Every CIO needs to create a simple, direct and powerful slogan that will unite their IT department as a team and inspire everyone to perform to the best of their ability.
By Jack Rosenberger
When General George Joulwan was commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command during the early 1990s, he ended all of his messages with a slogan: “One Team, One Fight.” Joulwan would also greet the soldiers and officers under his command with the same “One Team, One Fight” slogan. “After a while we started smiling whenever we heard George’s slogan,” Colin Powell recalls in his autobiography, It Worked for Me. “But [the slogan] was a good idea—worth taking to heart. It was a constant reminder to his command that everyone had to come together as a team to prosecute a fight that everyone agreed had to be won. It remains a good idea.”
Like Joulwan, every CIO needs to create a simple, direct and powerful slogan that will unite their IT department as a team and inspire everyone to perform their work to the best of their ability. And like Joulwan, every CIO needs to hammer that slogan home through constant repetition, and in different formats, until the slogan becomes engrained in the IT department’s mindset.
Colin Powell’s “One Team, One Fight” anecdote reminds me of the story behind the creation of the Google motto “Don’t be evil.” Paul Bucheit, a Google programmer, came up with the motto in 2000 at a core values meeting, the purpose of which was to codify how Google employees should treat each other. Bucheit’s colleagues had suggested various pithy slogans, but Bucheit regarded them as sounding too corporate and thought they could all be covered under the rubric of “Don’t be evil.” A Google engineer, Amit Patel, embraced Bucheit’s motto and, as Douglas Edwards writes in his superb memoir of Google’s early years, I’m Feeling Lucky, Amit “took it upon himself to proselytize the Word of Paul. Soon, ‘Don’t be evil’ began blemishing every markable surface like brown spots on ripening bananas. I had a rolling whiteboard in my cubicle, and one day when I came back from lunch, ‘Don’t be evil’ was neatly printed in one of its corners. I saw the phrase scrawled on conference room walls and twirling across laptop screensavers.”
The end result of these efforts, Edwards writes, is that “Amit’s marketing campaign sold the staff on formalizing the credo. Once it became a cultural meme, it was impossible to uproot. The effect was as if Amit had been scribbling with a permanent marker directly on our collective consciousness.”
Joulwan’s slogan was a unifying message: We are a team united by a common purpose and a common goal. Bucheit’s motto was about establishing a new company’s value system (and, ultimately, defining the company’s core values). What the best motto is for your IT department depends on your goal. Have you inherited an IT department that lacks a positive or proactive identity? Are you trying to inspire your employees to all work together as a team? Or do you want to implement a new management process, such as continual improvement, in order to forge a new, superior IT department?
You can accomplish all of these goals—and more—with a well-chosen motto. Just remember that when you’ve selected one, you need to drive it home relentlessly.
About the Author
Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. You can read his previous CIO Insight blog post—“Can You Pass the Elevator Test?”—by clicking here.