To make this work, you’ve got to have a culture in which team leaders are willing to let people go and are proud of the fact that the next technical leader or vice president may emerge from their part of the company. In addition, you have to back that up with muscle. If you, as a business leader, try to take someone from a team to get this broader experience, and the team leader says, “You can’t have them. I don’t have a replacement for them,” you have to be able to say, ”OK, you’ve got another six months. But after that, this person’s moving.” It should be a badge of honor for an executive to have developed a lot of people around the company.
You also need a model for high-performing technical specialists who love what they do as part of a team. Not everyone wants to be the CIO. Great teams are the source of great execution and innovation. You need a culture in which people feel that what’s most important is whether the company wins or loses. Most people want to do well because of their peer relationships, not because of their bonuses. If you’re a database or a security specialist and you’ve got application teams depending on you, you don’t want to let them down. That’s a cultural thing.
S+B: Are you suggesting that individual incentives don’t work?
FELD: They are part of it, but not the main factor. You also need team-oriented incentives. Companies should base a large percentage of senior leaders’ performance reviews on how they lead, manage, and develop people. You sometimes have to base half their bonus on these factors at the beginning, to get their attention. They still get a pay increase if they deliver their projects. But, if you’re an executive, and the company has to keep looking outside for new people because you haven’t developed your team, then why should you get a bonus? For sure, you’re expected to get your projects done. But what assets did you leave behind?
S+B: In summary, what is your outlook for the IT profession? You have a lot of knowledge and optimism. But we all know CIOs face big challenges today and going forward.
FELD: The reason I am optimistic about the future of the contribution of CIOs and IT in general in the 21st century is that successful businesses and governments will require modern IT systems and technology. Therefore, the demand for business and IT leadership is becoming critical. I also believe that the supply of highly talented, energetic young people will continue to increase. People who have grown up in an always-on world will have a passion to be the builders of the future. The need is to leverage the knowledge gained during the first 40 years of this young profession and help accelerate their experiences. My personal goal is to contribute in any way I can.