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

Post 2: Building the Composite Team

Using a consistent planning and delivery approach from top to bottom in the IT organization creates a shared understanding of priorities and expectations. At SAI, we’re big fans of using a three step process: Define, Align and Measure as a planning model for decision making and delivery at all levels of IT. This is an iterative process so there is a “rinse and repeat” element to this that differs in frequency based on the planning and change cycle of the IT organization.

In the graphic below, we’ve utilized the Define, Align, Measure approach to create a framework for developing and improving the composition of your leadership team:

IT Leadership Team Development Cycle


ITIL, Six Sigma, CMM and other methods embraced by IT have demonstrated the usefulness of clear, unambiguous objectives in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. So as we think about the composition of the IT Leadership Team, we need to first address which services will be provided by the IT organization and your strategy for prioritizing those services. IT Leadership team roles and the suitability of executives in those roles should be primarily driven by the organization’s service delivery requirements. As an example, I’ve included representative high level tasks in the graphic above to reflect the scale of work that needs to occur to define service delivery requirements.

The tendency of leadership team roles to drift away from your overall service delivery requirements can be reduced by introducing a “true up” review during each budget cycle. For example, fast growing organizations or those experiencing transformational change (mergers, acquisitions, divestitures) may align the majority of their resources against new applications, infrastructure consolidation, and other project based objectives, while more mature or static IT organizations may have a stronger emphasis on operational efficiencies and improvement.

The timing of planning cycles is also changing. Many of our clients have moved from an annual planning cycle to shorter quarterly planning windows to mirror accelerated changes in the business. The composition of the leadership team should be tuned and adjusted as organization requirements ebb and flow.   


The Align phase indicated above includes assembling the team (recruiting new team members, adjusting the roles of current team members, removing unproductive team members), building specific development plans to ensure their continued effectiveness and career progress, and executing plans in a way that they are both responsible for clear, unambiguous and consistent results and exposed to specific challenges (development opportunities). A quick review of eight of SAI’s enterprise level clients indicates an average of between 6 and 7 VP and Director level members is typical on the CIO’s leadership team. As with any other org design problem, complexity tends to increase and effectiveness tends to decrease as the team increases in size.


Measuring progress is an essential part of delivering on your service delivery commitments to your internal customers. Incorporating objective metrics, (uptime, meeting project delivery deadlines) both for the team as a whole and for individual team members, will increase the likelihood of success. The practice of splitting incentive calculations between individual and team performance is gaining ground in many of our clients and appears to increase results and retention of key players.

Patrick Lencioni, in his latest book, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business”, makes the case that business leaders tend to solve problems that they can attack by gathering and analyzing data instead of the squishy, hard to solve problems that involve organizational health and leadership development. Here’s your chance to prove him wrong (or that you are the exception).

In our next installment, we’ll take a closer look at measuring your progress in the development of your IT Leadership Team and strategies for implementing player changes when development plans are unsuccessful.

For more information, visit www.systemsalliance.com or e-mail me at rhughes@systemsalliance.com.