From the beginning, Fred V.* saw signs of the end. He\u2019d just accepted a high-profile CIO job at a big-name food services company, and he was excited about the opportunity to develop a global infrastructure and manage electronic relationships with suppliers, stores and customers. But he also knew this big company had a history of acting small. IT was treated like a second-class citizen, and business managers ruled their own technology fiefdoms. There were no IT standards or shared strategy. The company had burned through two CIOs in three years.But the potential outweighed the risk, and in his first six months Fred saw nothing but success. He introduced new processes and systems that improved the bottom line and earned high fives from the business heads. Then he began pressing for IT standards and outsourcing, topics nobody wanted to discuss. Suddenly the honeymoon ended. The business heads circled their wagons and shut Fred out of key meetings and budget discussions. By the end of his first and only year at the helm, he saw clearly that it was time to get out before he was thrown out. He walked into the CEO\u2019s office and negotiated a severance package, and today he\u2019s an independent consultant.It\u2019s a tricky thing, knowing when it\u2019s time to leave. You have to be able to read the signs, whether they\u2019re written on the boardroom wall or hidden in your heart. For Charles Popper, former CIO of Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., the telltale signs came after seven years on the job, when he started to feel a little stale at work and was paying more than passing attention to outside opportunities. "People were coming to me casually to seek my advice on startups," he says. "When some of these ideas sounded more fun than what I was doing [at Merck], that\u2019s when I realized: It was time." Today, Popper is vice chairman and chief technologist at Orama Partners, a New York City-based investment bank, where he helps startups land venture capital funding. "I\u2019m still trying to get the best business value out of technology," Popper says. "That\u2019s part of the fun."Here\u2019s how you\u2019ll know that it\u2019s time to go. You can\u2019t get no satisfaction. When you don\u2019t have the impact on the business that you\u2019d hoped for (or had been promised), or IT just isn\u2019t getting a strategic role in the company, then it\u2019s time to move on. "I came in with a vision of what I thought I could do if IT were elevated to a strategic business role. It turned out that [vision] just wasn\u2019t interesting to them," Fred says.The times, they are a changin\u2019. Has there been a merger or acquisition, and suddenly you\u2019re not invited to key meetings about the transition? According to Rich Brennen, global practice leader of the CIO practice at executive recruiter Spencer Stuart in Chicago, today\u2019s most common cause for CIOs moving on is a sudden change of leadership at the top?a new boss. "New CEOs come in, and they have a perception of the CIO," Brennen says. "Usually it\u2019s \u2019We think we can do better.\u2019"Strike three, you\u2019re out! CIOs are allowed their fair share of mistakes. So don\u2019t sweat it if you blew your ERP budget, suffered a major network outage, or underestimated the scope and cost of integration after that last merger. Unless, of course, all three bombs blow up in succession. In business, as well as in baseball, three strikes and yer out!Keep in mind that self-awareness is the key to getting out before you\u2019re pushed. Know your strengths and weaknesses and talk with colleagues to get a sense of how you\u2019re perceived in the company. "If you\u2019re not adept enough socially to see what\u2019s happening [in the company], then the time to leave could approach faster rather than slower," warns Popper.