Why Do CIOS Pick The Wrong Person?

Despite trying very hard, CIOs sometime pick the wrong person
Despite trying very hard, CIOs sometime pick the wrong person

Image Credit: Jamwhy

The person with the CIO job has a lot of responsibility on his or her shoulders. They have to understand the importance of information technology and keep the company’s IT systems up and running while at the same time keeping one eye on the future in order to determine what is coming their way. However, they also have other responsibilities. These include picking the right people to run the IT department. This is a big responsibility that the person in the CIO position takes very seriously. This leads, of course, to the question as to why they seem to do a bad job of it so often?

Why Do CIOs Make Bad Choices?

Let’s face it – when the CIO screws up and makes a bad hiring decision, it can be a very costly mistake. Research has shown that up to 35% of the managers who leave an IT department left because they were asked to leave. Having this kind of staff turnover can be expensive for the company when you take into account salary, benefit, bonus, severance, etc.

CIOs choose the wrong person time after time. They make these decisions despite seeing shortcomings in the candidate that they had identified, despite having better qualified candidates, and despite vocalizing misgivings about the person that they end up selecting. So why do CIOs keep making the same mistakes? It turns out that the answer is common decision biases.

There are a number of different bias that CIOs end up dealing with. One of the more common ones is called conformation bias. When a CIO is dealing with this, they charge ahead with their preconceived notions about problem or issue. The problem that CIOs are dealing with is that their bias are leading them to dysfunctional decision making. This means that CIOs need to understand how they can avoid making these mistakes.

How Can This Problem Be Fixed?

One of the most common bias that a CIO can run into is called in-group bias. This occurs when the CIO reaches out to his current team in order to get some help in selecting someone to join them. All too often the CIO is a white male and he’ll aske other white males to join him in selecting a candidate. The result of this is that he’s going to end up with a slate of candidates whom are also white males. The problem here is that it is human nature for us to favor those people who are most like us. The reality of life is that if we can have some diversity in our team, then the team will be better for it.

Another type of bias is the repetition bias and the associated bandwagon effect. Repetition bias occurs when people start to believe the most repeated messages instead of the most valid ones. What this means is that if we meet with one candidate more than the others, then we’ll start to favor them. The bandwagon effect can occur when the team that you’ve assembled to help you make a decision starts to rally behind one candidate, the rest of the team will jump on even if that person is really not the right person for the job.

Yet another bias that can plague a CIO is called the escalation of commitment bias. This bias can start to show up at the end of the candidate selection process. When a CIO starts to get presented with information about a candidate that challenges their assumptions about that candidate late in the game, they will end up sticking with the candidate that they favor based on the belief that they are too far along in the process to change their minds now.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs are called on to perform a number of different challenging tasks. One of the most important is hiring people to serve as members of the IT department. What studies have shown is that all too often, CIOs do a very poor job of hiring the right people. What is going wrong?

When a CIO makes a bad hiring decision, generally they have been exposed to the person’s flaws. There were no secrets or surprises here. Instead, what happened was that they experienced common decision bias. This bias can take on a number of different forms. One form is in-group bias where the CIO builds a team that looks like them to help with the process and they only consider candidates that look like them. Another bias is the repetition bias and the associated bandwagon effect. When we see a candidate more than others, we can tend to start to favor them and when one or more of our team starts to favor them, then everyone can start to favor them. Finally, the escalation of commitment bias occurs when we get further along in the decision making process before discovering things that we don’t like about a candidate. By then we feel that it’s too late to change our minds.

One of the longest lasting decisions that a CIO is going to make will be how they choose to staff their department. Since we know that they are currently doing a poor job of making good decisions, we need to understand why and how to make better decisions. It turns out that bias are getting in our way. This means that we need to become aware of them and then push them aside and not allow them to cloud our decision making process.

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

Question For You: What should a CIO do if they discover that their decision making is starting to be affected by a bias?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What does your office space look like right now? If your company is like roughly 70% of the firms out there, you have adopted an “open office” format where the walls and cubes have all been removed. Something else that often goes away at the same time is a private office for the person with the CIO job. This means that you get to sit with the members of your department – side by side working to try to capture the importance of information technology. Back in the day this kind of set up was all the rage, but lately CIOs have been having second thoughts.

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