Stop Your Company From Looking Outside for the Next CIO
Advice on how CIOs can give their chosen successors a better chance.
Wed, June 16, 2010
CIO Executive Council — When I ask CIOs about their successor, I get one of three answers: Fifty percent tell me, “I am grooming two people, but they still have some development ahead of them.” Roughly thirty percent say, “I have someone who could be CIO tomorrow.” The rest of the time I hear, “Not by a long shot.” Despite the fact that most CIOs have a successor in mind, I would wager that fewer than 10 percent of today’s large-company CIOs have been promoted from within. Hence the paradox: You develop successors, yet the CEO almost always goes outside for the next CIO.
This paradox has one obvious explanation: The CEO is dissatisfied with IT, and the CIO’s would-be successors are guilty by association. But there are other, more manageable challenges at play in the succession-planning paradox. The following CIOs and their named successors offer pragmatic solutions.
The Stovepipe Dilemma. IT leaders tend to come up through applications or infrastructure, while the CIO role requires experience with both.
Solution: Give your successor all of IT. Bruce Goodman joined Humana (HUM) in 1999 as CIO, but three years later he took on responsibility for service operations as well. As chief service and information officer, Goodman worked with senior management to give IT operations and technical services to CTO Brian LeClaire, his named successor. LeClaire also kept his existing responsibility for applications engineering. “Years ago, I had an opportunity for advancement that I did not receive because I did not have a successor,” says Goodman. “If you want to advance past CIO, you have to hire people who have the potential to do your job and then give them as much of IT as you can.”
Solution: Recruit well-rounded direct reports. When Rick Davidson was CIO at Manpower, he had openings in his applications and infrastructure leadership. But he did not recruit people with stovepipe backgrounds in those disciplines, as many CIOs do. Instead, Davidson, now a director at AlixPartners, kept an eye on bringing in possible successors and so hired people with broad experiences in shared services operations and business functions.
The Exposure Dilemma. Too often when the outgoing CIO recommends a successor, the executive committee has had little exposure to the internal candidate.
Solution: Get successors in front of the business. Davidson gave Denis Edwards, who succeeded him at Manpower in 2009, responsibility for a front-office transformation program—“the largest, most complex program in the history of the company,” says Edwards. Because of the program’s impact, the entire executive committee was invested. Davidson, rather than acting as the executive face on the program himself, gave Edwards the highly visible role of providing the steering committee with updates and presentations.