Editorial Viewpoint: Life comes at you fast

There’s a great series of commercials on TV these days from Nationwide Insurance. Have you caught them? They’re a hoot. They all begin quite innocently and they all end in disaster.

My favourite is the one that appears to be a news clip of a major sports team announcing its number one draft pick. When the name is announced, the camera cuts to the athlete, gleaming with pride. He leaps up and with more than a little swagger heads for the podium, only to take one hellacious and presumably career-ending tumble down the long flight of redcarpeted stairs. Then comes the tagline, “Life comes at you fast!”

Life came at me fast a short while ago, and fortunately my encounter with it left me unscathed, if a little shaken. I was up in cottage country during what has been described as the worst storm on record for the Sudbury/North Bay region. The area is notorious for its thunderstorms, but this was something of an altogether different magnitude. At one point my wife and I huddled under our kitchen table as the storm roared through, shaking the cabin walls and threatening to blow the windows out. When the storm had passed, we climbed out of our sheltering place and soon discovered a monster pine tree lying parallel to the cottage and only about six feet from it, extending the entire length of the building. Had it come down at a slightly different angle it would have flattened our 60-year-old cabin and us with it.

A couple of days ago I was sent the results of a poll on succession planning done by HR firm Robert Half Technology. The poll included responses from 270 CIOs of Canadian companies with 100 or more employees. When asked “Are you taking steps to identify and prepare individuals on your IT staff to move into managerial roles?”, 66% said they were, 31% said they weren’t, and 3% said they didn’t know.

Frankly, I don’t know if we should be applauding the two in three that are actively engaged in succession planning, or wringing our hands over the one in three who aren’t.

Maybe CIOs not engaged in succession planning have perfectly good reasons for not doing so. Maybe they’ve got so many balls in the air that there just isn’t room for one more. Maybe they’re stretched so thin that time just doesn’t allow for management training. Maybe the CIO is young and strong as a bull and expects to live forever.

For all of those who aren’t doing succession planning, I have one question to ask. What would happen to your IT department if suddenly you weren’t there to run it? Maybe that’s unlikely to happen, but I can tell you, based on personal experience, life comes at you fast!


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