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10 steps to becoming a horrible IT boss

Bob Lewis | March 17, 2017
Good-bye, programming peers; hello, power to abuse at your whim.


Step 3: Hold everyone accountable

Everyone knows a critical element of an effective organization is that everyone knows what they’re accountable for. If it’s important, someone’s name is on it.

Of course, this means that if something important goes wrong, the person whose name is on it failed.

You certainly don’t want an organization of failures. You need people who succeed. If someone in your organization fails, take them behind the metaphorical woodshed and do what needs to be done.

In the long run you’ll be doing them a favor, teaching them the consequences of failing.


Step 4: Regularly re-read the article that says IT managers should be business people, not technical people

There’s really only one article. It’s been popping up in IT trade publications over and over again over the past 25 years or so, with slightly different text and a different listed author. But the differences are trivial. You have to read only one of them—actually, the headline alone—and absorb the message.

Because it’s important: Just as chief financial officers and their management teams should be business people, not financial people; just as chief marketing officers and their management teams should be business people, not marketing people; just as chief operating officers should be a business person, not an expert in how to run day-to-day operations, so you should be a business person, not a technology person.

Once you cross this great divide you’ll no longer have to be troubled with setting a technical direction for your teams, because you’ll be a business person, not a technical person.

That isn’t fair. You will set technical direction, based on events held for IT managers in luxurious settings and with golf-filled agendas, in which your hosts will give you the level of technical detail—and Full Buzzword Compliance—appropriate for IT managers-who-are-business-people.

Nor will you ever have to again endure a detailed discussion of what things should actually cost and how much time they’ll actually take given what goes right and wrong with real-world technology, not to mention what to do about it when it does. These complexities are, after all, concepts that technical people, not business people, have to understand.


Step 5: Make new friends

Memorize this phrase and use it frequently in conversations with your former peers: “I’m not here to make friends.” Drop it in whenever “that’s why they call it work” doesn’t quite fit the situation.

But life gets lonely when you have no friends—so make new ones.

Choose carefully, though. Apply the same level of due diligence you’d use in selecting a mission-critical technology.

No, scratch that. You’re a business person, not a technologist, so apply the level of due diligence you’d insist on the technologists reporting to you would use. In any event, you want your new friends to be well-connected, politically safe, and not overly talented, yet also willing to introduce you.


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