A common experience is not having the boss you thought you were going to have during the interview process. When I was tapped to join FedEx in 2000, I talked with a lot of people about the CIO, Dennis Jones, who was recruiting me. I had a pretty good idea of what it was like to work for Dennis and, in private, I challenged him about the negative things I had heard. He let me have frank discussions with some of his direct reports and even attend a staff meeting as an unnamed observer. I was confident I could work for Dennis.
A few weeks after I joined FedEx, he announced his retirement. (I was lucky that Rob Carter succeeded him.) My point is that as hard as I tried, I was never able to get an accurate assessment of the man or woman I would be working for prior to getting on the job.
Compensation. Never, ever make compensation the top reason for taking a new job.
I almost fell into this trap once. I was in an incubator company within GE Capital when I was approached by another company wanting to do something similar. The pay topped what I was making at GE by more than $100,000. At the last minute, I decided to stay with GE--and found out a year later that the startup quickly failed and didn't pay most of the people there.
Some IT Organizations Are Dying
There's an old saying in business that if you aren't growing, you're dying. I think a lot of IT organizations are dying and don't know it. The prolonged hiring freeze and the permanent reduction of headcount budget as staff retire or leave mean a higher percentage of the IT staff are working on legacy systems and fewer are available for new, growth-oriented projects.
The prolonged hiring freeze also means new skills aren't coming into the organization just as there's an explosion in new ways to reach customers. Social media, mobility, software as a service, and BYOD (bring your own device) are among the pressures that will further stress many IT organizations. Already I see articles saying that marketing departments should take over mobile application development and that organizations should contract software services with the help of the CFO.
Each IT organization needs to determine whether it can meet new business needs with its existing staff and any forecast budget growth (headcount and/or contractor). If not, it may need to team with its HR department to develop a staff skills retrain and refresh plan. Replacing employees with out-dated skills is very complicated, especially when the new skilled workers are younger. An ossified IT organization is hard to modernize.
There's plenty of blame to go around on this topic. Has the company provided access to adequate training? And have employees taken advantage of it? But my experience is that the most trainable, flexible, and highest-performing individuals are the ones who leave when they see there are no promotional opportunities.
Meantime, rapid changes in the way companies want to deliver products and services are changing the expectations of the IT organization. CIOs can't meet those challenges with an organization stuck at 2005 headcount levels and, most desperately, pre-2005 skills.
No longer do I view the departure of a high-potential director or VP as a positive reflection on the organization. I now view it as another lost opportunity.
Dr. Larry Tieman has been a senior VP at FedEx, a CIO, or a CTO for the last 20 years. He has worked with some of the great CIOs, including Max Hopper, Charlie Feld, and Rob Carter. He can be reached at Larry@LarryTieman.com.