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Blog: What's Culture Got To Do With IT?

Blog: What's Culture Got To Do With IT?

A theory: thinking about their organization's culture may not come naturally to CIOs and IT managers.

Not so surprisingly, when you search the various websites targeting IT executives, there's not too much recently to indicate this topic is top-of-mind. And yet culture, enabling or disabling, can impact everything in an IT organization, from recruiting to productivity to job satisfaction to retention.

So what is a positive culture? According to a recent report by Forrester, it's one in which "individuals are motivated, collaborate well, go beyond the minimums of their jobs and take ownership to produce results."

According to Hanley Brite, co-founder of Authentic Connections, so often it's the culture that produces what he describes as an "IQ discount" - we look for people with an IQ of 120, then put them in structures where they can operate with an IQ of 80 - so people adjust their own expectations and work style down to that."

From my own observation, these negative IT cultures seem to sort themselves into types - here are a few: blame cultures, where a named someone must always be at fault, heads-down cultures in which information is not readily shared and perhaps even withheld, heroic cultures in which individuals rescue a specific situation, but the overall organization may suffer.

And of course some companies foster more positive worlds: they seem to have people-first cultures where the impact on staff is top-of-mind, where work-home balance is important, and where communication and transparency is a given, or work-hard, play hard cultures, where camaraderie develops -- maybe people even have fun (!), mistakes are tolerated, and perhaps even continuous learning from mistakes is encouraged and expected.

So I ask you:should IT executives think about the culture in their organization, evaluate how positive it is and deliberately try to change it? Or do CIOs just inherit these cultures and live with (or perhaps be oblivious to) them?

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