by Martha Heller

CIO reflects on a career of successful turnarounds

Aug 02, 2016
CareersCIOIT Governance

Looking back on a number of different corporate turnaround experiences, Marty Miner, CIO of Leidos, found that organizational design is key to success.

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Marty Miner, CIO of Leidos, a $5 billion national security, health, and infrastructure solutions company, has led his share of turnarounds. Over the years, Miner has been CEO, COO, CIO and in various P&L manager positions charged with bringing companies and organizations back from the brink. Among his many lessons learned, Miner found that organizational design is key to success. 

martin miner leidos cio

Leidos CIO Marty Miner

I caught up with Miner and asked him to reach back through his experiences and share some principles by which he leads organizations.

1. Start by listening 

At one point in his career, Miner inherited an IT organization that was so siloed and opaque that very few people really understood who did what. “No one division in IT was responsible for ensuring IT operations and business continuity, and all the divisions were doing some type of development,” he says. “Our business partners had no idea who to go to if they wanted something done.”

Before taking any action, Miner went on a listening campaign. “I needed the perspective of the executive leadership team, including my boss, peers, employees and customers,” Miner says. “What are the dynamics of the current organization? What are our corporate objectives for IT? What is the IT organization’s culture? What are the IT managers’ strengths?”

During his first three months as CIO, Miner engaged in more than 70 conversations with executives, colleagues, staff and customers, most lasting at least an hour. “It was a good investment of my time to hear the stakeholders’ and employees’ perspectives on the company’s IT and the IT organization.” he says. “From that investment, I had a clear picture of our current state, how IT should support the company, a vision of the future state, and what it would take to get there.”

2. ‘Paving the cow path’

To Miner, a poorly designed organization creates tension, low morale and reduced productivity. “My goal in organizational design is to reduce the friction forced on the employees,” he says. “The best way to reduce that friction is to start by organizing how the employees are really getting things done and make the internal dynamics visible to everyone.”

In Miner’s inherited IT organization, employees who, on paper, were assigned to one division were really working in multiple divisions. “It was not uncommon to see an employee working for five managers,” Miner says. “Since the employees were effectively working across divisions, I thought, OK, let’s ‘pave the cow path’ and transition to a matrix. That way, stakeholders and management will get insight on resources and workloads while employees can continue working as they have been but now be recognized for the projects and tasks they are working across different divisions.”

That visibility also allowed Miner to manage costs more accurately. “Once I could see how the work was getting done, I created a charge structure to more accurately track and forecast operations and projects,” says Miner. “I could not have that kind of cost management insight when people were working across the organization but charging all their time to their home division.”

3. Let resource managers allocate

Miner broke the inherited IT organization into operations, projects and resource management. “Over the years, I have learned that in matrixed organizations, the resource manager is a critical role whose sole job must be allocation,” says Miner. “Resource managers must spend all of their time making sure that IT operations and projects are staffed sufficiently and that no one is sitting idle. I make sure that resource managers do not own work or projects so there is no bias in how resources are assigned.”

4. Set the culture

“As I design an organization, I carefully consider and nurture the right culture,” says Miner. “My goal is always to foster a culture where people can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to get to work.”

To accomplish this, Miner spends time making sure his direct reports have a clear understanding of the impact of their work. “I meet each member of my senior leadership team on a weekly basis to understand their priorities and discuss the impact of those priorities on their employees, peers, customers and the company,” he says. “When they understand the impact of their decisions on all stakeholders, they are able to lead their organization more effectively.”

When Miner knows his direct reports are on the right path, he reduces those weekly meetings and starts scheduling “skip-level” meetings with the next level of staff under his direct reports. 

5. Prioritize family

“I tell my team over and over again that if you have something you need to do for your family, whether it’s an emergency or a celebration, it’s a priority,” says Miner. “As a leader, you also need to make your relationships with your staff a high priority.”

Miner makes sure he really knows his senior team, including what their kids love to do, where their spouses work, and where they live. “You don’t get those strong relationships unless you really listen to your direct reports,” says Miner. “And don’t stop there. You should expect every manager to do the same across your organization.”

6. Remove layers

When Miner arrived at GE Aerospace, very early in his career, there were 13 levels of management between him and the CEO. “I was at GE Aerospace for six years and in my last year, there were only six managers between me and [CEO] Jack Welch,” Miner says. “He had taken out that many layers. When there are a lot of layers or some manager in the organization has only one or two people to manage, that is a red flag that makes me question the organizational design.”

7. Make the necessary cuts

At one point in his career, the parent company of a subsidiary that was losing a huge amount of money asked Miner to step in as CEO and turn it around. “It was not a pretty picture,” says Miner. “The product was brilliant, but the sales organization was ineffective and there was no one focused on channels.”

In fact, during the two years before Miner came on board, the sales team had hit a mere nine percent of its quota each year. “In the meantime, the engineering organization was sized for a $50 million company while generating only $12 million in revenue, resulting in losing $32 million from the bottom line,” he says.

To turnaround the company, Miner had to make some major cuts. While he never enjoys layoffs, Miner approached the reductions by including the existing management team in the decisions and using a philosophy that guides all of his leadership roles. “I am motivated by having a positive impact on people,” he says. “If someone is in a job where they are not wanted or appreciated, they are less engaged, have a negative impact on the people around them and they are generally not happy.

“Although it may be a tough message for the employee at the time, I don’t have a problem with removing an employee from a position to find a better fit if it is in the person’s best interest and it is done with integrity.”

About Marty Miner

Miner joined Leidos in March 1997 and presently serves as senior vice president and CIO. Prior to his current role, Miner served as group chief strategy officer at Leidos. Miner was also CEO, COO and president of former Leidos subsidiary, CloudShield Technologies. Miner holds Bachelor of Science degrees in both computer science and mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He served in the Air Force for 10 years, and served another 14 years in the Air Force Reserves, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel. While on active duty, he earned an Master of Science in operations research from the Air Force Institute of Technology. Miner is also a graduate of the University of Virginia Darden Business School’s executive program.