a clear plan and processes to complete the goal, otherwise your team will feel frustrated that they don’t have the tools they need to accomplish their tasks.
Remember that it’s your job to clear the way for your team to succeed. As much as it is your job to make sure they get the work done, it’s your job to make sure they have the tools to do so – and a clear purpose is one of those tools. All of this will take time, true, but in the end you’ll save time by increasing efficiency and decreasing frustration.