The quickest way to build mini-champions for IT in your organization

The quickest way to build mini-champions for IT in your organization

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May 14, 2014
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A simple “thank you” can go a long way. I believe in building a culture of collaboration and transparency within the IT organization I serve because it gives everyone the opportunity to be an agent of innovation. Let me give you a small example of this, because I believe it’s something simple that any IT department could implement overnight.

Each month, I host an all-hands “Praise and Progress” meeting for our IT department. It’s a popular standing-room-only meeting that typically draws at least 200 of our 250 employees. During the meeting, 15 pre-selected employees have two minutes to talk about the progress of a project they’re most proud of and praise or thank someone outside of their immediate team for their help working on that project.

Not only is it educational for me, as vice chancellor and CIO for the organization, to hear their perceptions of the projects they’re working on, but it’s also helpful for the rest of the department to hear what their colleagues are working on.

More importantly, it’s the “thank-yous” that really count.

When employees thank someone outside the department who’s not at the meeting, I send that person an email letting them know they’ve been recognized, and I also thank them. Inevitably, they reply with a thank-you note about my team.

This exchange is meaningful. Besides helping everyone feel appreciated for their hard work, it also helps build mini champions for the IT department out among all the campuses and departments we serve. It allows me to kill poisoned seeds before they ever sprout. In fact, what happens is these simple gestures engage an entire community around an IT project, which helps build communities of practice. And that leads to true cultural change within the organization.

If you’re really trying to change an organization, remember that it’s not about you: It’s about the customers you’re serving. In my case, it’s about the students. It’s about their education, and it’s about fundamentally changing how they think about the world. That’s a hard thing to do. But the best way to do it is to get a community of dedicated professionals involved and, one-by-one, convince them that they can be an agent of innovation. Engage them in building the relationships and provide the scaffolding so that they can openly collaborate on building the next generation of leaders, and you will.

It’s amazing what a simple “thank-you” can help do.

For more from Curt Carver, watch his interview, "Building a culture of collaboration and transparency in IT."

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Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D. is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In this role servant leader and enabler of others, he leads a team of dedicated professionals focused on providing solution to the UAB through world-class IT with a focus on innovation, agility and cost efficiency.

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