Achieving start-up vitality in a well-established set-up

David Taylor

Inside track

Go into any new company, one that is just starting out. Witness the enthusiasm, energy and excitement...

David Taylor

Inside track

Go into any new company, one that is just starting out. Witness the enthusiasm, energy and excitement as the founders discuss their dreams, shape their future and make their plans a positive reality. Feel the culture of a new project at its launch - a new team comes together for the first time, full of hope and expectation at the success ahead of them. Experience a company as it grows fast; see the ideas, instinct and imagination flow through everyone involved, like a collective heartbeat of inspiration. It is a healing process, providing an atmosphere of certainty in the destiny that is being shaped by constructive forces.

Go into any large company, one that has been established for a while. Introduce a management initiative, call it total quality anything, or continuous improvement, or worse still, business process re-engineering, then stand back and watch. The blame starts slowly at first, then grows, fast. It eats its way through an organisation, freezing new ideas, initiative and action in its wake. It is like a virus of negativity. War breaks out as everyone focuses on saving costs, avoiding failure, and rooting out anyone who dares to make a mistake. It is a harming process, providing an atmosphere of inevitability in the disaster that is being shaped by destructive forces.

It is no-one's fault of course, rather a harsh reality - when organisations reach a certain size they stop looking at how to expand, and actioning ideas that will drive the company forward, and instead start to look at cost savings, process improvement and efficiencies.

Most of these companies have forgotten why they exist, and have certainly lost sight of any sense of compelling destiny. Their corporate imagination becomes totally utilised in survival through mistake avoidance and problem solving. People become scared to make any decision, take any actions, and conformity becomes all pervasive.

The positive spirit that was present all those years ago has died, and the soul of the company is black.

These are the companies that said you can never sell insurance over the phone, that direct banking was sure to fail, that shouted with pride that no-one would ever make money over the internet.

There is one sure way to regain a feeling of freshness, excitement and being unstoppable as an organisation.

Revive, review and restate your IT/organisational values so they become a set of deeply held beliefs that guide you towards meeting your aims while trusting and respecting each other.

Involve everyone in deciding a code of ethics for the future. This will help secure ownership and commitment across the whole team, and can be combined with widespread and sincere efforts to encourage and develop people through coaching and support. It will also promote involvement, real empowerment and personal growth by strengthening people's inner belief systems and self-confidence.

It will be organisations that drive forward with a positive, compelling and visionary agenda that will thrive in the future. And their spirit will soar.

David Taylor is president of the association of IT directors, Certus.

Read more on IT for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)

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