It may seem odd to to be talking about growth during this time of economic downturn, but once this cycle is done you had better have a good plan for learning to deal with growth. IT has always been about change, but that doesn’t mean that IT leaders are any better than anyone else in dealing with constant change (and growth).
We’ve been talking about Toyota lately and interestingly enough they have a great deal that they can teach IT about how to deal with change and growth. They realize that as an organization becomes larger, communication is one of the first things that will start to deteriorate. After this, it starts to become more difficult to coordinate operations and projects that stretch across the entire company.
In order to deal with problems such as these, Toyota has implemented three separate “forces of integration” that have allowed Toyota’s IT department to be able to keep its focus on Toyota’s mission. These three forces are the founder’s original values, how they manage promotions, and their use of open communication. No high-tech stuff here, but perhaps they still have something to teach IT departments…
The values that have been handed down to Toyota by their founders include the famous kaizen (continuous improvement), respect for fellow employees and what they can accomplish, the power of teamwork, the spirit of humility, the importance of putting the customer first, and finally, just how important it is to see something with your own eyes.
Developing the next round of IT department leaders is done differently at every company. All too often, firms use the “up-or-out” approach – either you get promoted or you eventually get shown the door. This is not the way that Toyota runs their business.
Toyota actually still has a basic guarantee of lifetime employment for its workers. Employees who are under performing are not terminated, rather they have their capabilities upgraded through on the job training. At Toyota, IT workers are asked to think as if they were really operating at two levels above their current rank. This allows all employees to have more context added to their perspective.
Open communication is critical to everything that Toyota does. They have actually been able to accomplish what every IT department would like to do: have information flow freely both up and down the hierarchy as well as across both seniority and functional boundaries.
In the 21st Century, Toyota still feels that human to human networks are of the highest importance. Executives go to the lowest levels in the company and have discussions with the workers there in order to understand what is going on.
At Toyota it’s ok for IT workers to speak up when they disagree with what someone is saying – even if it’s their boss. The ultimate assignment for every employee is to do what they think is right – not just what the boss is telling them to do.
In the end, Toyota is a hard company for any IT department to try to emulate. The reason for this is because Toyota’s success does not just come from doing (or not doing) any one thing. Instead, it’s really about a culture that Toyota has created that allows all of its departments to be a success. Even though it may seem impossible to replicate this environment in your IT department, keep in mind that at Toyota they view trying as the greatest achievement and failure is just one step towards success.
Does your IT department have any values that it has inherited from past management? Do you work with employees that are not ready to be promoted in order to get them ready – or do you just let them go? Would you say that your IT department has open flows of communication? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.