lavoy_tech_culture-23zqn5q-300x207For decades, the advancements in technology have continuously altered the business environment and the various cultures within it. This year, the Chicago Coder Conference tackled the issue head on by bringing in top technology leaders to explore the burning question asked by attendees: What is the true key to building and enhancing a vibrant tech culture?

CCC’s 2016 tech leadership panel consisted of:

  • Jeff Hughes, Senior Vice President of Information Technology, CNA
  • Frank Liberio, Senior Vice President and Global CIO, the McDonald’s Corporation
  • Rick Hanzelin, Vice President IT Infrastructure and Web Center, Peapod
  • Simona Rollinson, Chief Information Officer, Cook County Government
  • Kevin Steele, Chief Technology Officer,

Traditions, values, behaviors and attitudes all contribute to the representation of an organization and shape its overall character within the business community. While diversity within a corporation has the potential to bring in and implement a range of ideas and innovations, some ideas can result in disagreements, which then create conflict. Although this is a common occurrence within organizations, it is essential that the teams within them know how to resolve conflict while maintaining a healthy relationship between members.

“Diversity is a big part of creating a well rounded culture”. Jeff Hughes, CNA

Team building is an unwritten rule that is required for any corporation in regards to developing and retaining a strong and everlasting culture, along with successfully solving a problem when conflict emerges into the setting.

During the panel session, Rick Hanzelin remarked that healthy conflict is vital to creating a healthy team culture. Hanzelin is a devout “Lencionist” and has adopted the team principles laid out in Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. Hanzelin elaborated on the reasoning behind misunderstandings and conflict within teams that are commonly rooted in five specific “dysfunctions”: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Each factor is interconnected and all contribute to the errors and setbacks found within team projects.

Many corporations attempt to create cohesion within their businesses by facilitating outings, happy hours or general get-together’s. For some, this is a successful attempt in terms of team building. For others, this can create “artificial harmony” within the workforce, as the conflict becomes buried. When conflict is avoided the decision making process, which is essential for all projects, is severely stunted.

To avoid artificial harmony, teams must encourage members to express what they see in terms of running into potential issues, which will then aid in avoiding conflict. The strengthening of communication between group members will also promote effective decision making.

“Culture is not a cause or a cure, it’s a product and not something that comes from fun events. Creating an environment dedicated to learning and accountability is key”. –Simona Rollinson, Chief Information Officer, Cook County Government

With over 600 tech enthusiasts in attendance, a wide variety of cultures were represented throughout all three days of the conference. Individuals from all backgrounds came together to share their body of knowledge in a way that effectively benefited all who attended.

Contributing Writer, Researcher: Margaret Fikany


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