A three part series from Ric Hughes and the CIO Advisory practice at Systems Alliance, Inc.

Post 1: Where to Start; Assessing Your Current Team

The most frequent discussion topic that comes up with my clients is the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining high performing IT leadership team members. Getting the team to function at an optimal level (at SAI we define this as moving IT to the level of strategic differentiator for the business) is impossible without the right team members and unlikely without significant planning and persistence from the CIO.

So before we get into the mechanics of building and/or recruiting your dream team, let’s take a look at warning indicators that may indicate potential issues on the team. Think about each member of your leadership team in the context of the questions below, particularly as their success might be impacted by the team member’s experience level in the position and their demonstrated capabilities:

  1. How well aligned are your team members with the business outside of IT? Are they perceived as highly valuable partners by the business? Do your leadership team members understand your organization’s business model, competitors and marketplace differentiators?
  2. Can your team members take on complex delivery assignments independently or do they require significant amounts of oversight and coaching from you?
  3. Are your team members skilled at estimating project size, scope and timelines on major projects or do you have perennial problems aligning the work with the calendar and the expectations of your internal customers?
  4. Do your IT leaders inspire their staff with their passion for technology, business solutions, solving problems, etc.?
  5. Do you have retention problems on the leadership team or with their direct reports? Are those problems consistent with local market conditions such as comp levels or hot skill problems or an indicator that key people aren’t motivated (or worse) by those on your leadership team?
  6. How mature and confident (or humble) are your team members? Do they openly seek recognition or go to great lengths to praise others?
  7. In their activities with outside vendors and suppliers, are your team members respected as astute technologists and business executives or perceived as something else? Do your vendors perceive them as having “high expectations, but they’re not bad to work with” or as less predictable?

Not all of these questions will apply to each team member. Some of your staff will be more focused on operational metrics (infrastructure uptime) and others on more project based work but thinking about them across each dimension will quickly get you to the point of assessing their current and future effectiveness as members of your IT leadership team. Applying these criteria to each team member should allow you to place them in one of the three categories below:

  • Ready Now – strong contributor, works independently and can help me, as the CIO, better align IT with the business through predictable delivery.
  • Ready Soon – emerging leader. Strong technical or business capabilities and a demonstrated desire to learn more (coachable). A leadership development path is relatively clear and you have the bandwidth to work shoulder to shoulder with these staff to get there in a predictable timeline.
  • Not Ready – lacks demonstrated skills in more than two areas indicated above and either their capabilities or your schedule won’t allow sufficient runway to get there.

Before you throw the “Not Ready” team members off the boat, think carefully about where they might fit in your organization. During the last thirty years, I’ve seen many, many instances where staff that weren’t well equipped for the IT leadership team have done a sparkling job in other roles, particularly in the business.

In our next installment, we’ll take a closer look at IT Org Design implications for your leadership team and your ability to accelerate and improve service delivery with the appropriate organizational construct.

For more information, visit www.systemsalliance.com