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Building An IT Management Pipeline On A Shoestring

Given the tightening of training dollars in todayís economy, building a pipeline of future managers may often appear to be an impossible challenge. Impossible as it may seem, however, companies need to take action now if they are to effectively face the challenge of forces at work in todayís business environment that promise to greatly increase their need for new managers in the near and long term future. For example

  • The ranks of available qualified managers are shrinking due to a number of factors, not the least of which is the retirement of the “baby boomers.” Private and public forecast tell us that about 45% of the baby boomer population will retire in the next 10-15 years. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics as early as by the year 2010, 10 million people will have left the workforce. Meanwhile managerial positions are expected to increase by 25% over the next 13 years. Translation: Management demand is increasing while the available supply is dwindling.
  • The management role is becoming more demanding and as a result it requires more talent and a broader set of competencies in order for managers to succeed. Letís face it, the talent and competency requirements of a manager leading people whose lives are plagued by huge debt and other personal obligations and who work in our high-pace, stressful, diverse, global workplace are much greater than the skills required of their predecessors who operated in a slower, less stressful, less multifaceted economy. “It's easy to grow a healthy plant in perfect soil” states Brad Cooper, of Cooper & Associates, Inc (see,referring to the slower pace conditions that existed a few years ago. “But take an unhealthy plant and try to grow it in the desert - now that's a challenge,”rd he adds. In an effort to do just that, he heads up a bi-annual Champions' Roundtable Leadership Retreat that is designed to get leaders back on track, helping them recapture the passion needed to succeed in the current whirlwind. Cooper explains how this increase in demand diminishes the available management pool with the following simple but powerful comparison: “There aren't as many people competing in the Iron man Triathlon as there are in the local Five Kilometer run ⁄ walk.” So the bottom-line is that the number of people who even qualify for today and tomorrows management roles is shrinking because of growing talent and competency requirements.
  • Finally according to Curt Tueffert with Teamcer, a professional training firm based in Houston (, many employees are simply not striving for leadership roles, even when they possess a generous portion of the desired talents because they see these high demands unmatched by appropriate training. (Who wants to be thrown off a cliff and told to learn how to fly while dropping even if they do have the promise of “flying-potential” as evidenced by a pair of tiny wings?)

Recognizing the strategic nature of IT and how important it is to the success of a company, clearly maintaining an appropriate structure of management and leadership in this space are of vital importance. The question then is what, if anything, can HR professionals do about this in light of the tight training and development budgets?

Picking And Developing The Right People

In talking to the experts they all agree that the best approach to building a strong management pipeline despite a tight budget is to identify the few high-potentials and concentrate training dollars on these few versus spreading a paltry allocation across an entire population and hoping that “one of the seeds lands on good soil.” It is with this in mind that Cooper states, “Effectively identifying the right people and THEN training them will expand the reach of your budget.”

An important factor here is obviously, picking the right people. Surprisingly, however, according to experts like Russell Reeves, a managing director of human resources consultancy firm DDI, their surveys reveal that, “21% of organizations do not use interviews, 33% do not use 360-degree feedback and 61% do not use any form of structured assessment to evaluate potential leaders.” The unfortunate result for these companies is that they often end up “backing the wrong horse” and not finding out until the race is over and theyíve spent a large portion of their development dollars attempting to develop the wrong people into unsuitable roles.

According to world renowned industrial psychologist and consultant Dr. Bradford D. Smart, author of Topgrading, his clients which include GE, Honeywell, Lincoln Financial Group, American Heart Association, Hillenbrand Industries, and Hayes-Lemmerz all train their interviewers who act as talent assessors in the application of the Chronological In-Depth Structured (CIDS) interview assessment process. The results are an astounding ninety percent selection accuracy. “Generally these clients set up a tandem interview in which two interviewers from a different area of the company (not the candidateís direct boss), meet with the candidate for up to five plus hours,” states Smart. “In addition to the information captured in the report produced by the tandem interviews, these companies also collect multi-rater information from peers, subordinates, suppliers and other sources before they make a final determination,” adds Smart. While spending money on training interviewers on how to perform a CIDS interview may not seem like the appropriate approach to suggest under the heading of “how to develop a management pipeline on a shoestring, its certainly less expensive and more productive than throwing money at a huge number of wrong candidates. Since it was published four years ago, Topgrading, which first introduced CIDS to readers in1999, has remained to date the number one book in Recruiting and candidate assessment and is a recognized established best practice manual in the candidate assessment space. (For more information on Topgrading and CIDS training, visit

Putting Together The Expertís Advice In Three Simple Steps

Here then are three steps that you can follow to consolidate the advice of these experts into a comprehensive management pipeline building approach for your organizationís IT team, that maximizes the benefits you can derive from scarce training and development dollars:

  • Determine the size of your potential management pool. Cooper recommends a low cost way of doing this through the creation of an in-house “Mastermind” group. “He advises that you Invite ANYONE who thinks they may be interested in management in the future. Then he suggests that you come up with a case study (or utilize the Harvard Business Review monthly case study) and get it to everyone in advance. Next, he recommends you break the group into smaller groups of 5-7 people and discuss the case extensively. “In groups with whom I've done this, the results have been literally incredible! It costs next to nothing and has helped current leaders tune into some of the brilliance around them and helps future leaders get a taste of what it's all about,” states Cooper.
  • From this group, you should be able to identify a few candidates for further screening as high-potentials. Have them carefully screened through the CIDS methodology and collected multi-rater data before entering them into the management and leadership preparation pool.
  • Finally, based on the CIDS and multi-rater feedback you obtained during the screening process Smart recommends that you prepare development plans that contain an appropriate balanced mixture of education, training, assignments and coaching.

By focusing your scarce training investments on the right candidates and providing development plans that are tailored to develop these candidates into the managers of tomorrow, you will be able to continue to build and grow the management and leadership you need to help your organization gain and maintain its competitive advantage.

Author:(Joe Santana)

Joe Santana is a Director with Siemens Business Services, Inc. a tier one global IT outsourcing and consulting company. He has 21 years of experience as an IT executive. His career includes roles as the buyer, seller and leader of IT delivery teams in fast-paced business environments. Joe has taught and coached hundreds of new IT Managers and IT sales representatives. Joe has often been quoted in well-known industry and business publications regarding key IT topics. He has also been a guest on business radio and network television. He has a newly published book, Manage IT, which is designed to help new and aspiring IT Managers to make the right career choices and gain a solid foundation in the skills they need to succeed as new managers.