What If CIOs Didn’t Have To Manage?

by drjim on November 30, 2016

It turns out that there is a way to be a CIO without having to mange people

It turns out that there is a way to be a CIO without having to mange people
Image Credit: World Bank Photo Collection

The job of a CIO is to manage the IT department. There are a lot of different parts to this job; however, one key one is the management of the IT department staff. As we all know, this can be a tricky thing to do well and it can end up taking up a lot of our time. However, maybe there’s a different way to go about running an IT department. What if CIO’s didn’t have to manage anyone?

What Is Holacracy?

Over at the online shoe retailer Zappos, they are in the middle of trying a radical management experiment. What they have done is to implement a new management philosophy called holacracy. The idea behind holacracy is that you do away with a traditional hierarchical management system. Instead, your workers all belong to circles.

One of the circles that everyone belongs to is “the company” circle. This makes sense because everyone works for the company. However, then things get more detailed. A single employee may belong to multiple circles. There are roles associated with each circle. Additionally, there may be subcircles within a circle. There is a purpose for each circle. There is a purpose for each role in a circle. Employees can fill many different roles in many different circles all at the same time.

Zappos believes that by implementing holacracy now everything at their company has become a lot more explicit. They feel that they now have a great deal more structure to their organization. One of the ways that they keep everything under control is by having each circle hold a governance meeting every so often. These meetings are used to list accountability and to change a circles purpose, etc. Zappos has stated that they believe that in a typical IT department, there are actually three different organizations at play. There is the formal organization chart, there is the way that people really interact in order to get work done, and then there is the way that the company wishes that they could configure the department. Zappos believes that by implementing holacracy they have been able to bring these three organizational structures much closer together.

What Can You Lean From What Zappos Is Doing?

What Zappos has implemented is a rather radical approach to restructuring their entire company. Although this may be a bit too much for most CIOs, that does not mean that we can’t learn from what they’ve done. One of the most important things that Zappos has discovered is that at most organizations, people are defined by their job titles. Zappos believes that people can be much more than this. They believe that if you can release someone from the narrow confines of their job title, then they will feel free to collaborate more and they’ll bring more creativity to their job.

One of the big changes that comes about by switching to holacracy is that in a typical IT organization, an individual needs to get permission to do something. Generally speaking what this means is that they need to visit and talk with multiple people in order to build up support for their idea before they get permission to actually do it. The thinking in an organization that has implemented holacracy is that assuming what you are proposing doing is not explicitly forbidden, then just go ahead and do it – don’t worry about getting permission.

One of the biggest differences under holacracy is that employees are self-managing. This means that at any time they can quit a circle that they belong to, resign from a position, and then go ahead and join another circle. If they are doing a poor job in some role, they can be removed from that role, but it does not mean that they have been removed from the company. The ultimate goal of the company is to have its employees both self-organize and self-manage.

What All Of This Means For You

As the person with the CIO job our job comes with a wide variety of different tasks that we need to perform because of the importance of information technology. A big part of the job is managing the staff in the IT department. As we all know this can take up a great deal of a person in the CIO position’s time. What if there was another way? What if we could be CIO, but not have to worry about managing people? Over at the online shoe retailer Zappos, they may have come up with a way to do this: holacracy.

When holacracy is implemented, the traditional organizational structure goes away. It is replaced with the concept of circles. Every employee is a member of multiple circles. Within circles there are roles and a single employee can have multiple different roles in different circles. Zappos feels that this approach gives their company more structure. They also feel that in a traditional company, people are defined by their job titles and this limits the amount of networking and creativity that they can bring to the table

What Zappos has done represents a radical shift in management philosophy. I’m not sure if most CIOs are going to be willing to go as far as they have gone. However, now that they have done this, we can learn from them. What we probably want to do to make sure that in our IT departments people don’t feel as though they are defined by their job title. If we can make this happen, then perhaps we will have introduced just a bit of holacracy into our IT departments…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that an IT department could adopt the idea of circles and multiple roles in multiple circles?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I asked you if you had any bias, I’m pretty sure that you’d think for a moment and then say that no, to the best of your knowledge you are basically an unbiased person. This is good news, but unfortunately you are probably incorrect. It turns out that we all have some bias in us and it seems to show up when we are conducting our annual evaluation of our staff. Is there anything that we can do about this?

{ 0 comments }

When it comes to hiring, social media may not be your friend

When it comes to hiring, social media may not be your friend
Image Credit:
Mike Mozart

No, hiring someone is probably not something that you do every day of the week. However, when you do do it, considering the importance of information technology it is a very important task. You really need to pick the right people to join your IT department if you want to keep its performance high. This of course leads to the big question of what is the best way to select the right person. A great number of us tend to rely on people who are recommended to us by people whom we respect. However, is this really the best way to go about making this important decision?

What We Can Learn From The NBA

I must confess that if someone recommends someone to me when I’m in the process of trying to fill a position in my IT department, then I’ll give it a lot of weight and there is a very good chance that I’ll end up hiring that person. However, the researchers who study such things are telling us that this may not be the best thing to do – when we handle hiring this way, we tend to make a lot of mistakes.

The researchers wanted to find out what the impact of managers making hiring decisions based on recommendations from their network was. It was the impact of that decision that was going to be the hard part to measure. They looked around for areas where they could both collect data and make measurements and in the end they discovered the National Basketball Association (NBA).

One of the reasons that studying the NBA was so attractive was because of the immense amount of data that was available to the researchers. They had 34 years of data and the records from 146 different managers. These were the managers who were able to find new players for their team through their personal contacts. In most cases these personal contacts came from the manager’s former professional basketball team.

What the researchers discovered was that the managers who used their networks to find new players ended up creating basketball teams that underperformed teams that had been created by managers who did not use their networks to hire new players. Basketball teams who hired players by using the manager’s social ties with a former employer ended up winning 45.2% if their games. However, teams that were built not using a manager’s social ties ended up winning 50.2% of their games. Using just a single player who was hired using social ties had the impact of lowering a team’s ability to win by 5.2%.

Why CIOs Make Bad Hiring Decisions

So this is all very interesting; however, I would venture to say that none of us are currently considering hiring NBA basketball players to join our IT departments. However, the good news is that I believe that we can learn a lot from what the researchers have discovered while studying the NBA. One of the reasons that we are making hiring mistakes is because we are trying to speed up the process. We’re turning to our social contacts because it makes the hiring process more convenient for us.

There are other reasons why we may be relying just a bit to heavily on our social contacts when we are making a hiring decision. Business gets done by people doing favors for each other. The person with CIO job is no stranger to this. There is a good chance that when someone makes a recommendation to us we are going to feel a need to do a favor for them by hiring the person that they recommended. The problem with doing this is that it can cloud our ability to judge the person who is the best person for the job. In the end, the performance level of our department will decrease.

One of the things that the researchers had to take into account was that we might be getting bad recommendations. Just exactly why this would be happening is a bit unclear – the person who is making the recommendation would have to want to do us harm. However, what the researchers found was that even when the manager’s hiring decisions were closely monitored by the team’s owner in order to prevent any mistakes from being made, the teams still performed more poorly when hiring decisions were made based on social recommendations.

What All Of This Means For You

When it comes time to fill a hole in our IT department, as the person in the CIO position we are going to have to get involved in the hiring process. We’re busy people and even though we know how important this process is, we would still like to get it over with as quickly as possible. That’s one of the reasons that we may be tempted to turn to our social contacts to get recommendations on who to hire.

However, this may be a bad idea. Research has shown that when managers make hiring decisions based on social recommendations, the performance of their team can be negatively impacted. The researchers studied the NBA and used over 30 years of data. What they discovered was that teams that hired players based on the coach’s social contacts with his previous team tended to do more poorly than teams that did not use social contacts when hiring. There may be many different reasons for this including a desire to speed the process up, doing social favors for people that we know who are making the recommendations, etc.

Look, making the right hiring decision when we are trying to fill a position is hard work. The impact of our decision may stay with us for many years. What research is showing us is that we can’t farm this task out to the people who are in our social network. Instead, this is a job that we’re going to have to take on and do by ourselves.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How much longer do you think that it will take to hire someone if you don’t use your social contacts to find a candidate?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The job of a CIO is to manage the IT department. There are a lot of different parts to this job; however, one key one is the management of the IT department staff. As we all know, this can be a tricky thing to do well and it can end up taking up a lot of our time. However, maybe there’s a different way to go about running an IT department. What if CIO’s didn’t have to manage anyone?

{ 0 comments }

CIOs Need To Understand That Reviews Come With Risks

November 9, 2016

As your company’s CIO, one of your jobs is to evaluate the performance of your direct reports as it relates to the importance of information technology. How you go about doing this and how often you do it have been the subject of much debate over the past few years. However, I think that we […]

Read the full article →

How CIOs Can Make Sure That They Don’t Fail At Failure

November 2, 2016

I’m pretty sure that I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that I really, really don’t like failing at something. Yeah, yeah – I’ve heard all of the sayings like “fail often, fail fast”, “embrace failure”, “learn from your mistakes”, etc. That does not make failing any easier. I’d much rather forget my […]

Read the full article →

The Dark Side Of Cloud Computing

October 26, 2016

I suspect that by now just like most CIOs you have heard a great deal about the promises offered by cloud computing and if you have not already taken the plunge and dived into cloud computing, then at least you have a plan to do so in the near future because you understand the importance […]

Read the full article →

Just Exactly How Do You Get Started With Big Data?

October 19, 2016

The world of IT is often filled with buzz words that draw the attention of CIOs because of all of the discussions that surround these new words. Right now, “big data” is one such buzz word. that everyone is saying is critical to the importance of information technology. As a CIO you may have been […]

Read the full article →

Do Great CIOs Need To Learn How To Be Humble?

October 12, 2016

As the CIO you feel as though you are in charge of your IT department. What this means for most of us is that we need to continuously be showing everyone that we are the person in charge. Since we’ve been asked to lead the IT team, we need to be filled with self-confidence and […]

Read the full article →

When Mentoring, CIOs Should Look Outside Of Their Own Firm

October 5, 2016

As though being the CIO is not a big enough job just by itself. Now we remember that there is that whole mentoring thing that we really should be doing. When we remember to mentor, we generally grab somebody from our company’s IT ranks and then spend some time with them teaching them about the […]

Read the full article →

A CIO Always Has To Maintain Credibility

September 28, 2016

Quick question for you: if I asked someone that you know if you were a credible person, what would they tell me? I think that both you and I hope that they would tell me that “yes” you are a credible person. However, if I asked them the same thing about your IT department, what […]

Read the full article →

CIOs Realize That Virtualization Is Not A Magic Cure

September 21, 2016

We’ve all heard the stories about IT shops with 100’s if not 1000’s of servers that are all being utilized at the 2% level. Shucks, we heard about this all the back in 2008 and that’s when the server virtualization vendors started showing up and knocking on our doors to remind us about the importance […]

Read the full article →