A Business Technology Place

The purpose statement – etched and forgotten?

The Purpose statement.

Does it answer the why question? Is it simple and easy to remember? Does it motivate and rally people to a common cause? Does it provide long term direction?

I’m a believer in purpose statements for organizations. But I haven’t always seen them worked, presented, discussed, referenced, or memorized.  Writing a purpose statement is hard work. So why do so many organizations just put the statement in a document and rarely reference it again?stone

The next step.

I’ve been a member of two organizations that kept the purpose statement in front of members.  Both of organizations were churches. The statement was both printed in the weekly bulletin and referenced when the church performed activities. The statements were simple, concise, easy to memorize, and actionable. They just worked.

But I’ve been in other organizations that either didn’t have a purpose statement, didn’t publish it, or had one that was almost half a page of jargon and corporate speak. Putting a purpose statement into circulation and practice is hard too. It requires intentional actions. It requires consistent application. In a word, it requires purpose.

Some practical steps to put the purpose statement into circulation.

  1. Ask group members or employees if they identify with the purpose statement. Does it motivate them and help them feel like their work contributes to a greater whole.
  2. Start placing the purpose on documents used for employee communications. Keep it visible and not just hanging on a wall.
  3. Reference and align the purpose statement when tactical decisions are made. Explain how activities, projects, and decisions align to the purpose.

I need to follow my own advice on this topic. It’s a wake-up call to keep thinking with long term purpose in mind.  Otherwise we might just go the direction the wind blows.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

– Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

 

Onward and Upward!

 

What are you known for?

What’s your vision for IT?

I was asked to answer that question in a group meeting.  I didn’t think for long about it because I knew the answer.

“My vision is for IT to be known for service and solutions over processes.”

In my 20+ years as an IT professional I have learned that IT is obsessed with processes.  ITIL, Agile, and ISO 27001 are some of the process visionstandards that come to mind. They all have good intention and reason for being.  That is, they exist to make IT services predictable, repeatable, and delivered at the highest quality standard.  Yes! We certainly need more of that.

Then the disconnect happens.

IT gets disconnected from customers when the process becomes the goal.  This shows itself in many forms. Works comes to a halt because a form wasn’t filled-out. The helpdesk won’t help a customer because they don’t use an approved browser.  A software update doesn’t get applied because it didn’t make the cut-off for inclusion in the change control committee.  These types of examples start to happen when IT employees are more concerned with checking a box or filling in a template than they are in understanding the business problem that needs a solution.

This isn’t a good position to be in because the process starts to overshadow the service and solution that IT is providing.  The customer is concerned with finding a solution and receiving service. Do customers love Chick-fil-A, Disney, and Apple because of their processes? Certainly not. The average customer isn’t even aware of the internal processes of these popular brands. What the average customer does see are organizations that provide a set of services in such a way that the service and solution put the customer in the foreground.

Back to my vision.

So my vision is for IT to come to the table as a solution provider, not a process enforcer. I’m not critical of the process, because the process exists with a good purpose. What I am critical of is when the process is used as an excuse to stop focusing on solutions. I am critical when the following the process is becomes bigger than the customer. The ultimate solution is not what IT thinks is best, but what solves a problem or need for the customer.

It is possible for processes to peacefully coexist in high service environment. Have you ever noticed how fast the Chick-fil-A drive through line is? But to get there requires a change in mindset.  It’s a mindset that starts with wanting to make the customer successful.  It’s a mindset that finds joy in solving problems.  It’s a mindset that finds compromise as an acceptable alternative. I believe that when the service and the solution are the forefront, the process takes care of itself.

That’s my vision. What’s yours? What do you want to be known for?