Successful CIOs, like all highly placed executives, must be adept at running an organization that\u2019s good at getting work out the door.\n\nUnfortunately, many of the most popular management techniques for fixing poor organizational performance don\u2019t work. Or worse.\n\nIf you want better guidance, start with Peter Drucker\u2019s observation that, \u201cMost of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.\u201d\n\nWhich should encourage you to take the next logical step: To improve IT\u2019s performance, figure out which of your organization\u2019s management practices are best at making getting work done difficult, and stop doing them. Here are some likely places to start.\n\nBad fix #1: Reorganize\n\nWhat it is: The ever-popular Titanic iceberg collision remediation strategy of rearranging the deck chairs.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a problem: Reorganizations don\u2019t change how work gets done.\n\nThe usual rationale is that realigning reporting relationships removes barriers. Which it does, most often by replacing one set of barriers with a different set of barriers.\n\nMeanwhile, reorganizations change the unwritten rules by which IT operates, as employees have to learn how to work with their new management.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a temptation: It\u2019s tempting because it\u2019s easy. Just announce the new reporting relationships and leave it to everyone else to make it work.\n\nIt\u2019s especially tempting when you have an ineffective manager \u2014 you can avoid the unpleasant conversation that tells them so, instead placing them someplace safe in the new organization to minimize the damage they inflict.\n\nWhat to do instead: Just about anything.\n\nBad fix #2: Rely on multitasking\n\nWhat it is: Asking employees to juggle multiple responsibilities.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a problem: Employees divide their time into two buckets \u2014 orienting to the task at hand, and performing the task at hand. The more employees have to multitask, the more time they lose to reorienting, reducing the time they can devote to productive work.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a temptation: Multitasking means never having to say no to a request. You can always promise to squeeze something in. Also, it improves IT\u2019s performance on employee utilization \u2014 a bad but popular metric.\n\nWhat to do instead: Eliminating multitasking is too much to shoot for, because there are, inevitably, more bits and pieces of work than there are staff to work on them. Also, the political pressure to squeeze something in usually overrules the logic of multitasking less. So instead of trying to stamp it out, attack the problem at the demand side instead of the supply side by enforcing a \u201cNothing-Is-Free\u201d rule.\n\nBad fix #3: Ignore bad processes\n\nWhat it is: The way work gets done is disorganized, ineffective, uncoordinated, undocumented, inconsistent, and idiosyncratic.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a problem: When each employee independently figures out the way to get something done, IT\u2019s practices are, in effect, in a perpetual state of alpha testing. Processes never improve because no two people ever do them the same way or build on past successes.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a temptation: Defining, documenting, training, and insisting everyone follows well-defined processes is a lot of work, not to mention that it can make a manager unpopular. After all, for most employees doing things the way they want is a whole lot more fun than doing things the institution\u2019s way. Worse, doing things the institution\u2019s way and insisting on it will lead to accusations that you\u2019re turning IT into a stifling, choking bureaucracy.\n\nWhat to do instead: Encourage a \u201cculture of process\u201d throughout your organization.\n\nYes, this is just the headline, and there\u2019s a whole lot of thought and work associated with making it real. Not everything can be reduced to an e-zine article. Sorry.\n\nBad fix #4: Holding people accountable\n\nWhat it is: According to its proponents, it\u2019s how to make sure everyone does their best to avoid making mistakes and do whatever it takes to get the job done.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a problem: Holding people accountable is root cause analysis predicated on the assumption that if something goes wrong it must be someone\u2019s fault. It\u2019s a flawed assumption because most often, when something goes wrong, it\u2019s the result of bad systems and processes, not someone screwing up.\n\nWhen a manager holds someone accountable they\u2019re really just blame-shifting. Managers are, after all, accountable for their organization\u2019s systems and processes, aren\u2019t they?\n\nSecond problem: If you hold people accountable when something goes wrong, they\u2019ll do their best to conceal the problem from you. And the longer nobody deals with a problem, the worse it gets.\n\nOne more: If you hold people accountable whenever something doesn\u2019t work, they\u2019re unlikely to take any risks, because why would they?\n\nWhy it\u2019s a temptation: Finding someone to blame is, compared to serious root cause analysis, easy, and fixing the \u201cproblem\u201d is, compared to improving systems and practices, child\u2019s play. As someone once said, hard work pays off sometime in the indefinite future, but laziness pays off right now.\n\nWhat to do instead: Whenever something goes wrong, first fix the immediate problem \u2014 aka \u201cstop the bleeding.\u201d Then, figure out which systems and processes failed to prevent the problem and fix them so the organization is better prepared next time.\n\nAnd if it turns out the problem really was that someone messed up, figure out if they need better training and coaching, if they just got unlucky, if they took a calculated risk, or if they really are a problem employee you need to punish \u2014 what \u201cholding people accountable\u201d means in practice.\n\nBad fix #5: Keeping you in the loop\n\nWhat it is: A consequence of the no-surprises rule \u2014 if something happens in your department, you\u2019re supposed to know about it before it becomes visible to your peers and management.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a problem: It isn\u2019t a problem. Unless, that is, you make keeping you in the loop a higher priority than fixing what\u2019s gone wrong, and especially if it means whoever is trying to fix the problem has to get managerial approval before taking whatever steps they need to take.\n\nWhy it\u2019s a temptation: Being kept in the loop reduces the fear that a manager will be blindsided and look bad to their management. Also, it makes a manager feel important: \u201cI have to take this call\u201d is almost as compelling as, back in the old days, having their pager start to buzz.\n\nWhat to do instead: This is a softball, isn\u2019t it? Just make sure everyone knows that, should a problem arise, priority #1 is fixing it. Briefing you is priority #2 or #3. Or maybe #27.\n\nNot everything is hard to figure out.\n\nAnd, a suggestion\n\nSet up an anonymous one-question survey. Invite all IT employees to participate. The one question builds on the aforementioned Peter Drucker observation: \u201cWhat are we in IT management doing that interferes with your ability to do your work?\n\nPublicize the most common responses, take them seriously, and repeat the survey quarterly.\n\nAnd if any of the common responses surprise you, revisit your organizational listening program, because clearly the one you have in place isn\u2019t working.