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CIO reflects on a career of successful turnarounds

Martha Heller | Aug. 4, 2016
Looking back on a number of different corporate turnaround experiences, Marty Miner, CIO of Leidos, found that organisational design is key to success.

Marty Miner, CIO of Leidos, a US$5 billion national security, health, and infrastructure solutions company, has led his share of turnarounds. Over the years, Miner has been CEO, COO, CIO and in various P&L manager positions charged with bringing companies and organisations back from the brink. Among his many lessons learned, Miner found that organisational design is key to success.

I caught up with Miner and asked him to reach back through his experiences and share some principles by which he leads organisations.

1. Start by listening 

At one point in his career, Miner inherited an IT organisation that was so siloed and opaque that very few people really understood who did what. "No one division in IT was responsible for ensuring IT operations and business continuity, and all the divisions were doing some type of development," he says. "Our business partners had no idea who to go to if they wanted something done."

Before taking any action, Miner went on a listening campaign. "I needed the perspective of the executive leadership team, including my boss, peers, employees and customers," Miner says. "What are the dynamics of the current organisation? What are our corporate objectives for IT? What is the IT organisation's culture? What are the IT managers' strengths?"

During his first three months as CIO, Miner engaged in more than 70 conversations with executives, colleagues, staff and customers, most lasting at least an hour. "It was a good investment of my time to hear the stakeholders' and employees' perspectives on the company's IT and the IT organisation." he says. "From that investment, I had a clear picture of our current state, how IT should support the company, a vision of the future state, and what it would take to get there."

2. 'Paving the cow path'

To Miner, a poorly designed organisation creates tension, low morale and reduced productivity. "My goal in organisational design is to reduce the friction forced on the employees," he says. "The best way to reduce that friction is to start by organising how the employees are really getting things done and make the internal dynamics visible to everyone."

In Miner's inherited IT organisation, employees who, on paper, were assigned to one division were really working in multiple divisions. "It was not uncommon to see an employee working for five managers," Miner says. "Since the employees were effectively working across divisions, I thought, OK, let's 'pave the cow path' and transition to a matrix. That way, stakeholders and management will get insight on resources and workloads while employees can continue working as they have been but now be recognised for the projects and tasks they are working across different divisions."


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