Q: It’s hard to develop leaders in today’s environment of outsourcing when many IT staffs are at skeleton levels and spread too thin. It will be even harder in the future since fewer students are entering IT programs. How can the average CIO who is head down in day-to-day IT look up enough to create a leadership development program?
A: The busy CIO needs to consider the work itself as the development program. Organizations get into trouble if they don’t plan and sequence developmental experiences in line with employees’ career objectives and don’t demonstrate willingness to transition people into new experiences. (This may or may not require job changes.) Strategic sourcing and declining enrollments don’t have to affect the leadership pipeline as long as the best work is retained internally and leaders are recruited from both within and outside the IT organization.
Q: Please address an experienced-based development approach in more depth.
A: Expertise and wisdom is gained on the job; classroom education, while beneficial for certain types of skill and knowledge development, is of limited use in developing leaders. The key to developing a leadership pipeline is to identify promising employees relatively early in their careers, provide the right on-the-job experiences at the right times, and surround them with coaches and mentors (hopefully in the form of supervisors). For more information about the critical IT development experiences, please see my column titled “The Unnatural Selection Process for CIOs” (www.cio.com/080104).
Q: You say that “mini-CIOs” should manage the entire plan-build-run process. But then you say CIOs position the business to take the lead on management and analytical project roles. Who should be responsible for running IT services—IT or the business?
A: The IT department should ensure that the company’s IT investment goes to the highest and best use. It is not necessary for the IT department to directly provide all the services to fulfill this mission. In other words, CIOs should focus on ensuring IT is done well rather than trying to do it all themselves.