What A CIO Can Do About Eliminating Dead Wood In The IT Department

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?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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