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Hunting Bad CIOs In Their Natural Environment 112

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the and-yet-we-still-can't-shoot-them dept.
onehitwonder writes "Bad CIOs are a blight on the IT profession, the organizations that employ them and the IT staff who toil under them (usually cleaning up their messes). Yet bad CIOs manage to migrate largely undetected — like the mythic Big Foot — from company to company. In the process, these bad CIOs lay waste to businesses and information systems, destroy staff morale, pillage budgets and imperil shareholder value. To help rid the world of this scourge, CIO.com has compiled a list of behaviors common among bad CIOs that recruiters, hiring managers and IT staff can use to identify them during the recruiting process."
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Hunting Bad CIOs In Their Natural Environment

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  • Bad Sign #1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Middle - Adopter (906754) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @07:41AM (#22526122)
    Pointy hair
  • They seriously tell people to avoid those who complain about a lack of security and request funds to do something about it. This seems like a false economy to me.
    • by jellomizer (103300) * on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:02AM (#22526190)
      No, you missed the point. Improving security is a primary goal of the CIO. But the way he approaches it the sign. The example in TFA has the CIO fear mongering to get a larger budget then he actually needs. Most companies today don't need new firewalls to improve security, they need to rethink the process. Putting security in the hands of software and hardware alone is a path to disaster. The CIO should be able to itemize what he really for security explain the tradeoffs to management, and tell the shortterm and long term effort it will require.
      • by GooberToo (74388) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @10:46AM (#22526948)
        In other words, security is a process. Security is not strictly a hardware and software solution.
        • by Kjella (173770)
          The problem with security as a hardware and software solution is that it's often too easy. Just lock down everything, forbid everything and noone will subvert it for convienience, courtesy or just getting the damn job done rather than malice, right? Wrong. A gate that'll only let one person through at the time like at amusement parks, subways and such is much more effective than a door with keycode, because of tailgating. If your user account doesn't let you do the things you should, people will ask to use
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by eudaemon (320983) *
        You hit that right on the head. If you look at the most recent scandals in Finance
        Societe Generale's 4.9 Billion Euro loss was attributable to someone who allegedly still
        had access to middle-office systems after moving to the front office, along with
        the skills to BS senior managers over his positions. Failure in process.
        They failed to remove access and they failed to follow up on sketchy stories.

        Same with the recent extortion attempts at two different banks in Lichtenstein;
        former bank employees pulled dat
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          i.e. no firewall says "gee normally this guy pulls 10 customer records, but today he pulled 1,000! What's up?

          Yeah, that's a tripwire activity - if you log record access, you can identify common usage patterns and alert when the numbers get out of whack - if 10 is normal, set alerts at 20 and 40. It's still a human process after that; computers are good at filtering, though.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Most companies today don't need new firewalls to improve security, they need to rethink the process.

        sorry but replacing that Linksys router with a WatchGuard Firebox is a good idea. MOST companies and Schools have a Joke for their infrastructure. And upgrades ARE needed.
        • But a good IT team can get better security results with the linksys firewall, then a bumbling IT group with a watchguard firebox. If you maintain and support a good policy you will overcome most issues that hardware provides.
      • Actually, the purpose of anybody in IT is increased productivity. The primary goal of increased productivity is delivering data to the end user. Security is critical to this process, but it is merely a part of this process, not the goal.
  • hey... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:06AM (#22526204)

    MORE SIGNS OF BAD CIOS

    They overpromise and underdeliver.
    They can't sum up their IT strategy into an elevator speech, nor can they articulate the company's vision.
    They don't take ownership of critical issues, nor do they demonstrate accountability for problems, but they're quick to take credit for successes.
    They can't motivate their staff and don't pay attention to building teams inside the IT group. They can't attract and retain IT staff.
    Instead of working on projects that make meaningful contributions to the company's bottom line, they focus either on projects that will look good on their résumés or on sucking up to executives by giving them Blackberrys and new laptops with wireless Internet connections.
    They overemphasize project management to the point where 90 percent of the timeline for projects is given over to planning and only 10 percent to implementation.
    They view project management as a waste of time.
    They can't prioritize projects.
    They give staff responsibility for projects but no authority, direction or support. When the individual and the project fail, they publicly berate the individual.
    They espouse a different management practice every month.

    Hey, I think I work for this guy!

    [anonymous for job security reasons]
  • by JamesTRexx (675890) <m.nystrom@mbi[ ]nl ['tz.' in gap]> on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:09AM (#22526220) Homepage Journal
    It may be tagged humour, but I see too many signs pointing at our CIO... -.-

    Is it for sure that we can't shoot them?
    • by kryten_nl (863119) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:19AM (#22526256)
      They're certainly not an endangered species. So I would guess you _can_ shoot them. Inquire with your local LUG about the start and end dates of hunting season.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:28AM (#22526292)
      These are not characteristics of a bad CIO, but characteristics of a bad manager. TFA reads like headunter-scum puffery. It would point at any incompetent boss.

      "Nothing to see here folks. Move along." -- Leslie Nielsen in Naked Gun
      • by davismit (566251)
        Bad managers of any ilk are not uncommon. They all have the same modus operandi. For those of us in the trenches they are quite easy to spot. They are nothing new. Back in WW II they simply called them Chickenshit Jerks. Read here for a full description. http://worldwar2history.info/Army/chickenshit.html [worldwar2history.info]
        • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
          Unfortunately, there is no standard mechanism by which such managers can be rejected by the "rank-and-file" - most of the people under those kinds of managers have to suffer until the manager ends up falling through their own incompetence.
    • by kurtmckee (870398)
      Of course you can shoot them. You just have to fit the minimum requirements to mount a successful Geek defense.
  • by sticks_us (150624) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:10AM (#22526226) Homepage
    FTA:

    They migrate quickly from habitat to habitat. A sign that a CIO is of the nocens executor species is a pattern of rapid job transitions on his résumé
    This happens a LOT. I'm not sure why, but these people settle in, take on a few token projects (never finishing, or else FUBAR'ing them), then leave just as they're being "exposed." I won't name names.

    FTA:

    Young and old flee the CIO's flock. Unusually high levels of staff turnover in the IT department after the new CIO has joined...
    Ya think? Some departments empty out like rich people leaving the Titanic once you bring in someone new, which is usually a bad sign. A good, sensible leader will often spend the first part of his/her tenure just watching and learning, before making any huge changes (unless they're hatchet men, in which case I'll be the one wearing a dress floating off in the lifeboat)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    look at the state of it ! click next ten times to read another 100 words with 30+ adverts per page ! in fact most of the content on that site is advertising of one sort or another they should look at their own management ethos before criticising others "hey lets set up site that has more adverts on it than a domain squatters" here's the print version because as a CIO i wouldnt waste my time reading a site like that http://www.cio.com/article/print/186800 [cio.com]
    • by neumayr (819083)
      I thought the amount of words per page was appropriate.
      Also, they apparently provide a print version. What are you ranting about?
  • by bennini (800479) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:17AM (#22526248) Homepage
    Another one of those top-10 articles broken up into 7 web pages with 3 paragraphs each and flooded with useless advertisements & buzzwords like SOA on demand, Oracle Fusion Middleware and "Storage Utopias"...heres the summary:
    1. They migrate quickly from habitat to habitat.
    2. Selective amnesia
    3. Excessive preening
    4. A pugilistic stance
    5. Sketchy evolution.
    6. Dropping names.
    7. Bad references.

    then a sublist....
    Behaviors observers should note when the CIO has settled in his new habitat.
    1. They eat their young.
    2. Young and old flee the CIO's flock.
    3. They use the same hunting and gathering strategies regardless of their environment.
    4. Brown-nosing.
    5. Excessive hibernation.
    6. Intimidation
    7. They play favorites with vendors.
    8. They act like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
    9. They show their teeth and their claws.
    10. hey don't finish what they start.

    and then there is a sublist within that second main list (in case you werent confused yet):
    MORE SIGNS OF BAD CIOS
    1. They overpromise and underdeliver.
    2. They can't sum up their IT strategy into an elevator speech, nor can they articulate the company's vision.
    3. They don't take ownership of critical issues, nor do they demonstrate accountability for problems, but they're quick to take credit for successes.
    4. They can't motivate their staff and don't pay attention to building teams inside the IT group. They can't attract and retain IT staff.
    5. Instead of working on projects that make meaningful contributions to the company's bottom line, they focus either on projects that will look good on their résumés or on sucking up to executives by giving them Blackberrys and new laptops with wireless Internet connections.
    6. They overemphasize project management to the point where 90 percent of the timeline for projects is given over to planning and only 10 percent to implementation.
    7. They view project management as a waste of time.
    8. They can't prioritize projects.
    9. They give staff responsibility for projects but no authority, direction or support. When the individual and the project fail, they publicly berate the individual.
    10. They espouse a different management practice every month.
    • by teslar (706653) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @09:24AM (#22526510)

      Another one of those top-10 articles broken up into 7 web pages with 3 paragraphs each and flooded with useless advertisements & buzzwords like SOA on demand, Oracle Fusion Middleware and "Storage Utopias"
      Printer friendly [cio.com] view is your friend too, even if you're not a printer. It's certainly more informative than just throwing section titles at me (which is not a summary, it's a TOC). How should I guess what e.g. "excessive hibernation" means in this context until I read TFA, at which point I find out that it's spending more time in the office than talking to IT people.
      • ... He/she insists all articles be broken up into multiple pages so as to force more page views thus increasing advertising revenue while making the internet suck even more.

        • I once worked at a company with a bad CIO who had a lot of the attributes described in the article. One time, he was following a link from a company website to another that had an nntp:// [nntp] link that opened up a Usenet group in Outlook on his PC. He responded with internal ravings about "Why is this negative crap on OUR CORPORATE WEBSITE!?"

          Yes, we had a CIO that couldn't distinguish between NNTP and HTTP and couldn't tell the difference between Internet Explorer and Outlook.
    • by agbinfo (186523)

      Yes, I stopped reading after I realized that the signs for not hiring a bad CIO are that he doesn't have the required skills.

      Things like "goes from one job to another", "doesn't work well with others", "doesn't know what he's talking about" don't help much.

      I would have preferred more useful information such as don't hire Mister X who has worked at cie. Z because he's useless. At least I could have contributed to that list.

      • If you want to start that list of Bad CIOs by name on your own, be my guest. If I start it, I'll get slapped with a libel suit. No thanks.
    • by sowth (748135)

      These "bad CIOs" just sound like standard psychopaths [wikipedia.org]. Why not identify the real problem? Avoid hiring psychopaths, no matter what job you give them, they will be trouble no matter what you do. They are more interested in causing trouble and seeing people in pain than doing actual work.

    • But those are just (some of) the attributes of a bad executive of any sort. The only thing that makes CIOs special is that they are probably the only executives that most slashdotters ever have dealings with.
  • by sticks_us (150624) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:21AM (#22526264) Homepage
    Why are programmers non-productive?
    Because their time is wasted in meetings.

    Why are programmers rebellious?
    Because the management interferes too much.

    Why are the programmers resigning one by one?
    Because they are burnt out.

    Having worked for poor management, they no longer value their jobs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ukyoCE (106879)
      >> Why are programmers non-productive?
      >> Because their time is wasted in meetings.

      You probably come from a different background than me, but in my case this has been the opposite.

      Especially in a smaller company without its own fleet of business analysts, meetings are extremely important. The programming team I work with has been non-productive for a long time simply because they've been *doing the wrong thing*.

      It doesn't matter how much of an uber-programmer you think you are, if you aren't mee
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @10:29AM (#22526840) Journal
        You are confusing meetings with communication. Communication is essential. Meetings are a form of communication. This does not mean that meetings are essential.

        Meetings between two people are incredibly productive, but their use drops off dramatically the more people you add. Most of the communication in a large meeting is between some subset of the group, with the rest being bored. Another common trap is to use meetings for one-to-many communication. These are much better handled asynchronously, because otherwise the speaker has to go at the speed of the slowest listener. The only time a meeting is the correct form of communication is when everyone invited to the meeting is an active contributor to the discussion. If someone is just there to listen, their time is probably better spent sending them a copy of the minutes later.

        I'd thoroughly recommend the book Peopleware to anyone interested in this subject.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I'd like to add a caveat that at the very least, programmers should be represented at certain meetings. If not, then many decisions are made in a fashion that is far too top-down for comfort (at least where I work).

          I love being briefed about meetings only to discover that software I've written has mysterious features and properties that I did not create! And now these phantom features need to be heavily used/extended on a very tight budget.

          Simple rule: no matter what happens, programmers can't win (except
        • by ukyoCE (106879)
          Agreed, as I said not all meetings are good. In my company the failing has been lack of appropriate communication and meetings.

          Too many developers think they know what's right and refuse to communicate with the business/stakeholders to figure out what really is right. Thankfully that boss of mine was finally fired, but we're still left cleaning up his messes.
        • Periodic group meetings are very helpful (groups under 10 people), as you can find out who on your team is doing what and articulate roadblocks, which can sometimes be solved or at least moved forward during the meetings. An hour a week should be sufficient, or you can do 15 minute daily standups (hard time limit on that one).
        • by Kjella (173770)
          Unfortunately, under some conditions meetings are the only way to ensure that people that you can't really control actually recieves the communication. Yes, you can send it to them but if you try to follow up "I recieved it but I haven't had time to look at it yet" which now puts you on their time table or if you choose to go ahead the feedback comes out of the blue "Section 3.2 can't work like that, we need to do changes X, Y and Z." at some inconvienient and usually late time.

          It's a lot harder to get away
      • by Gazzonyx (982402)
        Parent was a quote from The Tao Of Programming [canonical.org](read it for free there). It's great and I recommend it for every programmer and anyone who manages programmers. The sequel to it, "The Zen of Programming" is still in print, IIRC.
    • Why are programmers non-productive?
      Because their time is wasted in meetings.

      or because they spend too much time messing around: working on things they consider interesting, rather than the job they are paid to do

      Why are programmers rebellious?
      Because the management interferes too much.

      or because they have too much spare time and not enough to keep them occupied (Idle hands are the devil's tools)

      Why are the programmers resigning one by one?
      Because they are burnt out.

      or because they are bo

      • by russotto (537200)
        Well, if your alternative view was correct, it would be simple to improve both productivity and morale by

        1) Imposing greater discipline over programmers
        a) More closely monitoring their work
        b) Banning Dilbert, /., and other unproductive outlets for programmer time.

        2) Increasing workload by laying off some of the programmers and reassigning the work to those remaining

        Certainly these methods (a.k.a "the floggings will continue until morale improves") are not uncommon... know of an
      • Why are programmers non-productive?

        Because their time is wasted in meetings.

        or because they spend too much time messing around: working on things they consider interesting, rather than the job they are paid to do

        Or because they can't program; think that their job is writing code and nothing else; can't work with others; ...

        Why are programmers rebellious?

        Because the management interferes too much.

        or because they have too much spare time and not enough to keep them occupied (Idle hands are the de

    • Well I would think a programmer may want to know what the need to program know the proccess behind it. So meetings can be helpful. Also you can have a say in any changes.

      Without management you may not have a job to work on. Or you will need to manage it your self dealing with interdepartmental politics as well explaining when it is. Late.

      Often when people get burnt out it is because the fail to act when problems occurs. Tell the boss that you will do the job to best abilites but it is causing stress.

      Yes the
  • by Himring (646324) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:26AM (#22526282) Homepage Journal
    Blake Edwards said it best when receiving his oscar for life-long achievement: "I want to thank my enemies too. I couldn't've done it without the enemies...."

    I reported to a bad CIO for years. First off, the mind of a politician isn't much different from that of a corporate-climber. I found the same mind in my experiences with attornies. It's enough to make anyone appreciate the misanthrope Jonathan Swift. At the core of all these folks is a basic deceptiveness invented, grown and maintained with one single goal: power.

    I've read Ringer and I've read Lewis. Ringer says, "Look out for number One." Lewis rebutes (although he wrote this before Ringer by decades), "a life devoid of virtue is simple a life looking out for number one.... and void of its purpose...." Or something to that effect.

    I could write a novel containing my thoughts and experiences on the bad CIO, but in short I believe being absent any real talent, being totally goal-oriented and power-hungry, they practice basic machievelian manipulations and mob psychology to intimidate people into staying in line.

    In my experience, any true and honest person that happened into an officer position at a corporation is quickly devoured by the meat-eaters.

    If you want a life and job filled with honest work, non-game-playing individuals and good sleep at night, then read the signs and minds of those around you, build yourself, bend the questionable intentions of those around you into tools that form who you are, and, as Shakespeare put it, "to thine ownself be true." Eventually, you'll find that job and slowly realize "yes, I'm here. I can just do a fulfilling job and get paid."

    Trust me, it happens....
    • Lewis rebutes

      That's a cool word ... a combination of rebuts and refutes. I'm not sure it's in the dictionary though.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @08:59AM (#22526416)
    When you play back a recording of someone to that person, they always say "is that really me?" as they don't recognise their voice.

    Likewise, when you recount a CIO's (or anyone else's, for that matter) behaviour to them, they won't recognise it as "bad". So there's little point in writing an article on recognising bad CIOs and then publishing it in an article for CIOs. They'll all either agree or disagree on the points, but none will see their own behaviour described there.

    From a company's perspective, the only questions that really matter are whether the CIO being interviewed has a record of delivering programmes of work on target, on budget. That they can successfully turn around a failing (but not turn around a successful) IT department and that they positioned the IT dept. to allow a company to grow efficiently.

    It doesn't matter if they name-drop or brown-nose. Anyway a hiring CIO just wouldn't recognise the pattern of behaviour - whether they, themselves, are good or bad.

  • Spotting Bad CIO's. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DumbparameciuM (772788) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @09:08AM (#22526454)
    This is really quite fascinating. I speak to between ten and thirty CIO's every day as part of my job. The exact number, obviously, depends on how generous their PA's are feeling, and their availability. Part of my job involves speaking to these executives to find out about their current priorities for the department over the course of the next financial year. After reading this, it's frankly astonishing how many of the individuals I've spoken to are guilty of these. Obviously, you can't qualify all of the points discussed in the article through one phone call. The one which stands forward most clearly in my mind was the CIO who crowed at me for a couple of minutes about what his budgets were like, and how he'd just cleared his server room to six blade servers because he'd virtualised so much of the infrastructure and blah blah blah. I spoke to his GM of Infrastructure, who told me that the CIO in question spent almost all of his time in the office, door closed, and would only pop his head out of the office to go to vendor meets or crow about who he was playing golf with that weekend. This GM was doing more of the IT to Business communication that the executive that he directly reported to was doing. I hear stories like this all the time.
    • [...]The one which stands forward most clearly in my mind was the CIO who crowed at me for a couple of minutes about what his budgets were like, and how he'd just cleared his server room to six blade servers because he'd virtualised so much of the infrastructure and blah blah blah. I spoke to his GM of Infrastructure, who told me that the CIO in question spent almost all of his time in the office, door closed, and would only pop his head out of the office to go to vendor meets or crow about who he was play

  • A lot of these behaviors seem like they should be red flags for any candidate for any position, no?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Precisely,

      Geeks (primarily IT types) love to believe they are the only employees that have to deal with these problems. Moreover, they believe that all IT types are productive members that do nothing but significantly contribute to a company. An employee is an employee, no matter what field they work in. Some will be great, some will be horrible, and most are nothing more than average.

      I am so sick of the PHB vs. IT, CIO vs. IT, users vs. IT, everyone vs. IT complaints. Based upon the majority of posts v
      • by argent (18001)
        I suspect that if this were a site for salesmen, facilities management, assembly line workers, or any other cohesive group of people, you would find a good deal of similar complaints about how their role in the company is dismissed by hoi polloi. In fact if you poke around you'll find similar forums for lawyers, receptionists, police officers, sales clerks, all with the same general tone.

        That is to say, IT are not the only paranoid, self-entitled, whiny babies.

        Or, alternatively, it's not just IT who get the
    • Sure... but the higher in the food chain they are, the more damage they can do.

      (The corollary, of course, is that a competent executive can have a wide effect in a good way.)

    • Some could certainly be applied to other executives, but they still need to be pointed out for CIOs. A lot of companies don't know how to hire CIOs so they need to be made aware of as many red flags that indicate a bad CIO as possible, even if those red flags could be applied to another executive. Also, some of these qualities are specific to IT executives--such as the use of technical jargon to intimidate and confuse people.
      • by argent (18001)
        Also, some of these qualities are specific to IT executives--such as the use of technical jargon to intimidate and confuse people.

        Erm, are you sure you mean that? Using technical jargon to intimidate and confuse is rampant in accounting and sales, in my experience.
  • by Politicus (704035) <salubrious@@@ymail...com> on Saturday February 23, 2008 @09:27AM (#22526522) Homepage
    These problems are endemic to executives in general because corporate governance does not work. In theory, the board of directors looks out for shareholder interests and keeps executives in check. In theory, communism is a worker's utopia.

    In practice, because shareholder elections are a farce, most boards are compromised by being populated by other executives, typically leading companies in the same or similar industry as the executives they are supposed to oversee. This frees executives from shareholder control, essentially giving them reign over other people's assets. Lavish stock grants entrench executives by giving them share ownership which in turn increases their control over the board.

    Freed from oversight, executive goals diverge from shareholder goals. The limits to this divergence are mostly appearance based. You can't appear to be diverging from shareholder goals too much. Image is everything. To achieve this, executives typically vet those they hire based on loyalty. Many employees, while they profess to understand this, do not. So I repeat. To achieve the goal of appearing to promote shareholder values, executives hire first and foremost on the candidate's ability to be loyal to the hiring executive. This results in the typical knuckle dragging tribal culture found leading today's corporations.

    Saying that solving this problem is hard, is a major understatement because you are talking about making America's ruling class accountable. Solutions like co-determination do exist, however, but would require the right political climate to implement.

    • In theory, communism is a worker's utopia.

      Right, and most companies are run like little pockets of communism inside a capitalistic system. We mostly hope for a benevolent dictator and a competent politburo, but rarely get either.

      So, who has a model for running a company in a capitalistic manner?
  • by jrothwell97 (968062) <jonathan@@@notroswell...com> on Saturday February 23, 2008 @09:35AM (#22526562) Homepage Journal
    1. Keeps pressing the spacebar to get text centred in Word
    2. Insists on capitalising APPLEMAC, and spelling it all as one word, and saying that they're rubbish in comparison to Windows because there isn't as much software
    3. Asks "what's a linux?" and thinks Tux is vermin
    4. Thinks "sudo" is the command to launch the Sudoku game
    5. Actually believes M$'s and IBM's marketing rubbish and reads IBM's 'CIO thought leadership pieces' every night before going to bed
    6. Constantly sends you E-mails saying "omg bill gates will send u $1000000 if u pass this message to 85000 of ur friends in the next 10 seconds!!!!! omg omg lolz"
    7. Fails to find lolcats funny
    8. Thinks Whose Line Is It Anyway is a high-stakes dramatic game show
    9. Believes having defragged your hard drive once is a qualification to become CIO
    10. Probably has a private golf course
  • ATMI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Velcroman98 (542642) <Velcroman98 AT hotmail DOT com> on Saturday February 23, 2008 @09:52AM (#22526638) Homepage

    I formerly worked at ATMI, and they employed the dumbest CIO they could find. He has no IT training or knowledge, claiming his managerial accounting background will allow him to do the job. The CEO is a guy that surrounds himself with yes-men, and Kevin Laing is his personal puppy of a CIO.

    Kevin hired an infrastructure director, who was trying to gown up in our clean room and couldn't find any left handed rubber gloves. It's no wonder the companies stock has been flatlining for the past 5 years.

    Those poor bastards still working there will never get an annual bonus, because the CIO blows the budget horribly every year. The Help Desk manager has run off all the competant staff with full blessing of the CIO, I just don't see any upside to this guy at all. If the CEO and CIO were fired tomorrow, I'd guess there would be a jump in the stock just because they would be gone.

    Key attributes of Kevin Laing
    • They overpromise and underdeliver.
    • They don't take ownership of critical issues, nor do they demonstrate accountability for problems, but they're quick to take credit for successes.
    • Instead of working on projects that make meaningful contributions to the company's bottom line, they focus either on projects that will look good on their résumés or on sucking up to executives by giving them Blackberrys and new laptops with wireless Internet connections.
    • They overemphasize project management to the point where 90 percent of the timeline for projects is given over to planning and only 10 percent to implementation.
    • They espouse a different management practice every month.
  • wrong way to recruit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wikinerd (809585) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @09:57AM (#22526670) Journal

    Bah. The correct way to recruit, for any position not just CIOs, is to look around and identify top talent, then *invite* them to your company. Posting an ad and then trying to decipher resumes is really not an intelligent way to hire anyone, let alone CIOs. You should, of course, post an ad and have a brief look at resumes in case there's some talent out there who has no connections to you or is invisible, so that they have a chance to reach you. But in general, most good talent is visible in some way, so you can watch them from a distance, identify their weaknesses and strengths, and then invite them when you need them (this of course doesn't guarantee that they will come, but it is for this reason that you should always keep a list of multiple potential CIOs that you could invite rather than just 1).

    As for the article... it suggests CIOs who change company too often might be bad. That's not an indicator of anything. That's not even a good heuristic. They may change employers for a great number of reasons, only some of them having even the slightest to do with their own performance, and many times the performance of a person is contingent on their environment. A resume cannot tell you anything about a person or their future performance. Academic degrees, even from top tier schools, mean nothing, and you cannot even trust references as you never know how and why a person recommends another, and basing your decisions on past employment record is not useful if you can't know what they were doing while being employed there (they could be playing chess all day thanks to them being the son of the company's president, etc).

    There is only one way to know whether a person will perform well: you have a set of requirements, and the person in front of you claims they can satisfy them. The way to know rather than guess their future performance is to *test* them, in real or near-real environments.

    How to test a CIO? You first have to identify what a CIO has to do within your company. Oftentimes, CIOs design processes and rules for information sharing, protection, and processing. So, if in your company you find that your CIO will likely spend their time coming up with improved processes and monitoring them, then why not get them do exactly that during the interview instead of trying to guess the unguessable from a resume or asking stupid interview questions with no meaning? One thing you could do is to have them manage a small team composed of employees in your company for 15 mins or half an hour or so, asking the wannabe CIO to devise rules that would enable the team to finish a simple virtual job quickly over the company's LAN, then simply hire the CIO who were able to make the team work faster during these 15 mins. This may cost some money, though, so you could build a computer simulation to do the same: the simulation would model some essential business processes, and the wannabe CIO would have to think of ways to let the simulated business components share information in the most effective way, then you would configure the simulator to run the policies the CIO suggested (or chosen from a multiple choice menu), and you would keep the time. Assuming the simulator was built in an intelligent way to capture the essential parameters of reality (which isn't an easy task, of course, which is why I recommend using real human teams for testing if you can spare some time), the CIO who thought of a policy that led the simulation finish faster would get hired. This doesn't even need to be done during the interview, it can be done remotely, eg over a Web-administered pre-hiring test, so you would need to invest absolutely no time and money in testing wannabe CIOs from the moment you build the test. One word of warning, though: the test must be built as to encompass emergent characteristics and complex noninear behaviours, just like real life, so that no one can predict the simulator's run time from the initial parameters.

    And another word of warning: Some talent dislikes being tested too much, which is why you shouldn't ask them to be tested for more than 15-30mins at a maximum, and only once.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dubl-u (51156) *
      As for the article... it suggests CIOs who change company too often might be bad. That's not an indicator of anything. That's not even a good heuristic.

      I disagree. It's at the very least an indicator of changing companies frequently.

      In some positions, you can live with turnover. Others really benefit from continuity. In my mind, that includes a lot of technical and accounting positions, the C*O level included. In those positions, the more history you know, the more effective you are.

      Especially with software
  • A CIO with a liberal arts degree who thinks he knows all about Engineering and Technology.
    • As a CCNA and certified ericsson PABX tech with a liberal arts degree (honours in pol sci actually!!!) I should take offence

      though as a slashdot reader I would rather laugh along with you through gritted teeth

      arts degrees teach you some valuable skills missing in some vocational courses. If said CIO has enough experience in the field then what degree he/her has is irrelevant.

      I would rather follow a cio who has a liberal arts degree, then couldn't find a good paying lobbying job so went helpdesk, level 2 eng
    • Re:Bad sign #7 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Etyenne (4915) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @01:04PM (#22527918)
      Personally, I would rather be led by a CIO with a Liberal Arts degree than one with a MBA, but that's just me.
  • He? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Crafty Spiker (1225838) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @10:37AM (#22526894)
    The absolutely worst IT executive I ever had the displeasure to work for was a woman. Arrogant, rude and completely unqualified. It turns out that she had quite a horrid reputation in her prior jobs. Made a complete mess of things and then moved along to another (local) company where she proceeded to make the same mess. I will give her points for consistency. This all appears to be simply a matter of empty suits finding one of their own for critical executive positions. To my regret I was out the day that IT became a political space and not a technical one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tompaulco (629533)
      I think I know this woman! Was it a large insurance company on the NW side of Chicago? Seriously, though, I don't know if it is true or not, but some high level women think that in order to get men's respect, they need to be twice as arrogant and rude and in-your-face as a man would be. But it probably isn't even gender specific. I think the more unqualified you are, the more you have to be loud, arrogant, and rude to get people to stop questioning you.
  • The ego train (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @10:43AM (#22526932) Homepage

    The cult of personality CIO is probably the most destructive and wasteful of all of them. They're particularly dangerous in government. The last big contract I worked had one. He brought in "his" people to manage projects. Some of them were, in my opinion, charity cases. A couple had qualifications that included boarding their horses at the same riding academy. They had unproductive jobs and were bossy and abrasive on top of that. I watched them waste millions of dollars, produce nothing tangible or productive, then get promoted. The talented people took other jobs and left.

    It's very demoralizing when you're trying to do the right thing for the customer and be cost effective, then see someone ride in with his toadies, blow millions on something that never had a chance of working in the first place, then get moved up the chain. Makes you question if there's a margin in being practical and productive. I always thought that if you made good business decisions in IT, the customer would eventually come back to the value proposition. But it doesn't always work that way and I'm starting to question whether that's naive.

    I certainly have several first-hand experiences where the incompetent, impractical and wasteful have flourished.

    • You need to go work for another company.  Good ones are out there.  Just keep looking.

      The toads will self-destruct at some point.
    • by mrv20 (1154679)

      I watched them waste millions of dollars, produce nothing tangible or productive, then get promoted.
      Yep, that sounds like the upper management behaviour on most government projects I've heard about. It's incredibly depressing listening to friends who work for government agencies talking about how much money and manpower gets wasted in the course of running them.
  • by COredneck (598733) * on Saturday February 23, 2008 @10:46AM (#22526946)
    I use to work at this gov't facility. The CIO is something like a "perfumed prince". Retired Army Colonel who graduated from West Point, got his Ph.D. from U. of Virginia. East Coast bred and pedigree. Even though it was before my time to work in the place, he implemented some morale reduction edicts. He is still there today. It was not a fun place to work in considering the petty rules.
    • Implemented a strict dress code that applies at all times including weekends and nights. Facility operates on a 24/7 schedule
    • Not allow for Hawaiian shirts on Fri even though it is a military tradition
    • Not permit flex scheduling like leave early on Friday's
    • Schedule an all-hands meeting for 3 or 4 on Friday afternoon and did that routinely.
    • Implement strict rules on Internet surfing such as not allowing you to change options on IE. Firefox and Netscape not allowed. The options does not allow you to bypass pop-up commercials.
    • Put in a boat load of offices and cubicles in the basement but did not put in matching capacity for bathrooms. People complained and his response that if you didn't have to wait more than 20 minutes to use the toilet, then it is considered sufficient.
    • On the subject of bathrooms, when he went to use the toilet, he would kick everyone else out.
    • Implemented a traffic safety hotline where you can get reported for speeding and then get disciplined when you got into work. He tried to implement a vehicle inspection program since he complained about modified vehicles such as trucks and his pet peeve was dark window tinting. Luckily he was shot down on that.
    Overall, this person thought he was so important.
  • ...for those not wanting to read TFA: "Check References."
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by n6kuy (172098)
      Here in the USA at least, it's only possible to check good references.
      Nobody dares give bad references anymore, for fear of being sued.

      • by triso (67491)

        Here in the USA at least, it's only possible to check good references.
        Nobody dares give bad references anymore, for fear of being sued.
        Nonsense! A small pact between professionals is all that's needed, "You can give me the dirt and I will promise not to tell where I heard it." Then dismiss the candidate with a simple and vague, "I'm sorry, we have other candidates who are better qualified for the position."
      • by dubl-u (51156) *
        Here in the USA at least, it's only possible to check good references. Nobody dares give bad references anymore, for fear of being sued.

        I don't think this matters at all. Honestly, I'm not sure anybody ever gave bad references. Why would somebody put down a reference if he knew it would be bad? And unless somebody was a colossal ass, why would you dish dirt on them to a stranger? Most people are nice, and will say nice things.

        So given that all references always say good things, what good are they? Well, the
      • by Chysn (898420)
        > Here in the USA at least, it's only possible to check good references.
        > Nobody dares give bad references anymore, for fear of being sued.

        That, of course, is hyperbole; and anyway, nobody has ever been sued for damning with faint praise.
    • Man, I tried to read the article, but I just couldn't get past how aweful the CIO website is. It's like a case study on how NOT to design a website. Articles that are broken into 10 pages, with each 'page' being 2-3 paragraphs. Pages where *90 percent* of the page is NOT THE ARTICLE but crap surrounding the article. Page design that uses absolute layouts that cause about 40 percent of the available space on my widescreen display to be filled with empty nothingness.

      The Board of Directors at CIO need to fire
  • I wrote up a little follow up on my article (I won't show it for fear of being /.'d). But I think a good follow up question to this article is how to prevent these people from either getting to this level or staying. I've been in two separate companies where someone on the IT executive level (either a director or CIO) fell into what was outlined in the article. Being that in both places they worked in Japan, I think most people felt compelled not to rebel as most staff here almost never voice their conce
  • How can You Identify Bad CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CFOs (C?O) .... in Their Natural Habitat?

    Bad C?Os are a blight on the the organizations that employ them, national business community, academic reputations, domestic and international economics, and the health and welfare of the public. The list of behaviors common among bad C?Os will prevent you from hiring them into your organizations. If they're already there, it will give you good reason to eliminate them. The list is summarized by the bottom line.

    In simplistic
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by n6kuy (172098)
      > Profiting by fraud/scam is evil and amoral,

      Eh? How can something be both evil AND amoral?
      • The evil person knows when they perform immoral activities and decides to allow or perform the evil/immoral act.

        The amoral person never considers morality (right/wrong) of their actions and decides to allow or perform the act.

        The amoral person is not evil, the amoral person is totally fucking nuts, and a significant danger to people around them.

        The evil person is not insane, but is a significant danger to people around them. If the evil person was POTUS, then there is a (Hitler-Level) significant danger to
  • We need a LIST! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cragen (697038) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @11:59AM (#22527446)
    We don't need a list of what they do! We need a list of who they are! So we can check it when job hunting. Now that would be helpful.
  • Updward Feedback (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @02:09PM (#22528410) Journal
    I think a big problem in most organizations is insufficient bottom-up feedback. A CIO may be a great kiss-up to the CEO, but may otherwise be a crappy manager. If a formal process was put in place such that underlings ranked their supervisors, then the bad ones would either have to shape up or ship out.

    One interesting approach is a list of about 15 traits, and employees pick the top 3 that the manager needs to improve on. This avoids a "blunt" ranking that many organizations dislike, but at least gives the top layer feedback on the biggest problems.
    • One method to accomplish what you are talking about is 360 degree feedback [wikipedia.org].
      The basic idea is that you get evaluated by superiors, subordinates, peers, you yourself, and sometimes customers. In other words all the stakeholders in your job performance.

      Its very effective, but complicated in a paper based system. A simple web app could handle it quite nicely though.

      • by Magada (741361)
        It is a simple reputation system, suffering from all the flaws of other such systems. Its main advantage is that top management can more clearly identify the various political cliques and cabals and act accordingly to maintain their own power.
  • What about bad CEOs? (Score:3, Informative)

    by PPH (736903) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @03:11PM (#22528820)


    An outfit I worked for a few years ago had a good CIO and IT department, when measured against other companies IT departments. But we were (and I stress were) a great engineering and manufacturing company. IT was, in times past, only a tool used in that busiiess process.


    At some point, the folks on mahogany row became bedazzled with the culture of information and forgot exactly what it was that we were supposed to be doing. In corporate speak, they neglected their core competencies. The IT department did a great job in standardizing processes and tools and upgrading systems where cost/benefits warranted it. But this was all measured with metrics viewed from the information systems side of the house, not the production side.


    Pretty soon, we had cheap and efficient IT systems. But the engineering and production systems suffered where their requirements didn't meet the IT template. Processes that had been developed to give our company an edge over our competition were dropped in favor of using industry standard tools.


    I'm certain that our CIO will receive the respect and admiration that he deserves along his career path. He did what he promised, within schedule, budget and with quality. But our profit margins and market share suffered as we became a commodity.


    Unless your business is the IT business (Google, Microsoft, etc.) they are just tools folks. Far too many CEOs and BoDs were dazzled by the shinney server racks.



    Interesting note: About a decade ago, when we were looking for better ideas and processes, our managers traveled to Japan to see how companies like Toyota and others achieved their efficiencies and profits. Along with lots of good process ideas, they brought back an interesting observation. The Japanese hadn't really bought into big enterprise-wide IT systems. Some of their best processes used clip-boards and paper.

  • by Jeramy (123761) on Saturday February 23, 2008 @03:14PM (#22528836) Homepage
    Ours got CIO of the Year!
    http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=204702770 [informationweek.com]

    This was a running joke inside our company as the man was considered woefully incompetent and borderline retarded by all who worked in IT. His true gift was looking like CIO and convincing IT magazines that he was good.
    • You'll laugh (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Last year, we got our IT department in the top 10 Infoweek's list of "best" IT departments, despite the fact that we're the worst. We did it as a goof, and got away with it. Pretty damned funny. Even the CIO didn't quite believe it.

      So, it's hard to take any of those lists seriously.
  • ... because they hope that the bad CIO will do to the competition what he/she has just finished doing to the current company.
  • Offshoring is a recommendation, and they aren't talking about oil.
  • I've worked for some very good and some really bad CIO's. The one thing every bad CIO had in common was that they were ex-DEC executives. This is not a judgment just an observation. SG
  • ...some of the more stellar behaviors I have seen over the years;

    - No knowledge of actual standards (including refusal to believe in almost any Open Source options, the only one he agrees to is the MySQL boxen because he has no choice)
    - No actual technical knowledge. Claims to have been in management so long, its all antiquated. To which I wonder how you can be useful as anything other than a glorified secretary if you do not actually understand anything about your operating environment.
    - Fixation on paper

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