Effective IT leaders pay attention to four core organizational effectiveness “levers”: Business integration, process maturity, technical architecture, and human performance.

Ranked in order of importance, human performance comes first. Next comes human performance. Human performance comes after that, followed by human performance.

As evidence: Outstanding employees can overcome poor business/IT integration, while even the best-integrated IT organization won’t withstand poorly performing employees.

Top-notch employees can also overcome badly designed and implemented processes. The reverse is not true: No matter how good your process designs and management are, inept employees will cause them to fail.

The best technical architecture can, perhaps, limit the damage incompetent employees can wreak, but even that weak outcome is optimistic; meanwhile, “code gods” can overcome technical architecture that’s a complete mess.

No matter what your goals, strategies, hopes and vision, are, when it comes to getting the results you’re responsible for nothing comes close to the importance of how well the humans you’ve recruited, encouraged, coached, retained, and promoted perform.

As a leader and manager, it’s up to you to create an environment that fosters strong performance. Fostering it entails:

Leadership: In this context, leadership includes such techniques as listening (and especially organizational listening), followership, persuasion, and facilitation. Never fear – it also includes setting direction, but in this IT effectiveness model that’s covered under the IT/Business Integration banner.

Staffing and skills management: You need the right people, with the right skills. This entails effective recruiting, and treating employees as well after you’ve recruited them as you do while recruiting them. It also calls for training and education so staff bring the skills you need to the work they do.

Oh, and, by the way, “recruiting” really means “sourcing” – if you need a particular skill in the short term, but expect that need to go away, bringing contractors on board should be part of staffing as well.

Compensation and rewards: Designing compensation so it encourages strong performance and not perniciously embedded dysfunction isn’t easy. Here’s a link to get you started: “Poor Joe,” 10/22/2007.” To put a bow on it, constantly remind yourself of the role money plays in business communication. It isn’t an incentive, or a reward. It’s the company’s loudest voice, explaining what the company values most far more effectively than the best speechifying and executive charisma have to offer.

Organizational structure: The org chart, but not only the org chart. Beyond this are such elements as corporate infrastructure, key performance indicators and other corporate metrics, and accounting systems and what they inhibit or encourage.

Team dynamics: It’s rare for any employee to work in isolation. More often, employees work in teams, which is to say interdependence is the norm. Which is also to say business processes and practices are vulnerable to distrust among the team members who have to make them work.

Culture: We keep coming back to culture, and for good reason. Culture is how we do things around here, making some courses of action implicitly approved and others intrinsically unacceptable. Culture defines the social landscapes within which employees operate.

Beyond this, culture defines affinities and group memberships. In that guise, culture defines which teams are automatically trustworthy and which ones to view with suspicion no matter what they do.

Bob’s last word: The logic in favor of viewing human performance as the most important factor in driving organizational success is compelling. As stated earlier, it’s that great employees can overcome everything else, while poor ones can make failure unavoidable.

There’s been a lot of discussion as to whether generative AI can replace human beings, much of it little more than whistling in the dark. Example: “Artificial intelligence cannot replace human talent and creativity, it can only mimic the human brain.”

Putting on my Captain Obvious hat, if generative AI can mimic the human brain then by definition if can replace what human brains can do.

The better news is something discussed less often – whether generative AI can mimic human initiative. Eventually it will; I’m hoping I won’t be around to see it when it does.

Bob’s sales pitch: Speaking of not being around when it does, it’s time. Looking at the level of correspondence, comments, and declining subscriptions, I’m declaring 2023 to be my victory lap. So if there’s a topic you’d like me to cover in KJR, let me know via the Contact form.

This week on CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide: 7 IT consultant tricks CIOs should never fall for.” It’s about how many consultants fix what’s broken by breaking what’s fixed, plus 6 other common consulting misdeeds.