Are 18-month org charts and constant training the new reality for IT?

Are 18-month org charts and constant training the new reality for IT?

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March 07, 2016
CIO Digital Training

I believe a growing consensus exists in the IT industry that talent has become so expensive that it makes more sense to develop your own talent. This also makes sense given the cost of recruiting and the fact that as soon as you train a newcomer, they may be out the door again. I’m much more about building an agile organization where internal employees have first say on new jobs. Candidly, the people that have been loyal to the organization, that are active employees, that are eager and hungry to learn – those are the ones that I’m willing to invest in to keep. That doesn’t mean I’m shutting down all external resources and searches, of course.

Not everyone will rise to the occasion of this kind of challenge. But I think you can set the right tenor for operational excellence that leads certain people to self-select to leave the organization.  In my experience, only a very limited subset of employees have to be actively engaged in doing a reduction in force or a reorganization.

The rise of the 18-month org chart

In all honesty, I’m not building org charts that are good for ten years. I’m not building org charts that are good for three. That was the case when I left my last job. I reorganized a lot, and it created a bit of tension with HR. But that’s the only way I’m going to be relevant and competitive going forward.

To plan for an IT future, you’ve got to be agile and hungry, and that agility has to be demonstrated by strategic plans that are being updated and changed. In fact, some organizations have moved to strategic directives rather than plans because they’re only going to live for 12 to 18 months. At that point the organizational structure aligns with the directive and its goals and then the organization develops performance measurements.

This pace of change does generate some turbulence, but I think it’s necessary to have the agility. Otherwise, you’re going to be lurching around and get misalignment naturally because your plan from three years ago doesn’t align with your organizational structure, which doesn’t align with what the company is trying to do based on all the change in the environment.

So you need strategic vision and you need to long-term goals that guide the organization.  Part of these goals and values are never changing, but part of them are changing as new opportunities emerge. That’s why I think my talent management should be more focused inward. I’m investing more in my existing employees to keep them. I’m having honest conversations. I just said at a town hall: “Look, there are about 220 of you; I have way more work than 220 of you can do. But that work is going to change, and it’s going to change on a yearly basis, and it’s going to change foundationally.”

If you go back a couple of years ago, we were heavily involved in the storage business.  Now I can buy unlimited storage from the cloud. I don’t need a lot of people doing storage. In fact, I may only need one. Everybody else, I’m willing to retrain you, but you’re going to be doing mobile, or you’re going to be doing business intelligence, or you’re going to be helping our organizations do gap analysis. I would argue that any IT executive is going to have to realign their organization on a yearly to 18-month cycle now and update performance goals or strategic plans at that tempo. Perhaps it was more like a waltz before; it’s more of a tango now.

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Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D. is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In this role servant leader and enabler of others, he leads a team of dedicated professionals focused on providing solution to the UAB through world-class IT with a focus on innovation, agility and cost efficiency.

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