In “Does Your IT Culture Need An Overhaul?” Marc Cecere interviewed 15 CIOs and 41 other IT decision makers and discovered, not surprisingly, that technology professionals feel differently about their company’s identity than their counterparts in other business units. He said they are either too fearful — the classic “us vs. them” culture — or too bureaucratic, using complex processes to keep line of business people at bay.
But there was a third area of disconnect the report covered that sounded a little more interesting: IT managers who act like the hero.
“The dangers inherent in this style are a tendency to firefighting and working extreme hours to solve problems for customers,” the report said. “This can also spawn a tendency to developing workarounds, rather than understanding and fixing the underlying issues.”
A lot of companies probably wish their IT departments acted more like superheroes. Lack of response, taking too long with fixes and leaving the real problem-solving to senior management are common gripes about technology staff. But what Cecere is talking about is the difference between short-term Band-Aid solutions and long-term strategies that improve the way technology is managed across the enterprise.
Think about how Superman, or most other heroes, tend to operate. They wait until the bank robber is holding up a gun. On a grand scale, when Lex Luthor or the Penguin are about to destroy an entire city, they tend to swoop in at the last possible moment to save the day. That offers great dramatic effect for a film or TV show, but it causes real anguish in a company setting where deadlines are missed and work is interrupted.
Audiences are clearly growing tired of the simplistic notion of a superhero, which is why movies like Batman: The Dark Knight, Hancock and the TV show Heroes are placing much more emphasis on what happens behind the scenes, when the protagonists are grappling more thoughtfully with ongoing problems. Company managers are reacting the same way, asking IT staff to empower employees to solve more of their own problems, or at least put in the kind of infrastructure that will be flexible as needs change and unforeseen events occur.
Instead of being dependent on a superhero to keep a city (or a planet) running smoothly, wouldn’t it be better if everyone had the ability to work collaboratively to deal with safety and security? It doesn’t mean turning everyone into the heroes IT managers may see themselves as today, but creating a cohesive team of equals.
In an interview with IDG News Service, Cecere admitted this is no easy task. “You can change systems quickly compared to how fast you change culture,” he said, “because culture is a lot about how people act when you’re not looking at them.” In other words, it may be time to ditch the superhero persona and get in touch with your everyday secret identity.