Open Communication Leads to Better IT Governance and Decision-Making

Leaders must open up their work to honest reviews.

by / February 24, 2014

In information technology circles, we are all familiar with the acronym IV&V. It stands for Independent Verification and Validation and is an important part of systems testing, where a third party, not involved in the actual development of the product, is engaged to check it, ensure that it meets business and technical requirements, and will perform as expected.

In performing system IV&V, source code and systems documentation is examined and functional, and integration testing is carried out. When a system is given the all clear in an IV&V, it is like receiving the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

But there is another very important type of IV&V for chief information officers and their IT teams. This IV&V does not have to do with software, hardware or databases, but rather with having open, honest communication leading to better IT governance and decision-making. In this case, IV&V stands for Independent View and Voice.

In problem solving IV&V, everyone needs to be able to have their own view and a voice to express it. Each person must be encouraged to think independently — look at things from their vantage point with their unique perspectives and experiences — and be free to genuinely express their opinion and ideas.

In such an organization, people are independent thinkers, the opposite of an organization plagued by groupthink, and a sign of a healthy and productive human resource dynamic, where everyone is valued and can contribute.  

In a sense, IV&V for problem solving and systems development is very similar. A team with members who are encouraged to have independent views and voices helps ensure sound organizational decision-making, just like conducting independent verification and validation fosters the deployment of quality information systems.

In both cases, true leaders need to have the courage to open up their thinking or work products to review, critique and alternatives. Pulling back the covers — and allowing others to independently peer inside and give their opinion of the soundness of the proposed solution — creates a synergy where the sum of the whole of the participants’ input is greater than any individual parts, no matter how smart or capable those individuals are.

The very best CIOs do not rule by edict, fear or a “my way or the highway” attitude, since this does not foster an environment where people think for themselves, provide constructive feedback, or actively participate in solving problems or ensuring quality of products or services.

When people are afraid to speak their mind or they know that leadership is not receptive to hearing what they have to say, very likely they will clam up and you will end up with yes men and women, which is precisely what some CIOs may want. Perhaps it is easier that way to just rely on your own experience, intuition or knowledge, but if it is really so good, then there is no reason not to let others in, test the waters, and give them an opportunity to reach those conclusions themselves.

Patience and confidence to test your thinking and systems is at the heart of improving organizational results and developing your human resources and even leadership successors. Testing and feedback through listening to others’ views or looking at systems code and documentation spurs higher intellectual, emotional, technical and happiness quotients for your people and your organization.


Andy Blumenthal Contributing Writer

Andy Blumenthal is a division chief at the U.S. State Department. He was previously chief technology officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A regular speaker and published author, Blumenthal blogs at User-Centric Enterprise Architecture and The Total CIO. These are his personal views and do not represent those of his agency.