Most of the conversations around strategic planning and our roles as service providers center around our products and services. However, more is needed about who or what we envision ourselves to become. In this blog post, I want to share my thoughts and reflections on the organizational character of higher education IT departments and extend a call to action for other IT leaders to join me in this journey.

Organizational character has been a constant topic as I lead my organization. Over the last three years, our organization has undergone significant changes through integration, and we continue that process today. In that period, especially during COVID-19, the critical role of IT was highlighted in delivering health and safety to the campus community and ensuring continuity of operations, research, and instruction.

Organizational character comprises several key components that shape an organization’s culture, identity, and overall direction. As I see it, these components include:

  1. Vision: A long-term, aspirational view of the organization’s desired future.
  2. Mission: The core purpose and function of the organization, which outlines its primary objectives and guiding principles.
  3. Values: The fundamental beliefs and ethical standards that drive the organization’s culture, decision-making, and behavior.
  4. Purpose: The underlying reason for the organization’s existence, which connects its mission and goals to the broader societal context.

I’ve also realized that it’s not just about defining and articulating these components; the true power of organizational character lies in manifesting these elements through day-to-day practice and embracing these principles by every department member.

As a leader, it is crucial for leaders to continually communicate and practice the organizational character because, as the adage says, “Even the choir forgets the words sometimes.” Ensuring the organizational character remains a focal point within the department requires consistent reinforcement and modeling. This constant emphasis helps keep the character alive and relevant in team members’ minds.

By focusing on developing and practicing a strong organizational character, we, as IT leaders, can help build departments that effectively support our institutions and contribute to their long-term success. Embracing the principles of organizational character and fostering a culture of collaboration, trust, and continuous improvement will benefit our IT departments and have a lasting impact on our institutions.

As leaders in higher education IT departments, we have a shared responsibility and commitment to building strong organizational character by actively practicing and embodying these components in our daily work, decision-making, and interactions with others.

I call on my fellow IT leaders to join me in fostering a culture of trust and open communication where team members feel empowered to voice their concerns, ideas, and suggestions. By creating an environment where everyone feels heard and valued, we can help develop a sense of belonging and psychological safety, encouraging staff to bring their diverse experiences and ideas.

Let us also commit to continually assessing and adapting our approaches to ensure that our departments remain agile and responsive to the evolving needs of our institutions and stakeholders. This commitment may involve revisiting our organizations’ visions, missions, values, and purposes periodically to ensure they remain relevant, effective, and aligned with broader strategic goals.

As we embark on this journey, let us remember the power of vulnerability and openness in leadership. We must be receptive to feedback and challenges from our team members, address inconsistencies, and work collaboratively to create cohesive and resilient departments that effectively support our institutions during periods of change and beyond.

As we move forward, it’s essential to remember that pursuing a strong organizational character requires constant reflection, adaptation, and growth. As IT leaders, we must proactively identify opportunities for improvement, nurture an environment that fosters learning and innovation, and promote a culture that values transparency and accountability.

In our quest to strengthen our departments’ organizational character, let us also recognize and celebrate the successes and milestones we achieve. By acknowledging our progress, we can motivate and inspire our teams to continue striving for excellence and remain committed to the shared vision, mission, and values that define our organizations.

By committing to developing and practicing a strong organizational character, we can create IT departments that are more agile, innovative, and responsive to the evolving needs of our institutions. So, I encourage you, my fellow IT leaders in higher education, to join me in this journey of reflection, growth, and transformation. Together, we can make a difference in our departments, staff, and those we serve, ultimately driving positive change in higher education IT and contributing to the success of our institutions.