IT Best PracticesProject Portfolio Management

Can Improv Align Business and IT?

In improv comedy, no one is safe and anything can happen. Putting it all on the line in the name of entertainment has a way of bringing out the best in someone, whether the performance ends with cheers or with the audience walking out. This same idea can be applied to IT business alignment according to Brian O’Neill at his blog.

O’Neill recognizes that when IT is misaligned, sometimes that is interpreted to mean that technology is being implemented just for the sake of having technology. No matter how “cool” that technology might be, the fact that it is cool is not in itself a justifiable reason to spend time setting it up. Even when the new technology really wows people with what it can do, if it does not directly apply to business activities currently going on, then it has to be set aside. However, as O’Neill notes, even when technology does match business activities, that does not necessarily mean IT and business have aligned.

Sometimes, the best and worst thing an IT department can do is listen exactly to what the business needs. When IT is only the faithful servant to the business, it operates more like the business’s shadow than as the skeleton that it really should be. To that end, O’Neill references the practices of Lisa Kavanaugh, chief product and technology officer at, who introduced improv comedy to the workplace as a means of building courage and creativity. These traits translate well back into IT performance:

In order to get the best results IT and Business project team members need to work together and collaborate to find the best solution. In improv, there are no bad ideas and you build on ideas instead of trying to find out why a certain idea would not work. The goal is to break down the walls between team members and create an environment where it is safe to bring up new ideas. This can be a tool to focus teams on solving the business problem instead of being too focused on the technology or too focused on not changing existing processes and as a result IT and the business will be aligned in the project and eventually all projects and decisions will be aligned.
Improv may be just the thing your IT department needs to inspire it to go that extra mile. At best, you’ll have an innovative solution that no one team member could have come up with on their own. At worst, your team will bond and become stronger performers.

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