A while ago I was working as an implementation consultant for a big national organisation. On a certain day I had the pleasure to sit down with their CIO to talk about his vision. He told me a great story about how their organisation would be in a couple of years. He told me that they’d be leading in IT and becoming the national benchmark: other companies would aspire to be like them! It was a great inspirational story. At the end of the story he asked me what I thought. I told him it was inspirational and if I could ask him one question. Of course I could. So I asked him:
“Who is going to bring you to that leading position?”
“Our people! Why do you ask?”, he asked.
I replied him that I’ve been working with his people for a couple of months. One thing I’ve noticed while I was working with them was that there was a shortage of ‘real IT people’. With this I mean people with a mindset and passion for IT. Most of his people were placed in IT because they couldn’t continue in their previous position, were pretty good with computers, and applied for a position in IT. Most of them didn’t even learn to think like a IT specialist, but grew into their job and knew only about that specific job. There is nothing wrong with this, the company was doing fine with this group of employees. But if the CIO really wanted to achieve his vision, there was a mismatch between capabilities needed and the available capabilities.
The CIO wanted to know if my assessment of his organisation was correct so he asked for a few professionals from his HR and IT departments. They confirmed that the set of skills of the current employees was up to par for the current situation, but some were already a bit out of their depth and they saw a risk for the future.
In this case the CIO had to go back to the drawing board. In business school he learned about creating vision and he also learned about what it meant in staff. He knew how many people he’d need and what the organisation would look like. He forgot to check his assumption that the people in the current positions were up to the challenge and if he was realistic.
To prevent this from happening it’s essential to check your assumptions. In this case the CIO could have involved his HR department in creating his vision. A good HR team will be able to tell you if your vision is realistic with the current population. They’ll also be able to help create the business case for reaching the vision (training, hiring, etc). Don’t just check your legacy systems, also check your legacy staff!