Succeeding through Succession

Succeeding through Succession

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According to a new survey discussed at CIO Perspectives Chicago in September 2013, CEOs go outside their company walls to replace their CIOs more than 70 percent of the time. Does this suggest that CEOs are over-reaching in their desire to handpick what they want from their head of IT? Or is it that CIOs must do a much better job of succession planning?

This question stirred lively debate among the group of CIOs who met to discuss the topic, and three best practices for Enterprisers emerged.

1. Create a promotion and succession roadmap

One CIO at an $80-billion aeronautics company leads an all-day meeting twice a year to look at succession plans for all of his IT leaders.

During the sessions his team identifies:

  • Those leaders who are ready now for promotion or to succeed a current leader
  • Those leaders who are one to two assignments away from promotion or succession
  • Those leaders who are three to five assignments away from promotion or succession

Once these candidates are identified, the CIO stressed that they must be paired with the right mentors to succeed. “We want to give them the opportunity to do the right job, but we also want to give them some slightly uncomfortable positions and see if they thrive there.”

2. Help promising candidates build a sphere of influence
When they find candidates who show promise of rising through the IT ranks, Enterprisers make a habit of grooming them to appeal to power centers outside the department.

“If I can find two to three possible candidates, I want to help them speak the language of business and build relationships with our key business leaders,” one CIO noted.

“Until they get out beyond our walls, they can’t build their own sphere of influence, and that’s essential,” said another Enterpriser, this one a VP of IT at a global enterprise. “That includes teaching them to speak plain English. The way people use language in IT can be very powerful or very off-putting.”

3. Never limit where you look for tomorrow’s leaders
“I talk to high school classes and college classes about the appeal of careers in IT,” one CIO said. “I try to push kids into math and technology fields. I tell them to consider how many changes are going on in IT and how exciting their lives can be given all that change.”

“Money, lifestyle, travel, the world,” said another CIO. “That’s not as hard a pitch as it used to be because young people are used to technology. They’re building apps on their iPhones in high school. I want them to understand that they can follow that passion, and because IT is everywhere now, they can follow a technology passion everywhere as well.”

Follow this topic on Twitter at @4Enterprisers #312weekCIO.


312-Week CIO is one of the topics covered by “The Enterprisers Project.” Here we’re discussing how enterprising CIOs can make a more positive impact on their organization during the average six-year (312-week) tenure of today’s CIOs. Learn more about The Enterprisers Project, and join the discussion with CIO magazine at The Enterprising CIO.

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