The one thing that you don't want to have in your IT department is dead wood

The one thing that you don’t want to have in your IT department is dead wood
Image Credit: Iain Farrell

Who works in your IT department? Is it a bunch of fired up people who arrive at work each and every day ready to take on the world? Do they believe in the importance of information technology and are they straining to find new and better ways to do just about everything? Or when you walk out of the room, does everyone kick back, fire up their laptops, and sign into Facebook in order to chat with their friends? As the person with the CIO job, you want everyone in the IT department to be spending their time working to move the company forward. You can’t afford to have any dead wood in the IT department.

Finding The Deadwood

So just exactly what is this “dead wood” that we are talking about? Simply put, dead wood in an IT department is anyone who is employed by the company who is not pulling their own weight. They show up for work every day, they do very little during the day, and then they go home only to once again show up the next day. This type of worker has been able to hide in the IT departments of companies that paid its employees well and rarely had layoffs.

As a person in the CIO position you do probably have some dead wood hiding in your IT department. One of your biggest challenges is going to be finding out where it is at. In order to accomplish this, you are probably going to have to implement some new software tools. These tools are going to allow you to collect performance management data on each of your employees. With this data, you’ll be able to track individual employee’s progress and the dead wood should show up quite quickly.

One side effect of finding the dead wood in your IT department is going to be that the turnover rate of your staff is going to go up. You should expect the turnover rate to potentially double. Each year you’ll see roughly 10% of your IT department leave – some voluntarily and some not so voluntarily. Your new message to everyone in the IT department is going to have to be that they will need to keep improving – or else!

Getting Rid Of The Deadwood

The way that a CIO can ensure that they no longer have dead wood in their IT department comes down to letting their employees know what is expected of them. Personalized goals have to be created for each employee and then lots and lots of data has to be collected in order to track how much progress each employee is making towards achieving their goal. The name for this style of employee monitoring is “performance management” and firms are implementing it in order to create a high-performing workforce so that the company can generate more revenue and more profit.

This approach changes the way that most companies have worked in the past. Previously most companies had implemented annual reviews that were mostly backwards looking. These reviews were effectively a determination of each employee’s compliance requirements. The new process that CIOs are implementing is much more real time. There is a continuous collection of performance data and the CIO’s goal is to be able to help IT workers meet ambitious goals or else leave the company.

Shifting to this type of employee management is going to require some significant changes in how the IT department is run. Specifically, the managers are going to have to be retrained in how best to interact with their employees. Everyone is going to have to learn how to both give and receive difficult feedback. When a worker’s colleague makes an improvement suggestion people have to be trained to not get defensive about it, but rather to thank them for the feedback.

What All Of This Means For You

Once upon a time people could join the IT departments of firms that were doing well and as long as they kept their heads down, they could just sail along without having to produce anything. They were, to use a phrase, dead wood in the department. Those days have gone and now it’s the CIO’s job to identify any dead wood in the IT department and to then get rid of it.

The correct way to identify the dead wood that you have in your IT department is to implement software and data collection processes. Each worker in the department needs to be assigned personal goals and then their progress towards achieving those goals needs to be tracked. The workers who are not able to make progress towards their goals are your dead wood and probably need to be asked to leave.

The dream of every CIO is to have an IT department that does not contain any dead wood. In the past this has not been possible because people who were not performing were too good at hiding within the department. However, now that new software tools allow a light to be shone on everyone’s performance, those days are over. You need to take steps to get rid of your dead wood and make your IT department more productive.

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

Question For You: Do you think that dead wood workers should be given a second chance?

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

I think that we can all agree that the life of the person with the CIO job is a very demanding life because of the importance of information technology. It seems as though almost from the moment that we walk in the door at work, there is somebody who has some problem that they feel that we are the only person who can fix. Undoubtedly you have a list of things that you would like to accomplish each day. Just exactly how many of those actually get done? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way to get more control over your day? It turns out that there is…

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What Went Wrong At Delta?

by drjim on October 4, 2017

Delta had a very bad day and it was the CIOs responsibility

Delta had a very bad day and it was the CIOs responsibility
Image Credit: Caribb

Just in case you don’t remember, the U.S. carrier, Delta airlines, suffered a major melt down when their headquarters experienced a power outage. This outage crippled their IT systems and the result of this was that they could not fly their planes. Planes were stuck on the ground, flights were cancelled, and Delta was even unable to get the word out to flyers that their flights had been cancelled. This mess up was based in Delta’s IT department because of the importance of information technology and at the end of the day that means that it was the person with the CIO job’s responsibility.

What Went Wrong?

The bad things for Delta started to happen at about 2:30am. when there was an electric problem in Delta’s Atlanta headquarters. A critical power control module at the airline’s technology command center malfunctioned, causing a surge to the transformer and a loss of power. The good news is that power was stabilized and restored quickly. However, after the malfunction some critical systems and network equipment didn’t switch over to backups. Other systems did.

The systems that failed to switch over suffered from “instability” affecting the performance of a customer service system used to process check-ins, conduct boarding, and dispatch aircraft. You wouldn’t think that a little power outage would have a big impact, but in this case you’d be wrong. Because airlines are so tightly scheduled, the delays and cancellations have had a major effect.

The reason is because flight crews and planes are not where they should be. Additionally, those flight crews can only be on duty for a limited time before rest periods are required by law, with crews working in three or four day rotations. Multiplied across tens of thousands of pilots and flight attendants and thousands of scheduled flights, rebuilding rotations is a time-consuming process.

What Should Delta Do Now?

So what’s the big deal you say? An outage can happen to anyone and it appears as though this time Delta’s number was just up? That’s not good enough in this case. Delta cancelled around 1,000 flights on the day of the outage and about 775 flights on the next day as the airline worked to establish normal operations. The company said it expected to cancel about 90 flights on the following day (2 days out), and return to normal operations later. Clearly this outage had a big impact on their ability to deliver their product to their customer.

In Delta’s defense, they have said that over the past three years the company had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in technology infrastructure upgrades and systems, including backup systems to prevent what happened from occurring. However, clearly they didn’t make all of the right investments. What Delta has discovered is that they did have a redundant backup power source in place. Unfortunately some of their core systems and key systems did not kick-over to the back-up power source when they lost power and, as a consequence of that, it caused their entire system effectively to crash and they had to reboot and start the operation up from scratch.

What this means is that the person in the Delta CIO position has decided to keep their IT operations in house and has not yet moved them to the cloud. Delta’s data center in Atlanta took a hit and because of its importance to the company and the fact that they don’t have a mirror site running somewhere else, they were effectively out of business. If the company had moved to the cloud and virtualized all of their applications, then an event at their Atlanta facility would have been a non-issue.

What All Of This Means For You

Delta Airlines runs a complex operation. They schedule hundreds of flights every day with a collection of planes and crews. In order to keep all of these different parts working correctly, they have an extensive set of applications that the company relies on. However, when a power outage hit the company’s Atlanta headquarters all of these applications got taken offline and the company had to effectively shut down.

This of course brings up the question, what happened and why couldn’t the CIO prevent it from happening? The first question is easier to answer. The company did have systems in place that when primary power was lost to key system, they would automatically switch over to other sources of power. However, when the power failure occurred only some systems switched and some did not. This resulted in widespread outages. What the CIO should have done was to move Delta’s key systems into the cloud where they could be duplicated and fully backed up independent of a single physical location.

What Delta clearly had not been doing was running simulations of what could happen if they had a power outage. These simulations are challenging to perform and they do carry some risk that you’ll cause production delays if things go wrong, but they are critical. Delta could have discovered their power switching problems earlier if they had been doing this. Hopefully going forward they’ll do a better job of testing their systems.

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

Question For You: Do you think that Delta should try to have manual backup systems if this ever happens again?

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

Who works in your IT department? Is it a bunch of fired up people who arrive at work each and every day ready to take on the world? Do they believe in the importance of information technology and are they straining to find new and better ways to do just about everything? Or when you walk out of the room, does everyone kick back, fire up their laptops, and sign into Facebook in order to chat with their friends? As the person with the CIO job, you want everyone in the IT department to be spending their time working to move the company forward. You can’t afford to have any dead wood in the IT department.

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Just Exactly How Much Should You Be Paying Your Workers?

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Just Exactly How Important Are Smartphones To Younger Workers?

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The Challenges Of Moving Old Applications Into A New Cloud

August 30, 2017

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GE Is Changing How They Evaluate Their Employees, Should You?

August 23, 2017

General Electric (GE) is one big company. They employ over 310,000 people and so any changes that they make to how they choose to manage those people is obviously big news. The people who run GE understand the importance of information technology and have decided that they want to transform how their company operates in […]

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CIOs Start To Become More Important

August 16, 2017

The importance of a CIO can be measured in a number of different ways. One such way is how often the CEO seeks out the CIO for consultation. In the not so distant past, this is something that would happen rarely. Generally, this would only happen if something had gone wrong such as a service […]

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How Should A CIO Go About Hiring A Data Scientist?

August 9, 2017

I’m pretty sure that all of us CIOs would be more than willing to admit that because of the importance of information technology, we are currently being flooded with data. Most of us would say that we have too much data in our lives. We understand that it is part of what the person with […]

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Why Hope Is So Important To Being A Successful CIO

August 2, 2017

When we think about what it takes to make a CIO successful, what comes to your mind? Is it technical knowledge: clouds, network security, virtualization, etc.? Is it understanding the importance of information technology? Is it superior people management skills? I’m more than willing to agree that all of these are important things for the […]

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