40 Reasons Why Your IT Teams Lack a Sense of Urgency

Over the last couple of months, I've been writing and sharing videos on creating force multipliers in digital transformation. In simple terms, force multipliers drive business outcomes, team velocity, and delivery quality by combining two or more disciplines into a 2x+ result. My posts include an intro to digital transformation force multipliers, a post on using continuous agile planning to accelerate delivery, and a third post on the intersection of citizen data science and data governance.


When IT Teams Lack as Sense of Urgency - Isaac Sacolick

But there are three prerequisites to enabling force multipliers. It requires

  • Winning over leadership detractors and agile detectors, which I have posted on
  • Addressing leadership, cultural, and other issues that inhibit driving a sense of urgency which I document here in this post
  • Taking steps to create a sense of urgency, which you can get by signing up for the free StarCIO Driving Digital Newsletter that I publish monthly

What is a Sense of Urgency?

You know when an organization, department, or team has a sense of urgency and when they don't. They go the extra mile to meet customer needs, hit a deadline, find permanent fixes to recurring issues, rigorously improve quality, find ways to increase velocity, and target other ways to show commitment to meeting their goals. They work independently as teams making smarter decisions, taking calculated risks, and owning up to their mistakes. They learn and teach other. 

Having a sense of urgency doesn't mean nonstop sixty-hour workweeks or devoting people's personal time to the business. While this may be necessary at times, it is not the hallmark of having a sense of urgency. 

So what separates people, teams, and organizations from those with a sense of urgency and others who struggle to get there? 

Here's my list of why organizations may lack a sense of urgency. There are forty here broken into several groups starting with leadership and ending with culture. Some of these are obvious, and some may require more explanation - feel free to leave me a comment if you have a question. 


Leadership

  1. Company strategy is in the stratosphere and not translated down to team objectives
  2. Leaders demand too many priorities
  3. CXOs aren't driving digital behaviors
  4. Company financials are secrets and not shared with employees
  5. Heroes are rewarded for saving the day instead of collaborating with peers to address issues
  6. Financial and legal teams create slow and unnecessary bureaucracies
  7. The organization either has no KPIs or dozens of KPIs
  8. The loudest voices always win
  9. Business managers protect the status quo
  10. Stakeholders demand timeline and scope certainty

Transformation Goals and Objectives

  1. Initiatives lack documented and shared vision statements
  2. Little knowledge of competition is shared and debated
  3. Customer success and pain points aren't discussed openly
  4. Unrealistic goals are set and never rationalized with realities
  5. Legacy incentives aren't reevaluated and adjusted to transformational goals

Meetings, Decisions, and Collaboration

  1. Too many poorly managed meetings
  2. Everyone must be invited to key meetings
  3. Decision authorities aren't defined
  4. Fear of making decisions
  5. Decisions aren't documented, leading to repetitive meeting agendas

Agile Team Dynamics

  1. Too many inter-team dependencies
  2. Agile is isolated to tech teams
  3. Agile teams aren't planning or estimating
  4. Scrum responsibilities aren't assigned (See posts on roles: product ownertech lead, scrum master, and program manager)
  5. Support issues overwhelm agile teams

Technology and Operations

  1. ITSM teams aren't tracking request and incident metrics
  2. Every issue requires an urgent break-fix
  3. Walkups and email requests are the norms
  4. Stuck with legacy tech, and technologies are rarely upgraded
  5. Standard operating procedures aren't automated or documented

Data, analytics, and machine learning

  1. Sneakernet and error-prone data integrations
  2. Data quality isn't a business responsibility
  3. Powerpoints and spreadsheets, oh my
  4. Top leaders ignore the data and shoot from the hip
  5. No data catalogs or poorly implemented ones, so data teams are inundated with RFIs

Culture

  1. Nothing is celebrated
  2. Beat up the messenger delivering the bad news
  3. High employee turnover and low morale
  4. Lack of learning programs and teaching incentives
  5. Pay and benefits are well below market rates

Which issues are worse? It depends on many circumstances, but I will share hints when you sign up for my paper on creating a sense of urgency which you can receive for free by signing up for the free StarCIO Driving Digital Newsletter.

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