How can you really tell if the executive you just hired is meeting your expectations? Some executives are experts when it comes to smoke and mirrors, especially in IT, where incompetence will impact the businesses supported through sales. This usually happens when customers are unable to withdraw money, place orders or the orders get lost once placed, experience slow response times, get double charged or the wrong item is delivered and a myriad of other issues usually caused by IT, but blamed elsewhere. Incompetence in IT isn't always apparent in IT. In many instances the blame gets shifted to the business divisions supported, who ultimately pay the price through lower revenues and profits.
Signs to look for that may just save your job:
- Nothing changes: no massive reorg within the executive's organization. Everything stays as is, aside from the reports that begin coming out showing how great everything is.
- Your executive immediately hires someone to do the job he or she was brought in to do, causing the organization to grow for the first year or two.
- Employee moral goes down. Employees usually understand staff cuts and while moral might go down for that reason, eventually it goes back up. With smoke and mirrors, moral goes down and stays down, because workers know exactly what's going on and have lost faith in management.
- Costs keep increasing. No matter how much the company trims expenses, profit margins remain below industry average. With smoke and mirrors in IT, productivity across the entire organization goes down, with no apparent cause. Development teams that spend a good portion of their time fighting fires have no backing when smoke and mirror reports show problems going down, or no problems at all. As a result, new product development is either non-existent or constantly misses deadlines.
An executive who's an expert with smoke and mirrors will have you believing things couldn't be any better. They will give you daily, weekly and monthly reports showing improvements no one else had been able to achieve, not even you. Improvements that exceed the targets you set for them. Improvements that make you smile each morning as you tell the CEO and the business division heads how wonderful things are. Improvements that cause you to show off your new superstar and offer his or her services to the business divisions that are wondering why revenue and profits have suddenly gone down.
WHO TAKES THE FALL?
In reality, things are falling apart deep down in the trenches in IT, while your executive gives you a rosy picture using smoke and mirrors. They'll produce reports showing problems decreasing while demand and productivity are increasing. Eventually, IT will take the hit, if the business is still viable. When that happens, it is you who gets blamed and shown the door, with your superstar executive getting your job. When that happens, do you know the first thing they'll do? Hire someone competent to do what they should have been doing, without the smoke and mirrors.
Abdul Jaludi is the CEO of TAG-MC and the co-winner of Citi's innovative future of banking idea contest. He recently authored Command Center Handbook: Proactive IT Monitoring, the only handbook for executives on designing, managing and optimizing command centers.