The Exchange

The Exchange

The Voice of the CIO Community

By Martha Heller, Director CIO Best Practice Exchange

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Our online community of worldwide IT executive members meets often to trade tips, tactics and best practices. To learn more, visit

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Six Ways to Boost Morale

If down times have stalled your staff’s productivity and depressed its outlook, add these tools to your management arsenal and watch them bounce back

In 1999, It was fun to manage IT workers. You were liberal with bonuses, provided a stream of sexy new projects and created a career path filled with opportunity. Now, your job as manager is not quite as much fun. The spectre of layoffs hangs in the air. Training has disappeared and, for many IT workers, so has the dream of a successful career in IT. No wonder your staff is a little depressed.

But according to members of the Best Practice Exchange, you can keep morale up when the chips are down if you include six basic elements in your management toolkit.

  • Training. Skills development is probably more important to IT workers than to any other type of employee. So get rid of the parties and the vending machines, but keep a decent training fund in your budget. And try some cheap alternatives. For example, Steve Agnoli, CIO of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, arranged a Microsoft-led .Net concepts and applications training course for his systems development staff at no charge to the firm. The class provided an informed evaluation of how the .Net framework might work at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, and Microsoft benefited from showcasing its new technology solution to an eager client audience.
  • Recognition. Whether your bal-ance sheet is in the red or black, your people want to know that they matter, and proving it to them doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here’s an idea that works for Lee Lichlyter, VP and CIO of Butler Manufacturing: Every quarter, IT staffers nominate peers for an outstanding effort in technical wizardry, service excellence or value creation. Staff and senior management vote, and the winners receive a modest cash award and a giant silver cup engraved with their name, which they keep until the next quarter.
  • Financial rewards. Let’s face it, money talks. So make sure that even in tight times you dip into the pot, especially for your “A” players. “Despite some recent layoffs, we continue to reward outstanding performance with spot bonuses,” says Tom Smith, CIO of Waste Management. “And we have reaffirmed that our [various] benefits have been retained. All of these statements let our employees know that Waste Management will continue to treat them as the valuable assets they are.”
  • Communication. The combina-tion of fear and ignorance is powerful, indeed, so keep your employees in the loop. Weekly meetings, open-door policies and regular visits with employees will help quell the rumours that are often damaging to staff morale. “Our CEO has a quarterly ‘all-hands’ call in which he tells everyone what we’ve done and what our plans are,” says Bob Odenheimer, senior VP of IT at Magellan Behavioural Health. “Thirty minutes of narrative and 30 for questions are a big help with staff morale. You’d be surprised what it means to employees when they can ask their CEO direct questions and get a real answer.”
  • Alignment. As Andrew Dillane, IT director at CNC Global, puts it: “There is a direct relationship between morale and an individual’s ability to contribute.” So make sure all members of your IT staff get to sink their teeth into the projects that bring the most value to the enterprise. Soon after he became CIO of The Huntington National Bank in March 2001, Joe Gottron and his team worked closely with the business units and the finance department to replace an ineffective “all you could ask for” work-request system and a “who you knew” prioritisation system with a chargeback process for application development and project management. This new process has dramatically improved productivity and morale. “The new process provides interconnectivity between projects, budgets and resources,” says Gottron. “Today, business unit priorities are very clear, and the technology team knows that what they’re working on truly matters to the business. That creates a great deal of energy and motivation.”
  • Leadership. Jeff Chasney, CIO of CKE Restaurants, contributes up to 2 per cent of his annual salary for recognition parties, employee events, dinners and employee awards. Scot Klimke, vice president and CIO of Network Appliances, directs his more seasoned staff to work with the Gen X-ers and to give them the assurance that caps on IT spending do inevitably come to an end. Now is the time to look up from your spreadsheets, take a minute between meetings and use all of your leadership energy to make life a bit more pleasant for those who have chosen to follow you.

Peer Counsel

Six Sigma

Q: We are considering using Six Sigma in my organisation. Can someone who has experience with it provide some lessons learned?

A: At JP Morgan Chase, Six Sigma is the business process re-engineering (BPR) methodology. The company has adopted the methodology, trained people on it and certified them as experts. The rigour of Six Sigma has given us a great framework for creating clear deliverables and for measuring process improvements. Some lessons learned:

  • Make sure you have management commitment. You cannot take a serious BPR approach to automation projects without it.
  • Pay attention to the relationship between your Six Sigma BPR and the software development life cycle you have in place. Make sure the touch points between the BPR and the architecture efforts are clear and that deliverables are aligned and clearly defined. The project’s governance body should have representation from the business, Six Sigma, operations and technology.
  • Six Sigma provides a rigorous set of tools for defining goals and measuring baseline and improvements. It also includes a “voice of client” element used to understand clients’ perceptions of existing processes and how they should be improved. The business community needs to understand how well the project is tracking to its goals, which are aimed at solving issues that clients consider most important.
  • Be flexible and work in iterations. Any major project takes time, in large measure because the business environment continues to change while analysis and implementation efforts are under way. Be ready to iterate, and continually refine your re-engineered processes and their automation.


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