>Is there an IT leader in the House?

>

True IT leadership means that those who are in charge of information technology really care about and drive the success of the mission, the satisfaction of the customers, and the well-being of their employees.

To me, these three critical leadership focus areas are tied to the areas of people, process, and technology.

People: The people are your people—your employees. This is the area of human capital that unfortunately many leaders say is important, but all too often remains mere lip service. We need to focus on providing an environment where our employees can thrive professionally and personally. Where there is challenge and growth. Where we match the right people to the right jobs. Where we provide ongoing training and the right tools for people to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Where we treat people as human beings and not as inanimate economic objects that produces goods and services.

Process: The process is the mission and the business of our organization. As IT leaders, we need to ensure that our technology is aligned to the organization. Business drives technology, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake. Everything IT that we plan for, invest in, execute, support, secure, and measure needs to be linked to enabling mission success. IT should be providing solutions to mission requirements. The solutions should provide better information quality and information sharing; consolidation, interoperability, and component re-use of our systems, and standardization, simplification, and cost-efficiency of our technology—ALL to enable mission process effectiveness and efficiency.

Technology: The technology is the satisfaction we create for our customers in both the technology products and services that we provide to them. Our job is ensuring technology WOW for our customers in terms of them having the systems and services to do their jobs. We need to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, anywhere they need it. We must to service and support our IT customer with a white glove approach rather than with obstructionist IT bureaucracy. We shall find a way—whenever possible—to say yes or to provide an alternate solution. We will live by the adage of “the customer is always right”.

Recently, in reading the book. “The Scalpel and the Soul” by Dr Allan J. Hamilton, I was reminded that true IT leaders are driven by sincere devotion to mission, customer, and employee.

In the book, Dr. Hamilton recalls the convocation speech to his graduating class at Harvard Medical School by Professor Judah Folkman whose speech to a class of 114 news doctors was “Is There a Doctor in the House?”

Of course there was a doctor in the house, there was 114 doctors, but Professor Folkman was pointing out that “these days, patients were plagued by far too many physicians and too few doctors.” In other words, there are plenty of physicians, but there are few doctors “in whom you put your trust and your life”—those driven by sincere devotion and care for their patients, the success of their medical treatment, and their fellow practitioners.

While an IT leader is not a doctor, the genuine IT leader—like the real doctor—is someone who sincerely cares and acts in the best interests of the organization’s mission, their customers, and their people.

Just like when there is a doctor in the house, the patient is well cared for, so too when there is a genuine IT leader in the C-suite, the organization is enabled for success.

>Take Care of Your Employees and Enterprise Architecture

>

User-centric EA is focused on the users, but also on the employees in the organization.

In Fortune Magazine, 3 September 2007, Kip Tendell the CEO of the super successful Container Store states “Put Employees Before Customers: If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of the customers—and that will take care of the shareholders. To myopically focus on the shareholders is wrong. So we invest heavily in our employees.”

Applying this to the government is somewhat different than the private sector for a few reasons:

  • Citizens versus customers: We don’t have customers in the traditional sense of people purchasing goods or services, but we do have our citizens whom we serve by delivering services that they pay for through taxes.
  • Stakeholders versus shareholders: We don’t have shareholders to be concerned about, but we do have plenty of stakeholders, including lots of oversight from the Department (to which the agency reports), the Inspector General, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the General Accounting Office (GAO), The Hill, the media, and so on.
  • Essential services: The nature of the services being provided are of a different caliber than most in the private sector (this is not a put down to the private sector—in fact, I came to the government from the financial services industry). The services that the government provides such as law enforcement, defense readiness, consumer safety, health management, social services, and so on are absolutely critical to the functioning of an orderly society.

Based on these differences between public and private sectors, I do not think that government can afford to put employees before citizens (given the critical nature of the services provided to all of us). However, I do believe that treating employees well is a prerequisite to them providing good service and to meeting performance objectives and achieving mission execution.

Let’s face it, people respond better to honey than to vinegar. Institute market based pay, a culture of merit, pay for performance, and in general treat employees fairly and with respect, and they will deliver for the citizens of this country.

Every EA plan should include goals, objectives, and strategies that promote the employee, since they are the enterprise’s most critical asset in achieving the mission.