by Abbie Lundberg

Don’t Alienate Your Employees

May 01, 20062 mins
IT Leadership

Ever since the first CIOs ditched their pocket protectors and shrugged into their executive suits, they’ve yearned for parity with the enterprise’s other business executives. Now, as the business asks CIOs to come up with new ways to make money and not just save it, that day has finally dawned.

Exciting times. As Executive Editor Christopher Koch writes in “The Postmodern Manifesto” (Page 50), “CIOs will need to transform themselves into innovation leaders, not merely infrastructure stewards, and they will have to remake their departments in that image.”

This is heady, absorbing stuff—innovating, remaking departments, rearchitecting the enterprise, reinventing the CIO role—but in all the excitement, CIOs need to remember that these changes may not be all that much fun for their IT staff. As New York Life CIO Judith Campbell told Koch, “Moving to the innovation group isn’t a natural career path for many [IT] people. They tend to like technology more than they like processes.” But focusing on business processes, on improving, enhancing and streamlining them, is becoming IT’s number-one job. As Dow Chemical CIO David Kepler says, IT has to “be allied with the company first and technology second.”

What happens to the people who find the part of their jobs that they like best—programming, for example—outsourced in order to free them up to do process, or tacit work (the new buzzword)? The CIO knows this change is good for IT and good for the business, but the truth is, it may not be good for the individual.

Change is hard. People get hurt. And then they leave. As Koch writes, “CIOs will need all the leadership skills they can muster to manage this shift without driving their most experienced people away.”

What a leader needs to be able to do in this environment is to help his people understand where all this change is leading and, most importantly, how they fit in. In doing so, as Executive Coach columnist Susan Cramm suggests in “The Worst Job in IT” (Page 30), a CIO “can add meaning and context to [his employee’s daily] work.”

Without doing that, without providing his or her employees with that meaning and context, a CIO may discover that when he yells, “Charge!” and begins dashing up Transformation Hill, no one will be following him.