Team Management Systems
 

Team Solutions Come Online at Melbourne IT

By Niki de Jager
Copyright © Niki de Jager. All rights reserved.

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The day-to-day scale of operations at global IT services company Melbourne IT is daunting.

There are more than 500 terabytes of storage to manage, over 5,800,000 domain names to administer, around 7,800 customer calls to answer each week, and 3,500 servers to control. Add to the mix around 700 staff in 10 countries and the complexity of the business becomes clear.

As global development and training manager at Melbourne IT, I am one of the managers in the business entrusted with the task of ensuring managerial skills stay up-to-date in a business that is experiencing rapid growth.

Melbourne IT has experienced double digit growth in revenue and profit each year for the past five years. This type of growth and the associated jump in staff numbers mean that one of the biggest challenges is ensuring a strong depth of management skills.

Building management confidence

Launched in 1996 and publicly listed three years later, Melbourne IT has come a long way in the past decade. Ranked as a Top 5 global domain registrar and hosting provider, the company has created a leadership development strategy to generate a deep pool of management talent.

One of my initiatives has been the rollout of the Confident Managers Program in the Melbourne, Brisbane, London and Stockholm offices, targeting first-line managers who typically have limited prior management experience. The aim is to equip managers with practical skill-sets enabling them to be more confident and effective in their roles.

With previous knowledge of the Team Management Systems' suite of work-based assessment and feedback instruments, I decided to incorporate the products into the Melbourne IT program, particularly in the initial sessions around reflective leadership, communication and teamwork.

The Team Management Profile (TMP) proved to be a logical tool for participants to assess their personal working style before the program started. The TMP was used so our staff could discuss in greater detail what their Profile meant for them as team members and in their management role. This allowed them to peel back some of the layers of personality and to have a common language to discuss differences in how people like to work.

The activities prompted immediate feedback from staff members. As a result of this session, quite a number of the participants arranged for HR to run a similar session with their team to resolve personality conflicts, increase productivity and generate commitment to a new direction.

Identifying key challenges

Over the past five years, Melbourne IT has been riding a steep growth curve, making five business acquisitions during the same period. Its most recent move is a joint venture with Fairfax Digital to create Advantate, a company that provides SMEs with cost-effective access to search engine marketing services.>

As an IT services firm with 18 offices in 10 countries, Melbourne IT operates under a global matrix structure, with shared services supporting five business units. The business faces a number of key challenges, including:

  • Managing complexity and change
  • Supervising virtual teams
  • Coordinating leadership across geographically disparate offices
  • Retaining talent in an era of skills shortages

In such an environment, effective teamwork is essential. Midway through the Melbourne IT leadership program, it became imperative to identify what staff had learned and how they had applied any lessons within their workplace. Group members highlighted strengths from each other's presentations. The TMP featured significantly in these presentations, the focus being on the assistance it provided in managing their teams, their manager and peers.

Participants further developed their people skills in a teamwork module using Margerison-McCann High-Energy Teams Model, which addresses eight fundamental strategic issues:

  1. Who are we?
  2. Where are we now?
  3. Where are we going?
  4. How will we get there?
  5. What is expected of us?
  6. What support do we need?
  7. How effective are we?
  8. What recognition do we get?

Discussion and review of these questions through regular team learning processes provides the basis for collaboration and to ensure that 'high-energy' teamworking is a result.

Throughout the program, teams typically concentrated on the first four components of the Margerison-McCann High-Energy Teams Model.

There was a tendency to focus on the questions of 'Who are we?', 'Where are we now?', 'Where are we going?' and 'How will we get there?' rather than looking at 'What is expected of us?', 'What support do we need?', 'How effective are we?' and 'What recognition do we get?'

The Margerison-McCann High-Energy Teams Model helped group members broaden their perspectives and address a wider range of issues.

Plotting a future path

Since running the Confident Managers Program, I have come to realize that Melbourne IT needs to put in place measures to assess the success of the initiative. Using a 360-degree assessment at the beginning of the course and at the end will really assist us to get a concrete measurement of change. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicates that the program has been well received and another program is planned which already has 51 applications from employees who are eager to participate. I hope to expand the program to include other Profiles from the Team Management Systems suite of instruments and believe that the Opportunities-Obstacles (QO2™) Profile (assessing people's approach to risk), Influencing Skills Profile (highlighting successful communication strategies for working with others) and Window on Work Values Profile (helping individuals understand how their values influence behavior) are all likely to assist Melbourne IT.

I have no doubt that the combination of the Confident Managers Program and the use of Team Management Systems instruments has been beneficial for Melbourne IT. The program has been very successful - 70% of participants have given feedback that they would like to run the Team Management Profile with their own teams.

Copyright © Niki de Jager. All rights reserved.


Niki de Jager joined global IT services company Melbourne IT in 2007 and was tasked with integrating the cultures of Melbourne IT and WebCentral, which the company had acquired in September 2006. At the beginning of 2008 Niki took on responsibility for Development and Training for Melbourne IT's 700 staff across 18 offices in 10 countries. Niki's key responsibilities are retention and development of Melbourne IT's talent and she is supported by a team of six training staff.

Before joining Melbourne IT Niki spent eight years with a leading consultancy firm working in organizational development. Prior to specializing in OD, Niki worked in the 'dark side' of industrial relations both as an advocate and for government. Niki completed her MBA from AGSM in 2008, which complemented her collection of post graduate and undergraduate qualifications in Change Management, Organisational Development and Industrial Relations.

For more information please contact Niki at Nicole.DeJager@melbourneit.com.au.
 

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