Guest blog by Ray Attiyah, excerpted from his new book, The Fearless Front Line: The Key to Liberating Leaders to Improve and Grow Their Business. (2013 Bibliomotion, used with permission)
Much of our time is spent working— some forty, sixty, even eighty hours per week. That’s more time awake than we spend with our friends or family and rivals the time we spend sleeping. Shouldn’t the time we spend at work be worth it? Shouldn’t that time be filled with a sense of purpose and accomplishment and not just packed with appointments and never- ending task lists? Shouldn’t we be energized by the efforts and successes of our work team rather than drained by them?
Most, if not all, of us wouldn’t hesitate to answer those questions with a resounding “YES!” That’s because, deep down, we believe work should be more than just getting through a daily task list, checking off items as we finish them. Work should be a place that builds energy, not drains it. Work should provide opportunities for growth and improvement that bring out the best in us as individuals, as teams, and as entire organizations.
Too often, however, work isn’t like that at all. Instead of energizing us, it traps us. Instead of inspiring us, it dulls our senses. The workplace is full of bureaucracy and negative complexity.
Some companies shine like beacons of excellence and growth in the crowded market. So, what’s the difference between those companies that shine and the ones where work is a slog, apathy is everywhere, and products and people are mediocre at best?
"To compensate for their lack of confidence in the Run, managers become conditioned to overmanage and underlead. So, while they are stuck in the front line, they’re not leading or pursuing activities that propel growth and innovation.”
The key is in liberating leaders. In companies where complicated systems reign, nearly everyone has his hands in the daily details of producing the product or delivering the services. Managers and frontline employees (and top executives and sometimes even the CEO) are tangled up in running the day-to-day aspects of the business, or the Run. The frontline activities are so unpredictable, unreliable, and complicated, and the systems surrounding them are so often superfluous, that managers can’t seem to pull themselves away. (As you can imagine, this situation frustrates managers and employees alike.) Time and energy are consumed by urgent but unimportant tasks rather than activities that produce sustained personal and organizational growth. Managers have difficulty forgetting bad situations, and that inability to let go shakes their confidence in their frontline team and its activities.
To compensate for their lack of confidence in the Run, managers become conditioned to overmanage and underlead. Regaining confidence is an uphill fight. So, while managers are stuck in the front line, they’re not leading or pursuing activities that propel growth and innovation.
A Fearless Front Line
The precondition for liberating managers is having a front line that can operate reliably, excellently, and independently day in and day out every day of every week of every year. The Run needs to be rock solid— perpetually. It’s the foundation of the entire organization. Yet, at the same time that the Run needs to be solid, it can’t be rigid. It also needs to evolve and transform as the company innovates and grows. A Run like that involves getting the entire company, and particularly the front line, to be fearless. The front line needs to feel powerful, not powerless. It needs to be freed from worrying about senseless initiatives, ridiculous mandates, and unnecessary meetings and e-mails. It needs to be trusted, encouraged, and accountable to itself. It needs to be emboldened.
Think of the daily provisions that we add because we lack confidence and trust in flawless Run execution:
- Extra meetings
- Check-up e-mails
- Unnecessary conference calls
- Detailed Reports
- Useless measurements and data colelction
- E-mail distribution lists
- Repeated e-mail chains
- Emergency phone calls
- Sign-off requirements
- Approval restrictions
- Additional systems, procedures and processes
Clutter is a compromise; it’s a response to the unreliable nature of our frontline Run. When the Run doesn’t operate consistently at peak performance, we compensate by adding layers of systems and processes.
How Do You Develop a Fearless Culture in the Run?
Surmounting the impediments to creating a fearless culture in the Run isn’t as difficult as you might be thinking. There are three very practical ways to shape the leadership culture you want to pervade the Run:
- Raise the bar of excellence by investing in top performers and removing obstacles that frustrate them.
- Foster quick-win successes by removing frustrations and making meaningful changes quickly to bolster team confidence, enthusiasm, and trust.
- Implement daily huddles to foster a positive "what went well” environment, communicate your standards of performance, and create a simple touch point for communicating status of reactive improvements.
Keep it simple, and be fearless!
The Fearless Front Line - The Key to Liberating Leaders to Improve and Grow Their Business from The Fearless Front Line on Vimeo.
Guest blog by Bruce Myers, Managing Director at AlixPartners, a business and technology consulting firm.
Over the past 30 years of working with a wide range of companies – from those who are restructuring under bankruptcy protection to those who are at the top of their industry in terms of profitability and growth – I have found that there are several IT lessons learned from troubled companies that CIOs at healthy companies should apply to their organizations.
Companies in turnaround situations quickly develop a different mindset – in fact, it is amazing what a shortage of cash does to focus companies on what is really important! The entire organization becomes laser-focused on only those activities that actually have a bottom line impact on cash earnings. Specifically; they focus on driving costs down and only spending money that is very clearly tied to increasing operating profit, a mindset that every company would be well served to take.
Build an IT Culture Obsessed with Improving Operating Profit
CIOs of healthy companies can use this mindset to build an IT culture focused on driving IT cost down, and ensuring that any IT projects have a very clear line-of-sight to how they will help increase operating profit – and doing it rapidly.
Building and reinforcing this kind of culture helps IT become a truly value-added partner for the overall business, regardless of the financial state of the company. There is no reason that IT cannot be a leader of this type of thinking within any company.
IT is viewed by some business executives as a “cost to be minimized,” and by others as a “potential source of competitive advantage”. The fact is, it is both, and proactive CIOs can take a page from turnaround situations for handling both types of IT expenditures.
Drive Down Unit Costs for Keeping IT Running Year-Over-Year
Clearly define the IT costs required to “keep the business running”, which include application support, hardware and software maintenance, the data center and telecommunications operations, security, desktop support, and help-desk costs. CIOs should set specific cost reduction targets and focus the IT organization on driving down the unit costs for “keeping IT running” year over year. By doing this, the CIO can demonstrate that IT is doing its share to minimize corporate selling, general and administrative (SG&A) costs and can shift the discussion to IT investments to help improve operating profit.
IT should charge the business units and business functions for their portion of the “keep IT running” costs. Even if IT reduces the unit costs, only the business units and functions can impact volume. This does not need to be the complex exercise that some companies make it, but can be done with eight to ten transparent metrics, such as number of users of PCs, laptops, email, cell phones and specific applications. By implementing a transparent method of charging the business for the “keep IT running” costs, the business will be able to make trade-off decisions regarding who to give access to which technology.
In addition to continuously driving down the IT cost of keeping the business running, the CIO should be very proactive in bringing ideas to the business for how IT can help increase operating profit through investing in new and enhanced applications.
Become Very Proactive in Bringing Operating Profit Improvement Ideas to the Business
In too many companies, IT is just an order-taker, waiting for the business to tell IT what is needed. But, in turnaround situations, when very strong leadership is needed, I’ve found that IT is often in the best position to develop ideas for improving the business. That’s because IT is the one area within the business that best understands how cross-functional business processes work, and what information can be provided to the business to help it make better decisions.
There are two ways that IT can generate ideas for improving operating profit:
- Use a decision engineering approach – Work with each business unit and function to identify the business decisions they make on what frequency. For example, what price to charge, what products to make, how much inventory to carry, how to incent the sales force, etc. For each of those decisions, what information do they have today to help make the decision, and what information would they like to have to make the decision. Based on the gap, develop a very targeted business intelligence approach for getting the data, developing new analyses, and providing the new information to the business.
- Use a business process improvement approach – Work with each business unit and function to determine which of their business processes could benefit from improving flexibility and speed, and reducing cost. Based on that, identify those application features and functions that could actually improve the flexibility, speed, and cost structure of the process.
Both of these approaches can help IT to develop “bite-size” ideas to share with the business to help them improve the bottom-line
So, whether it’s driving down the IT cost of keeping the business running, or proactively bringing ideas for how IT can improve the performance of the business, CIOs can use the “turnaround mindset” to help their IT organization take its performance to another level, and can set an example for the rest of the company.
Guest blog by Maynard Webb, excerpted from his New York Times best selling book, Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship.
Each year more than 1.1 million American high school students play football. The best of them, the star quarterbacks, running backs, linebackers, and linemen, dream of scoring scholarships to play college ball, but only twenty thousand—just 6 percent of seniors on the team—will play their freshman year of college. By their final year, that number dwindles to fifteen thousand athletes. Only 255 of those elite players are drafted to the NFL. The chance of making it to the pros if you play in high school? A very small number: a mere 0.08 percent.
And if you think that once players make it to the pros they can take a rest, think again. Every player in the NFL must get revoted on to the team every year. No one can buy his way on to the team. It’s a model of ruthless efficiency that ensures that every player brings his A-game every time he steps onto the field. It’s a system that makes football an incredible game to watch.
Management Lessons from the NFL
I’ve always been inspired by sports, and throughout my career have taken the lessons I learned playing football and baseball growing up, as well as what I’ve witnessed through following professional sports, into the work world. Team dynamics and the importance of learning to win—and lose—gracefully were invaluable lessons to me in building my career. Further, the need to get voted on to the team every day inspired me to demand the most from myself and my teams. I have found that being transparent about performance—a tactic learned from studying baseball stats—let people know where they stood and inspired a continuous quest for improvement.
What I’m talking about is meritocracy: a system that rewards individuals based on performance and results. It’s an idea that carries weight for employees in the workplace. There also are benefits for companies that operate on this principle by committing to being open and transparent about their performance. (For example, a website should publish real-time information about its availability and system performance time, as eBay does with its announcement board or as salesforce.com does with its Trust Site.)
"Why are both employees and employers so afraid of operating in a meritocracy, which rewards them for how well they perform, not for how long they’ve been performing?"
But what I’ve also found is that although we have some great examples of companies that are transparent about their performance, overall, most corporations don’t follow these tenets when it comes to how they evaluate or treat their employees. In fact, traditional company culture is quite the opposite of a performance-based meritocracy. Historically—meaning in the past fifty or so years—loyalty was given higher priority than achievements and results. Outside of sales organizations, goals, and ways to measure goals, were not always clear. How an individual was performing and how she stacked up against others were not often transparent.
Making Work Work Better
Although one would expect the rules of the ball park to be different from the rules of the office park, I found that by ignoring what made sports so great—essentially its functioning as a meritocracy—we were missing out on an opportunity to make work work better. The desire for security trumped the drive to be spectacular. Everyone played it too safe. And this has stymied both employees and employers.
How come as a society we support a model that embraces meritocracy—in which the best athletes, those with the best skills, are known and rise to the top—but we don’t demand a similar model at work? Generally speaking, we accept this system in school, where grades are based on performance against one’s peers, not just on showing up to class. How is it that at work we fear systems that allow us to see how we are doing compared to others, that motivate us to do better work every day, and that reward us for our meaningful contributions instead of our blind commitment? Why are both employees and employers so afraid of operating in a meritocracy, which rewards them for how well they perform, not for how long they’ve been performing?
At work, both employees and employers often fall into an entitlement mentality. For example, some employers do everything they can to keep the talent inside their walls hidden from everyone else, lest they be ‘‘poached.’’ They feel as though they know what is best for the employee and must make sure that the employee knows how to be successful in their company. Employees who leave are often shunned as being disloyal. For employees, there’s an expectation that they will be given a job, and as long as they are doing okay, they expect to keep it. By keeping their head down, doing a mediocre job, and not being a problem, they believe they will be rewarded.
A Meritocracy Breeds Transparency
I have always been amazed by how managers seldom actually want to have truthful discussions about how someone is performing, even when that individual is doing great. As a manager, I have often implemented informal weekly and formal quarterly check-ins in an effort to force a dialogue and prevent a big disconnect at the end of the year for many employees, when they find out they were not doing as well as their perception led them to believe. Think of all the wasted time and productivity when we give performance feedback only on a yearly basis. The world doesn’t operate on this type of clock anymore. When everything is happening in real time, even my formal quarterly meetings seem grossly inadequate. As a board member of a well-known technology company, I witnessed a once well-respected CEO lose the trust of his board and employees in less than ten days. In the current business environment, the idea of an annual review is so antiquated, it’s comical. We live in a world in which countries have been toppled in months, or even days, but certainly not years. It’s a world in which much is decided instantaneously, and the workplace must adapt.
Yet we are very far from this kind of culture. How can work be so out of touch with the way the rest of the world is headed?
I’m a strong proponent of meritocracy, of the value of hard work over entitlement, of talent over tenure, and of transparency over closed systems, probably because of where I came from—and because of where I am today. I believe that many executives hold these beliefs. I have gained significant freedom by embracing a mind-set of meritocracy. I’ve seen what it can inspire, unlock, and unleash, and I’ve also seen how the opposite—an organization that supports entitlement over results—can limit growth and opportunity.
Unlike the past when you got news and information from only one or two sources and a couple of times a day, today you get information in real time and from multiple sources. There is no place to hide. You can hope to keep problems in-house, but you’re unlikely to succeed. Problems do not get better with time; they get far worse. They spin out of control faster today than ever before. The only way to deal with this is to be open and transparent. If you have a problem, admit it, apologize, and fix it. No one expects perfection, but they do expect honesty. Now, meritocracy over entitlement is the only way. We are in a new age—one that is more transparent thanks to the Internet and one that is being defined by a new generation of workers who grew up with more technology and a more entrepreneurial mind-set.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship by Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler. Copyright © 2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The following is an excerpt from The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership, by Martha Heller.
[Part 1 of 3]
The fact is, I probably get more calls from CIOs interested in sitting on corporate boards than I do on any other topic. Despite evidence to the contrary, I am actually a nice person, and I like to be encouraging and give good news. But the fact is, very few corporate boards appoint CIOs.
This is a real paradox. We all know stories where a data security breach has wrought havoc on a company. We’ve seen as many situations where an IT innovation has given a moribund company a new lease on life. How can it be that corporate boards fail to see the value of a CIO’s perspective?
In the first of three blogs about CIOs on corporate boards, we’ll address “The Bias against CIOs on Corporate Boards." See future entries for: “The Case for CIO Board Appointments” and “Get Yourself Onto a Board.”
The Bias Against CIOs on Boards
1. Generational bias
With the pace of technology change at an all-time high, and with 20‑something CEOs making billions of dollars on technology start-ups, we forget that boardrooms are still populated by executives in their mid-sixties. “During their tenure as corporate executives, these people had an arm’s length to IT,” says Doreen Wright, former CIO at Campbell Soup and Nabisco, and
current board member at Dean Foods and Crocs. “Many experienced IT as a necessary evil during a time when the business would throw the order over the wall to IT. Board members still have this very dated and inaccurate view of the CIO being too technical, not having good communication skills, and not being able to talk in business terms," she says. "That’s a really old perspective, but because of the age of the sitting board members, that’s what they remember, and those biases die hard.”
"And don’t let anybody kid you; it’s still an old boy’s network."
--Doreen Wright, former CIO, Campbell Soup Company, and board member, Dean Foods and Crocs
2. Bad experiences
CIOs eager to sit on corporate boards also suffer from this CIO Paradox: Your many successes are invisible, but your few mistakes are highly visible. “Many board members have had a bad experience with IT,” says Wright. “An ERP project didn’t go well or they didn’t see the benefits of a particular IT investment. Regardless of all the good IT did for them, they have had
at least one bad experience, and they just can’t let go of it. They are predisposed not to like CIOs, and they won’t even entertain putting them on a board.”
3. Preference for P&L leaders
Believe it or not, CIOs are not the only victims of corporate board bias. “If you look at Fortune 250 boards, you see that not only are there very few CIOs, there are very few functional leaders of any kind,” says Wright. “Boards have to have a CFO, because they need a financial expert to lead the audit committee, but beyond that, boards will be heavy on CEOs and heads of business lines and light on functional leaders.”
4. The inner circle
Some 50 percent of board appointments are handled through search firms, Wright estimates, with the other 50 percent occurring through referrals. “And don’t let anybody kid you; it’s still an old boy’s network,” she says. As CIO, if you are not well connected to a network of CEOs, CFOs, and P&L leaders, you will have a tough time breaking in. Like Doreen Wright, Bob DeRodes, former CIO at Home Depot and board member at NCR and Veracode, broke in. Also like Wright, DeRodes started out in banking, where he assumed leadership roles in both technology and bank operations. But his career went in the opposite direction of Wright’s. Whereas Wright started out as a banker and picked up IT as an executive, DeRodes started out in technology and used that experience to move into banking. Either way, the result is the same. CIOs who have traversed the fiery pit between the business and IT at least once in their careers— they have run non‑IT operations or have run IT as a P&L— will have a much wider array of opportunities from which to choose, be it board work, COO roles, or general manager positions.
The greater the number of industries in which you have played leadership roles, the wider your networks and your perspective, and the more valuable you will be to a board. Wright’s industry involvement ranged from banking to consumer packaged goods. DeRhodes spent twenty years in banking operations and IT before moving to American Airlines to help form The Sabre Group. He then went back to banking as CTO for global card products at Citibank. Next, DeRodes joined Delta Airlines as CEO of Delta Technology. In 2002, he moved into a new industry altogether, becoming CIO of The Home Depot.
5. Ignorance and discomfort
According to DeRodes, “CEOs recognize the importance of IT in their companies, but they often don’t understand it. They are generally uncomfortable when dealing with technology, and they find the subject intimidating, frustrating, and incredibly boring. They understand that IT drives their factories and their supply chains and their marketing and their sales and service
organizations; they understand that technology closes their books and enables their financial ecosystem, runs their capital markets, runs their communication networks, and even pays their employees. They understand all that,” says DeRodes. “But for some reason, they don’t seem to be able to connect the dots that IT holds the dubious honor of being the sole function that, if disabled or severely compromised, could literally put the corporation out of business.”
CEOs are used to being the smartest people in the room. They typically have a healthy understanding of sales, finance, and business operations, having served as leaders over many of those functions. IT? Not so much. It takes an enlightened CEO to drag that subject matter into her board meetings.
6. Limited seats
Even for CEOs who are more comfortable with technology (and that number is, of course, increasing as the older generation of CEOs gives way to the new), CIOs just don’t rank when compared with the other possibilities. "If I am limited to eight or twelve board seat selections, I could bring in another marketing executive, or a key customer I want to bring closer, or a government official who could help us in some way," says DeRodes. "So, why would I blow that seat on a CIO?"
Is it hopeless?
At this point, you probably feel like you should just close this article and take a moment to mourn the loss of a board experience during your career. But fear not! In a blog post coming soon, we will build the case for boards to appoint CIOs. If you can't wait another minute, you can also rush out to amazon.com to purchase your copy of The CIO Paradox, and turn to Chapter 10.
[Read Part 2: The Case for CIOs on Corporate Boards]
Yesterday was a big day for Research in Motion. First, they did away with that name and will now be known everywhere as BlackBerry. And, unless you live in a cave, you know that they launched the new BlackBerry 10 OS and two new smartphone models to run it.
In the WSJ this week, Barry Libenson, CIO at Land O’Lakes (who let me interview him on how to make the perfect pizza dough a few months ago), said that he is no longer planning on supporting BlackBerrys.
What about you? Does BB10 still have a shot in your enterprise? Why, or why not?
Please share in the Comments section below.
Guest blog by Doug Moran, excerpted from his book If You Will Lead: Enduring Wisdom for 21st-Century Leaders. (B2 Books, 2011)
Great leaders understand that leadership is a vocation that requires hard work and dedication. My grandfather understood this. He lived by the motto, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” When I was a boy, my mother introduced me to his favorite poem, “If—,” by Rudyard Kipling. It has come to form the foundation of my approach to leadership. The poem’s words have helped me begin to unravel the complexities and challenges of leadership.
While Kipling wrote “If—” to celebrate the exploits of an overzealous British colonial leader, he published it as a guide for young men at the turn of the twentieth century. He intended to help them become better men and better leaders. His poem and his guidance described a perfection that was unattainable, and young men who were frustrated by the incredibly high bar that he had set for them often accosted Kipling. His words present today’s leaders—men and women, young and old—with the same unattainable perfection.
But leadership is not about attaining perfection. It is about knowing who we are and what we believe. It is about seeing things that others can’t or won’t see. It is about motivating others to attempt things they thought were impossible. It is about having a dream and working to attain it. The most important lesson the poem teaches is that one should have the boldness and courage to step up and lead. Kipling’s words remain powerful and his wisdom enduring:
Rudyard Kipling’s “If—”
||If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Awareness, Choice, and the “If” Sixteen
So, what leadership advice could a twenty-first-century CIO possibly get—or want—from a hundred-year-old poem written by a poet who is most remembered for his children’s stories? What can a modern age IT executive learn from a Victorian poem?
“If—” describes a path we may choose to follow to become better leaders. Each of the poem’s sixteen couplets describes an essential leadership attribute. By incorporating the concept of “awareness and choice,” they form a comprehensive leadership structure, which I call the “If” Sixteen Leadership Framework.
The “If” Sixteen Leadership Attributes help us answer four questions that define each of us as leaders:
• Who am I, and what do I believe?
• What do I want?
• How will I attract and motivate others?
• How will I earn and retain the privilege to lead?
Guest blog by Nicholas Colisto, SVP & CIO at Xylem Inc., excerpted from his book, The CIO Playbook: Strategies and Best Practices for IT Leaders to Deliver Value. Copyright © 2012, Nicholas R. Colisto. Used with permission of John Wiley & Sons.
Your IT staff has an inherent need to sustain the existing skills that keep your operations well supported. At the same time, being able to learn new skills to meet challenging business demands is equally important. Categorizing skills into levels of importance to the business helps to identify the most important skills as critical.
Critical-skills assessment modeling (CSAM) is a best practice that helps IT leaders identify, assess, and retain critical skills for their business. By its very nature, CSAM helps you identify your "high potentials" (HIPOs) for both a management and a technical career track. By identifying the most critical skills in your department, including technical and people leadership skills, you can quantitatively identify your most valued employees.
Critical-Skills Assessment Modeling
Simply put, CSAM is a process whereby you identify the critical skills in your department as well as any gaps in experience and capacity with those skills. If you have gaps in either category, you and your company are at risk. The following outline is a simple, step-by-step guide to implementing a CSAM program for your business.
|"The fundamental purpose of CSAM is to ensure that your organization has adequate coverage for all critical skills despite the natural course of attrition.."
Step 1: Establish an Inventory of Critical Skills
Work with your staff to create a list of IT skills that are critical to support the business. After you have established the list, categorize the skills by functional area (e.g., desktop, networking, accounting applications, and system security). Identify the functional owners of each skill, as appropriate. For example, the skills relating to supporting an accounting system are typically owned by the IT manager of the accounting system or team.
Step 2: Have the Staff Members Assess Themselves
The next step is to work one-on-one with the staff members so they can rate themselves on their level of proficiency with each skill. Ideally, there should be a healthy mix of expertise as well as an opportunity to gain further knowledge. Several companies already ask their staff members to perform annual self-assessments on various competencies as part of a performance review. The difference with CSAM is it helps the departments get an understanding of the employees with experience in the critical skills and the amount of coverage available in the department.
Here is an example of a rating system:
Level 1. Working knowledge of the process and/or technology skill. The individual can provide limited support for the process and/or technology skill.
Level 2. Proficient in the process and/or technology skill. The individual can:
- Support the implementation of the process and/or technology skill.
- Support the delivery of training on the topic and assist with supporting users.
- Demonstrate experience with the process and/or system.
- Troubleshoot and resolve some issues.
- Assist with the authoring of technical specifications for changes that are moderate in complexity, including integration between systems.
Level 3. Expert in the process and/or technology skill. The individual can:
- Lead and execute the implementation of the process and/or technology.
- Deliver training on the topic to users.
- Troubleshoot and resolve the most complex issues.
- Independently author technical specifications for significant changes to the system, including integration between systems.
Step 3: Have the Managers Assess the Staff Members
After the staff members complete the self-assessment, the managers should assess them for the same skills identified above. This is common in the performance review process; implementing CSAM just adds another level of detail and dialogue relating to capabilities and performance. The fundamental difference is that CSAM helps you rate technical skills, not just soft skills.
If a skill is owned by another IT function, do not have the staff members rate themselves on the skill without consensus from the skill owner. I have observed situations where individuals rated themselves on skills from another IT function and the manager of the function did not agree that an individual had experience in the skill.
Step 4: Perform a Risk Analysis
Once you have conducted both assessments, you can determine your level of risk with each of the critical skills in your department. Here are examples of risks to examine:
Critical skills with no coverage.
Critical skills with only one employee rated at any level (no backup).
Several employees have proficiency in a skill, but there are no experts.
Only one expert, but several employees have proficiency with a skill.
Step 5: Build a Mitigation Plan
Once all critical skills have been identified and assessed, work with your management team to identify potential risks in their functional areas. After you have identified all of the risks, develop a mitigation plan, which should initially focus on creating activities to alleviate any high-risk areas. Mitigation plans can consist of actions on how to close gaps immediately or be more involved and include training, hiring consultants, or even outsourcing the skill. Each critical skill that is deemed a high risk should have a mitigation plan with a specific completion date. After you have established a plan for the high-risk skills, move on to create plans for medium-risk and low-risk skills.
The Challenges in Building CSAM
The fundamental purpose of CSAM is to ensure that your organization has adequate coverage for all critical skills despite the natural course of attrition. While it naturally helps you identify the strong as well as the weak players in your department, CSAM should be implemented with caution so as to avoid people panicking by assuming that you are using the information to reduce the staff. If your staff perceives that the purpose of the assessment is to weed out less experienced employees, they will rate themselves higher on skills even though they may not possess the knowledge and experience of that level. If this happens, you will never get a realistic assessment of your team.
As IT leaders, you must communicate your vision clearly and maintain a collegial environment throughout the CSAM process. If you do this, your teams will have a positive view of the program and welcome the exercise as an opportunity for them to build skills and improve their ability to deliver value to the business.
Last week, we asked you to help us update our list of great business and leadership books. As always, your contributions were excellent and varied. To wit, one recommendation is an ancient sanscrit epic. Thanks for all of your suggestions!
So, You're a Creative Genius... Now What? by Carl King
"While this book has been out for a little while now, this has been one of the ones I've been recommending lately. For many of the most gifted Leaders I’ve run into, the creative process plays a huge role in how they do their thing, especially in the always-innovative IT world. At the very least it provides good insight into the mindset of the Geeks and Rebels of the world that you’ll likely find yourself leading (if you are lucky)"
-Michael Kohlman, Information Systems Manager, Cook Group Inc.
A Man Called Intrepid: The Incredible WWII Narrative of the Hero Whose Spy Network and Secret Diplomacy Changed the Course of History by William Stevenson
-Andrew Dailey, Managing Director, MGI Research
Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits by Robert C. Townsend and Warren Bennis
"Here's another leadership classic, timely in light of Avis - ZipCar deal."
-Andrew Dailey, Managing Director, MGI Research
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
"Great insight on how to deal with adversity and uncertainty - prepare for the tough times and maintain discipline."
-Michael Del Priore, SVP and CIO, Catalent Pharma Solutions
Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz by Frank J. Barrett
"Someone jokingly asked me if it is a book about embracing dysfunction. No. It's about improvisation as an added dimension of leadership and management. Very relevant for today's world."
-Patrick Laughran, CIO, Framingham State University
Turn the Ship Around!: How to Create Leadership at Every Level by David Marquet
"By far a must read for any leader at any level."
-Matthew Henry, CIO, LeTourneau University
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman
"Do not lead or attempt to lead without reading this! It will open your eyes and change you!"
-Matthew Henry, CIO, LeTourneau University
The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison
"After reading the book I led an initiative to change the way the Society for Information Management (SIM) explores and selects its involvement in STEM initiatives an a national level."
-Michael Brooks, Kforce Inc.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, by Patrick Lencioni
"Major focus on creating a cohesive team."
-Jeff Main, AVP Information Systems, Union Pacific
American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman
"Another book I just read recently that helped provide new perspective on my own growth."
-Kevin Chase, CIO, Energy Future Holdings
"I might sound crazy but one of the best leadership/management/philosophy/politics etc. book(s) was(ere) written around 540 - 300 B.C. It is actually a collection of books (Mahabharata, BhagavadGita, Ramayana, etc). The general population see them as epic stories but they offer unbelievable information (only if you know what to look for!) and there has been quite a bit of scholarly research on the content."
View previously published book list
A few weeks ago, I gave a talk at the MidAtlantic CIO Forum in Baltimore and had the pleasure of hearing a presentation by Matt Aiello, a Partner in Heidrick & Struggles CIO executive search practice.
In his presentation, Matt addressed CIOs both as candidates and as hiring managers. His observations, to my mind, were right on the money, so I asked him if I could circulate his slides. Here they are, along with a few annotations of my own (in red) to add some context to Matt’s bullet points.
What is the most valuable project, program or innovation your IT organization has delivered in the last 12 months?
The IBM Maximo Implementation in June of 2012 has been an incredibly valuable program for many reasons. It was a terrific example of IT and Business truly partnering on a large scale in every area to deliver the technologies, improved / streamlined processes and a trained organization to take advantage of the new efficiencies across Supply Chain, Asset & Work Mgmt, A/P, Tax, etc. Another reason it was so valuable is that it has played a critical role in proving the value of IT to the business as we work to increase opportunities in other areas for application rationalization, streamlining processes and leveraging best-in-class solutions (less customization) that enable lower long-term IT support costs and enable more investment in new innovations.
What does your IT organization do best?
Our IT Department’s passion and commitment to enable business success and continuously improve is unparalleled with any other IT organization I’ve ever been around. The team has an attitude of “I’ll do whatever it takes” and they have become very comfortable challenging each other in areas we can improve. It’s become contagious as new members join the team and adapt to the culture that’s been spreading.
|"Sustainability and a culture of continuous improvement are the ultimate measures of success for an organization."
What is a book you have read that has impacted your leadership style?
A few foundational books I strongly recommend include: Developing the Leader Within You, and Developing the Leaders Around You, both by John Maxwell.
Another book I just read recently that helped provide new perspective in my own growth was American Icon, by Bryce Hoffman, about Alan Mullaly and Ford’s recent transformation
Can you tell a brief story about some valuable advice you were given at some point in your career?
I’ve enjoyed reading quite a few books by great leaders and have been fortunate to have several strong mentors through my career. One common theme of advice I’ve always believed to be core to my success and the success of any organization I was leading is the importance of investing in your people. Grow and nurture your leadership team, enable their success, develop a deep level of mutual trust and openness in communication. With that foundation in place, your impact on the overall organization will grow exponentially.
What is an interview question you ask candidates whom you are considering for senior level roles?
By the time they get to me, I know they’ve passed all the tests re: competency, experience, behavioral, communication style, etc. I’m interested in knowing what diversity they will bring to the team. What perspectives, leadership strengths, employee development techniques, etc. will they bring to the organization? I also like to know how people measure success (for themselves and their teams). If their answers focus solely on outcomes, I view that as a red flag. Certainly, the most basic measure of success is the outcomes a leader achieves, but we should care just as much about how they accomplish the outcome. It’s the leadership behaviors balanced with the results. The interviews that really stand out are when I hear people talk about how much they enjoy developing other leaders. When someone spends time telling me how important it is to develop their successors so that our people are growing through the ranks, that’s a rare discussion to have in an interview. It demonstrates self confidence and a mature perspective that looks at team goals ahead of individual priorities.
What is one piece of advice you would give a first-time CIO?
It’s not hard to make immediate changes and see measurable gains during the first few years as CIO in a new organization. The hard part is building a long-lasting culture and leadership team around you that will sustain and strive for continuous improvement even after the initial gains have been realized. Sustainability and a culture of continuous improvement are the ultimate measures of success for an organization.
What technology innovation or business trend are you personally most excited about?
There are so many things going on right now that are easy to get excited about. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of where things are going in the cloud. Software, Hardware and Service companies are completely re-thinking all aspects of their business as a result. We’re seeing a significant improvement in speed of delivery for new business solutions in niche areas, but the potential is much greater across the enterprise as new business models for software delivery evolve.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how things evolve with converged architectures. I appreciate the potential economies and efficiencies; however, there’s a lot more to prove over time in the real world of operations, performance, scalability, cost management, etc.
Another area of high interest, I don’t know if I’d call this a business trend yet, but I’m excited about how we have evolved our outsourcing model at EFH to the next level of maturity over the past 18 months. We are working with several large outsourcers in the infrastructure and application space with over 75% of our headcount outsourced and approximately 65% of all outsourced personnel working off-shore. Before 2008, we had 100% outsourced with approx. 50% offshore. At that time, our level of service was degraded and delivery was inefficient. Our business units were completely unsatisfied with IT’s ability to deliver on demand. In our new outsourcing model, it’s a ‘best of breed’ model with internal employees leading as ‘Service Owners’ over each sub-tower, managing the deliverables and daily activity / priorities of each outsourced team. This model has helped create the right balance of internal ownership, accountability and quality while also achieving an optimal cost for operations and project delivery. With our new outsourcing model, another innovation I’m excited about that is enabling improved communications across our global IT organization is our use of the AT&T / Cisco Telepresence solution. It has almost eliminated the need for travel and my teams literally wait in line to use the Telepresence room for the quality of communication it enables across multiple sites.
If you were not a CIO, what other profession would you have pursued?
I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed several different careers, all in IT, over the past 20 years. I was a consultant at Accenture back in the 90s and that was enjoyable to learn a great deal from a variety of different leaders, serving a wide range of companies in the electric and gas industries on large-scale system implementations. I was an entrepreneur running a start-up, Fortegra, with several partners, which we sold to Black & Veatch and ultimately grew that enterprise to $40m in annual revenues by the time I left in 2008. That was extremely rewarding, given we built Fortegra from the ground up, starting back in 1999. I became CIO at TXU in 2008 after leaving B&V, and have found the past 4 ½ years to be some of the most rewarding in my career, with the transformation we’ve lead across IT with EFH, TXU and Luminant.
Other careers outside of IT I might have pursued if I wasn’t a CIO include playing on the PGA tour if God had blessed me with a better golf game. In all seriousness, I could see myself possibly teaching at the college level later in life because I enjoy coaching and teaching others, especially in areas of leadership and management.
About Kevin Chase and Energy Future Holdings
Kevin Chase is Senior Vice President & CIO at Energy Future Holdings.
Energy Future Holdings Corp. is a Dallas-based, privately held energy company whose portfolio of companies includes TXU Energy, Luminant and Oncor. For more information, visit www.energyfutureholdings.com.