Team Effort

How to create and get the most from a high-performance IT group

CIOs often create effective teams by articulating a vision that is aligned with business needs and rallying their people behind it. But to have a true step change into high performance, we must encourage everyone on our team not just to understand the vision and buy into the strategy, but also to have a sense of personal ownership over both.

Creating that environment makes the IT group's strategy more compelling for everyone involved, which leads to better results. One benefit to the bottom line, I've found, is that people on a high-performance team react differently when they see that someone else is running into trouble. In these situations, others will wade in to help, even if that project isn't their responsibility, because they're invested in creating a positive outcome. This has played a significant role in keeping project goals on target. It also has a remarkable effect on the morale of the team—which is a stark contrast to teams that are effective, but only because their members are competing with each other.

I first saw the results from fostering this group mentality six years ago, at another company, when I was in charge of information systems for marketing, supply and innovation—functions that don't necessarily mesh well and were not working together. I laid out a challenge to my leadership team: We could either continue to provide good service in individual areas, or determine a way to deliver excellent service for the entire company. Over the course of 18 months, we invested in establishing a team identity that resulted in solutions the business never would have received before.

One method I have used to bring people together at Tata is a 360-degree assessment tool with an emphasis on helping each other address the findings. Like all such evaluations, ours gives everyone clear areas for improvement, but we also take a look at all of the needs together, and we apply the entire group's skills to the improvement process.

That open culture of sharing weaknesses in order to build group strength leads to a tangible plan and process for investing in the team as an entity. It is also building the confidence to propose new ideas for business results, or to say no to requests that aren't feasible—actions that then create a higher level of trust in IT as a contributor to the bottom line.

Julia Warrack is the former group CIO of Tata Beverage Group in Greenford, England, and a member of the CIO Executive Council's Board of Advisors.

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This story, "Team Effort" was originally published by CIO Executive Council.

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