When IT culture changes with or without you

When IT culture changes with or without you

Summary: Are you suddenly a bad fit for your IT department?Workplace culture is one of those terms you hear HR professionals, executive strategists and job boards throw around all the time, but what it means is generally less clear--and usually depends on who's doing the talking.


Are you suddenly a bad fit for your IT department?
Workplace culture is one of those terms you hear HR professionals, executive strategists and job boards throw around all the time, but what it means is generally less clear--and usually depends on who's doing the talking. HR pros often speak about their workplace's culture in terms of selling their attitude toward work to new candidates, execs in terms of employee productivity and the bottom line and job boards to goad you into a better one, perhaps one that is a better fit for you.

However, what all have in common is that conversations about workplace culture are more often about "transforming" or changing it than embracing the status quo.

IT is no different. In a new report, Forrester interviewed 15 CIOs and 41 IT decision makers about IT culture, and signs--from an unclear IT mission to a top heavy decision-making process or employees that are discouraged from extending their skills sets--that an overhaul is needed. Though CIOs and IT leaders are advised on how to go about making big changes to their IT culture, less is said about what changes could mean for the staffers within the department.

"It depends on the nature of the change," explained principal analyst and report author, Marc Cecere. A culture change from decisions being made from a large to a small group of people might force an employee to quickly adjust the way they get things done. A change from a U.S.-centric IT organization to a global one might put pressure on a worker to adjust their schedule, and their way of communicating with customers to fit the culture.

However, the message is that the onus is on the IT professionals to adapt to the changes being made within their departments. Yet most employees have from time to time felt that the culture of their group was changing and perhaps leaving them behind. Is the only option to quietly plot one's escape?

"First you'd want to make sure that things have really changed in a way that shuts you out. Sometimes you just perceive that things aren't going your way. This is something that happens on the lower levels of the organization, where they only see a small part of the organization," said Cecere.

"If the change is not in sync with your ethics, that's one thing. But if it's about the way decisions are made, who makes the decisions, global versus local, that is not in sync with what you think it should be, consider how much it matters, or consider that you might just be dealing with what you know versus what you can learn."

Topic: CXO

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  • Last paragraph is the punch line

    If the cultural changes aren't in sync with your ethics and higher ups aren't listening, then it's time to hand in the resignation. Otherwise, assuming you can stand it, adapt, positively influence the culture as best you can, and go about your business.
    John L. Ries
  • Hah! The farce of "corporate culture" is still alive.

    These are always driven from the top levels, which somehow think they can try to change people in order to garner larger executive payouts. The only effective changes are those driven by those who actually get things done, when they see a real need to change a process.

    And as for "corporate values"...we have a list of "corporate values" where I work...total joke! Values are not a corporate thing. People have personal values. There is a subset that almost all people share (honesty, fairness, etc.). Others vary depending on religious beliefs, ethnic background, etc. Any company that has to promulgate a list of "corporate values" from on high is simply not placing the right emphasis on personal character to begin with during its hiring processes. But then, what can we expect when societal norms have begun to embrace certain decadent personal values as just another "lifestyle". Controversial statement, maybe...but that is indeed very indicative of the "cafeteria ethics" that results in Enrons and executive excess. It becomes merely a game of "what can't we do to stay out of jail, while still maximizing *personal* gain".

    Enough games. Let's return to *real* values based on character and virtues. Yeah, where did that word come from? No longer taught in our schools, despite the fact that they are not "religion" per se - the Greeks understood the concept of the various virtues, and its if you wanna "transform" corporate culture, or maybe even society in general...that would be the only way to do it.
    • Cultures do develop...

      ...but for the most part they evolve internally, rather than being dictated by top management. Unless senior executives actually do what Hewlett and Packard did years ago and interact (or even fraternize) with ordinary employees on a regular basis, their influence on such things is almost negligible.

      Seems that "values" is often used as a relativistic euphemism for "morality", but it's better to talk about morality under a different name, than not to talk about it at all. As far as "corporate values" go, at best, they are those of senior management, are taught by example to the rest of the company (otherwise, they don't mean much), and really are moral (or at least ethical).

      I do think that real "values" have to be taught and if institutions like schools won't do it, it can still be done by parents (who have primary responsibility for training their children) and other responsible adults.
      John L. Ries
      • Halfway to the train...

        "Seems that "values" is often used as a relativistic euphemism for "morality", but it's better to talk about morality under a different name, than not to talk about it at all."

        True. The part about "relativistic" is what is problematic about it.

        "As far as "corporate values" go, at best, they are those of senior management, are taught by example to the rest of the company (otherwise, they don't mean much), and really are moral (or at least ethical)."

        This is one I disagree on: I am not convinced that execs are more moral (or as moral?) and thereby able to teach others. Maybe I'm cynical, but I've seen too many cases of those who've already "made it" not being satisfied and grasping illegally for more.

        Yes, the primary responsibility is the parents'. The problem is that our culture counteracts what good parents do and also drives down the common denominator for many people regarding what "moral" means.
        • I said "at best"

          At less than best, corporate values are like any other values, are communicated in the same fashion, and may or may not be moral under any reasonable definition of the word.

          I agree that cultural ideas and conventions often counteract what good parents do (this is true, regardless of the culture), but we all have an influence, no matter how small, and it's better to use that influence as best we can, than to despair, complain, and formulate conspiracy theories; or to wait for a revolution (or counter-revolution) that may never happen.

          Culture is just a set of expectations about how people behave (or should behave) and is made by consensus; but each of us has a part in that consensus, even if it's only a small one. One of the biggest reasons why cultural expectations have changed so much over the last century is because people were willing to go against the grain, even though it was inconvenient, and sometimes even if it was illegal. Those who think that existing cultural conventions are wrong can work against them in the same fashion and pay full price for doing so, as others have done in the past.
          John L. Ries
  • RE: When IT culture changes with or without you

    If I am not having fun; if I don't like the way they treat me, I walk.

    If the CIO didn't want that to happen, she would consult me before changing things, wouldn't she!
    John McGhie
  • Wait it out

    Yeah, just wait it out - fads come and go. The rank and file outlast "culture" imposed on them because they are the culture. If it doesn't go, and it's bad, that an action signal that the ship is sinking.
  • RE: When IT culture changes with or without you

    This was a short article on a subject that can be quite complex, especially for IT. It's all about balance and various levels of management (not senior) are who keeps things in balance.

    For the past two and half years our organization has be undergoing corporate culture change. It has affected IT in a very large way. Some of the senior managers don't know how to handle this kind of change and because of this things to date are not going very well. Some in IT have already "walked" others are waiting; for what I'm not sure. But so far everything's a disaster in IT. All the hard work of the past years seem to have been shoveled out the door to allow for "new culture" but no real new processes have taken their place.

    For myself, it's been a learning curve but the cost is becoming a bit too high for me. I'm in the process of moving out but am taking my time to ensure I'm not jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
    • RE: When IT culture changes with or without you

      Does anyone remember a book called who moved my cheese? I find today the term IT culture change to be something that sounds like its full of a positive substance but you need to question who this really is designed for.

      Culture generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance (taken from wikipedia).

      What IT elements can be presented in terms of a cultural definition? Human activity speaks for itself, the particular activities refer to your daily job functions and the association of symbolic structures within this scope connects the two. Human activity covers your own desires/goals/attitudes/ethics and style defined by your cultural background/religious beliefs/social status/education and general characteristics of your personality. (The thing that makes you somewhat unique)

      In an organisation, you have a position by working within a structure, either flat or hirarchal and you perform a function.

      The significance and importance of this to you defines something about your corporate identity.

      For example you identify yourself to a particular profession, this profession has certain practices associated with it.

      You may also have levels within the structure associated with your profession and in this case you can set yourself personal goals to achieve within your own personal developement plan.

      So why would anyone ever need an IT culture change? The job you do associates yourself with a culture, and a set of dynamics. The organisation needs to draw the line somewhere.

      If your needs are inline with the organisations need then you will be safe when the change is complete. If your goals are not inline then you should be looking else where for work.

      No one likes change, but that old book 'who moved my cheese' may help you stay tuned to a changing environment.
      • Take it easy with constant change

        Now, why the hell we need constant change in the working environment? The only people that talk all the time about it, are the HR people, sociologists and politicians. The very people who, without this crap, would be jobless.
        I don't want to imply that things should stay the same always. What I mean is that, change is something that comes naturally in every environment. You just have to give it time! Otherwise, forced change usually leads to disaster. You can see it everywere. Look at what we've done to the environment by forcefull change! and to political systems, etc. The work environment is one of those examples. Constant change does not bring about progress. It only throughs people into confussion and makes the environment unstable.
        Then the HR people (or the politicians in the other field), come in to "solve" the problem. That is how they vindicate their existence in the job environment of a firm or a corporation. They first create the problem (with their theories, that sell to the bosses) and then they come in to solve it. Does it remind you of the film "Brazil"?
        Who said that one, who lives and works in NY city must have the same working habbits or way of thinking with somebody from Bombay? Yes, it is one planet, but when it's daylight in Bombay, it's mignight in New York city! If you get my drift.