Daily Archives: June 21, 2010

Is age discrimination an issue for IT managers?

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said, “probably”. The dot.com boom and the buzz about reengineering the corporation seemed to make senior executives believe that younger, entrepreneurial managers could make all their problems go away quickly and easily.

You know what, there aren’t too many shortcuts. Certainly there are things you can do to improve a business and if it’s in really bad shape, , , you can make big improvements fairly quickly, , , but ultimately, I don’t think there are any “silver bullets”.

All companies have challenges and always will. I have seen a few companies follow the lead of a “smooth talker” thinking that his/her ideas were innovative and that the company could take a major leap forward quickly by casting away all the “old ideas” that had been successful to that point but “slower than what we would like them to be”. We have all seen companies take this leap of faith and watch their stock price go from $50.00 per share to $2.00 because of the fall that occurs when reality sets in.

Since the dot.com blowout in 2000-2002 and this new depressed economy of the last couple of years, I would say that there is a renewed focus on company earnings. In many cases, companies are looking for the veteran CIO or IT Manager with solid credentials in managing IT initiatives cost effectively and a proven track record of achieving tangible results.

It’s now in fashion to have a credible track record and the “t-shirt” that says you have “been there and done that”.

I wouldn’t say there is not some prejudice against older managers but there is definitely more situations where a little gray hair is a benefit and not a liability.

The thing companies look for and need is someone who instills quick confidence and that they believe can come in and make a difference quickly. The better you are in articulating your capabilities and achievements that show you know how to align technology initiatives with business needs that are cost effective, the better your chances.

The real prejudice against an older manager is often that he or she normally costs more. That’s a legitimate concern. However, a solid manager of any age can be worth his weight in gold; and in most cases you get what you pay for.

How about the flip side, do you think there is age discrimination toward young managers? That’s a topic for a later day.

Is it a “bad employee” or something else?

I joined a small company many years ago as the new CIO and as I normally do began my own IT assessment. My approach in assessing a company’s technology situation is to begin with senior management, work my way through company departments that use the technologies supported by IT, and finally go to the IT organization to complete the assessment.

You need to understand what your client thinks about IT support before asking your IT people.

In this case, I heard several managers of the Corporate departments describe one of my IT employee as being unreliable, never sure where she was, slow to complete any project, and on and on. On the other hand, the operational staff in the remote offices had high praise for her.

Interesting, I thought, , ,  we had very different opinions from our client.

There was a big push from several of the corporate departments to fire the employee as she was just “no good”, had a bad attitude and could not do the job.

Be careful what you hear from your clients when you first start in a new management position.  What you hear may not be the facts.

Upon further review, it became clear that the problem was a management issue and not an employee issue. The problems the corporate departments were having stemmed from the fact that this one person was trying to do what three or four people would be required to accomplish. IT was considerably understaffed to meet the basic support needs of the company.

Because this had been an issue for some time, the IT employee simply got caught into a rut of doing all that she could do every day but finally realized it would never be enough so she “worked at it” every day as well as she could.

The employee wasn’t a manager and shouldn’t be expected to manage all the company’s department manager expectations. Her boss should have been doing that. A big part of the problem was that the former CIO wasn’t paying attention to the needs of the business.

My client was correct in expressing dissatisfaction about the lack of support they were receiving, , , they were just getting to the wrong reasons as to what was causing the problems. It wasn’t my employee, , , it was previous IT management not addressing the business support needs of the company.

When the support capacity was addressed to match the need, this employee flourished and users responded accordingly. My CEO even made it a point to mention to me the “turnaround in attitude” of this employee several times. That’s very funny, , , she had a great attitude and was very committed the entire time, , , there was just no way for her to succeed based upon how the previous manager had organized and focused the IT resources.

It would have been easy to get the wrong impression about this employee early on, but the additional due diligence paid off for us all.

Be careful what you hear from your client. Their frustration may be real but the cause of the problem may be entirely different than what they think it is.

Fail to plan, , , plan to fail

A key success factor for any IT Manager is the ability to plan for the future.

Most don’t !

Believe it or not, more IT managers fail to plan than do, , ,  because it’s hard work and much easier to react to issues rather than develop a concise plan of attack.

Executing well and being aligned with your business has a lot to do with how well you plan. Planning is the most significant part of high levels of achievement.

Planning literally puts you in the “driver’s seat”. It establishes clear expectations of  what you will do, when and how. Planning also sends the message to others around you that you are organized, decisive, and willing to make the effort to get the job done properly with minimal surprise and problems.

Many fail to plan because it is easier to “wing it”. When you “shoot from the hip”, surprise, problems, and ultimately failure are right around the corner.

It’s just a matter of time.

None of us are good enough to successfully execute projects and technology initiatives without a solid plan.

Can you imagine a construction company putting up a building without a plan? Or how about a heart surgeon replacing a heart valve without planning the operation thoroughly, , , down to having contingency procedures in place in case the operation doesn’t go well?

Managing an IT organization certainly isn’t heart surgery but the outcome of proper planning is just as predictable in the IT world as in surgery or building construction.

Key thoughts about planning:
–  Planning helps you anticipate major issues
–  Planning organizes your team for success
–  Planning is a leadership quality
–  Planning will enhance your career
–  Planning develops your management insight
–  Planning helps you create predictable results
–  Planning is a requirement and not a “nice to have”

The phrase at the top of this post is a truism, , , don’t allow yourself to fail by not planning. Do your planning work and success is much more achievable.