uGovernIT

A Practical Approach for IT Governance

A Simple Scorecard for building a Healthy Project Culture in a Technology Centric Environment

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CultureIn a very useful HBR study that attempted to build a scorecard for assessing company culture,  Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, argue that “Creating a business case for culture isn’t impossible. While it is difficult to measure whether someone is being creative, proactive, or resilient in the moment, it’s actually not difficult to calculate total motivation.”  They identify six factors: three encouraging (Play, Purpose, Potential) and three discouraging (Emotional, Economic and Inertia or Friction).  They go on to provide a simple score card for assessing the net cultural score (they call it ToMo) based on surveying the employees.  The specific factors they use or their scoring technique is not as relevant as the approach an organization should take.

Let us start by acknowledging that while there are literally thousands of articles and models for understanding and building organizational culture.  However, the harsh reality is that very few in the leadership team have the time to devote to building a corporate culture.  The approach presented here is simple and can be implemented with relatively less effort.  To credit the authors cited above, their technique bears some resemblance to the one I am presenting.  The methodology shared here is built into our IT Governance tool (uGovernIT).

To start, baseline the current state.  Identify measurements and set a weight for each measurement.  Note that measurements can be positive or negative.  For example, excess emphasis on technology cost may hamper the innovative culture of the organization.  For technology centric-companies,  typical positive measurements may be organizations ability to tolerate mistakes, organizations ability to promote from within, flexibility in work styles, etc.   Example of negative factors include emphasis on cost and not on value, emphasis on meeting schedules and and not on quality, emphasis on onerous processes, etc. Once these factors are identified and the measuring instruments chosen, the implementation typically involves a survey mechanism.

Many use the survey ranking from 1 to 5 or 1 to 7, but this may be a mistake.  As eloquently quoted by Mr. Ken Venner, CIO at SpaceX, the best technique is to use a 1 to 4 ranking forcing the responder to select an opinion.  The baseline score is readily computed using the weights associated.  Once the base line is established, then a specific set of expected targets are established.

The diagram above shows six measurements (three to enhance the positive focus and three to diminish the negative focus).  To achieve the expected state, let us assume that the organization works out a strategy, perhaps in conjunction with experts.  Once the strategies are implemented, and survey is again conducted to measure the actual state.  This process can continue as a normal aspect of organizational change.  Scorecards will help keep us honest.  Instead of giving lip service to a serious topic, the scorecard gives organizations the current state and helps them plan for a better state.  The very fact that a scorecard is created has the Heisenberg effect.  It shows that culture is important to the organization.

The simple technique illustrated above highlights that even small organizations can undertake the effort to improve culture.  A strong organization culture is a strong brand.  All of us in technology know the value of a strong brand.

Written by Subbu Murthy

December 2, 2015 at 6:46 am

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