031302: What is a department health check and why is it necessary?

During my time as a CIO, I made a point of completing an IT “health check” assessment once a year prior to making the short and long term strategic plans public. I did it to ensure that I did not lose track of my customers and kept my focus on what was actually occurring in the department. There are two main slippery slopes leaders can fall victim to:

1) Digging in to the detail too long and undermining their teams
2) Staying in the clouds too long and forgetting their customers

The first point seems clear, it is either happening because the team member isn’t trusted or the leader would rather have their job than the one they have. In either case something needs to be done about it, the business needs to find someone that can do this role more effectively or replace the leader.

The second one can lead to the first one if not monitored. I have found that the best way to ensure this doesn’t occur is to routinely complete a department assessment.

The assessment covered the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of a department by gathering feedback from all the department’s customers and assessing that information. This included both internal customers (staff and management from within IT) and external customers (management and staff of the other departments). This report helped me shape the long term strategy and helped identify any major pitfalls facing the department as things progressed.

I have never worked with a strong leader that didn’t have a high self-esteem, and I am no exception. Because of this, leaders have the tendency to lose sight of the current priorities and rarely stop to reflect how their strategies may affect the day operations. I think that it is wise to seek input from others on occasion to ensure priorities continue to stay in line. This independent assessment helped put things in perspective for me and made sure the grand long term strategy did not ignore the customers’ current needs without understanding the consequences and making the necessary adjustments. Due to the assessment’s ability to point out department risks, I was able to plan and budget projects focused on closing these risks before they got out of hand.

Once this report was complete, I made it public to my team, department and the management team of my customers to keep the focus on something so important. If something was identified as an issue, I assigned an individual and a task force to turn it from a weakness to a strength. They reported progress weekly into my senior leadership team so that we could remove any roadblocks that prevented their progress. Because of this, I was able to continue focusing on marketing and designing the long term plan without losing my customers faith or my staff’s morale.

The time and money it takes to complete an assessment is minimal in comparison to the damages that can occur if one of these items slips past the team’s radar. I think that a department’s health check should be completed yearly at a minimum and every time during a due diligence when either acquiring or divesting a business unit.

These are my thoughts, do you agree? I, as well as many of the other readers, would be interested to read your opinion.

Through Willard Enterprises, I specialise in helping businesses achieve successful lasting change through IT transformation, process improvement, smart sourcing and providing IT transparency such as assisting you in completing department health checks. As always, if there is something I can do to help your business or someone you know deliver their next challenge, please contact me for more information.

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Posted in IT Transformation, IT Transparency
2 comments on “031302: What is a department health check and why is it necessary?
  1. Jose says:

    Interesting – so, a yearly “Department 360” – has logic, although not sure how often this is done in general.

    Would you also benchmark against other companies in the same sector / leading companies?

  2. buddywillard says:

    From Hamad Lone – LinkedIn
    Buddy: Great points. I carry out periodic assessment mainly through surveys / questionaire to the customers. I also garner feedback from my own team in open door sessions. This helps me build a picture and address issues / problem areas.

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