Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Living with Bad Hires

When you have been at the helm of IT for global companies and US government agencies the pedigree speaks highly of your reputation as a technologist and getting things done. Been there done that and that too in culturally diverse situations; that kind of reputation is easy to get choice of openings to pick from and that is what he did ! He decided in favor of a mid-sized company already a leader in using technology to help them with his global experience and expertise. He was welcomed with awe and open arms.

His start was what fairy tales are made of; review the landscape, suggest changes, enhance the team with technology skills to deliver the dream of surpassing global industry leaders. Everyone bought into the story and budgets rolled for him to make magic. The company strutted the catch and he reveled in the glory of being the architect of IT led transformational change. Expectation levels were high and discussions around the solutions and technology ended up being displays of professional superiority honed by practice.

He was a role model for workaholics arriving at workplace when most people are getting off their beds and would leave in time to reach home before the date changed. His ability to get into the detail was legendary at times bordering on micro-management. From programmers to network admin, everyone had experienced his need to get involved and he did ask all the right questions. There were stories about his backseat driving with his chauffer including status reports on fuel used and time between air pressure checks.

Business leaders approached hesitantly for help because they had received highly technical discourses on why the chosen solution was best for the enterprise. Not knowing better they nodded and waited for results. The chasm between business and IT began to grow and the murmurs became louder challenging the CIO. He cracked the whip on his team and realized that they were working hard; his agreement to timelines was difficult to honor. When you can’t explain, confuse; and that’s what he did buying some more time.

The team toiled the best they could attempting to balance between their boss’ need to know everything and restrictions on communicating with business users who wanted to know what is happening. The CIOs new hires had no past experience of organization culture, the older ones who knew better were feeling stifled. He continued to revel in technical prowess until whisper of voices became a din too loud for anyone to ignore. Confronted with challenged deliverables, the CIO realized the situation was getting out of hand.

Under severe pressure and resultant stress, few initiatives were completed though by then the business had no faith in the credibility of the global hero. All talk and no substance, no connect with people, limited understanding of industry dynamics and company realities, a substandard team, and finally no leadership were the barbs thrown at the CIO. He had been given a free hand to build a team based on his articulation of requirements. He was responsible for who he hired, he was accountable for what his team delivered.

Retaliating he blamed differences in culture, the immaturity of the company and people to change with evolving technology trends, their unwillingness to adapt to the new world. It was evident that there was no fit by any yardstick almost like putting a square peg in a round hole; the CEO acknowledged the fact and decided to take action and end the misery for everyone. The decision was a relief to everyone and the CIO soon made his exit after almost 4 years of attempting to fit into the role without adapting to the organization.

The sentiment within the enterprise around IT slipped underwater. Good investments suddenly appeared to be white elephants with no future. Old timers stuck their neck out and promised to recoup the losses and put back on track the technology agenda. The problem was not just that the CIO was an alien to the company; the effect of the CIOs bad hires which he refused to acknowledge and the CEO giving him too much rope that killed IT credibility and set back the company on their IT leadership in the market.

If you have a bad hire, correct it immediately before you fall into the crevice of under performance.

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