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In my defense, I was much younger then, and maybe less skeptical about consultants’ recommendations.

Also in my defense, I lacked the political capital to challenge the idea anyway – it would have happened with or without me.

And, still in my defense, when I found myself, as a consultant, leading a client’s IT reorganization, I didn’t commit the same crime.

Which was having employees apply for the jobs they’d been doing since long before we came on the scene.

Let’s start by going back a step or two, to the difference between a reorganization and a restructuring. Sometimes, the difference is that “restructuring” sounds fancier than “reorganization.” Going for the snazzier word can be seductive, even when it’s at the expense of accuracy. With that in mind, a reorganization leaves the work intact, along with the workgroups that do it and who lives in each workgroup. What it changes is who reports to whom.

A restructuring, in contrast, changes how work gets done – it divvies it up into different pieces, and by extension, which workgroup does each piece.

Which gets us to IT: Except, perhaps, for shops transitioning from waterfall methodologies to one of the Agile variants, most of the work that has to get done in IT doesn’t lend itself to restructuring: programming, software quality assurance, systems administration and so on, don’t change in ways fundamental enough to change the job titles needed to get IT’s jobs done.

The buried lede

A correspondent related their situation: IT is “restructuring,” but really reorganizing, and everyone in it will have the “opportunity” (in scare quotes for obvious reasons) to apply for a job in the new organization.

In a true restructuring this might make sense. After all, if many of the jobs in an organization are going to change in fundamental ways it might not be obvious who should hold each of them.

But in a reorganization the jobs don’t change in fundamental ways. And if they don’t, IT’s leaders need to ask themselves a question that, once asked, is self-answering: Will asking employees to apply and compete for the jobs they currently hold be superior for figuring out who in the organization will be most likely to succeed in each of the jobs that aren’t going to change? Or is basing job assignments on the deep knowledge managers should have of how each IT employee currently performs more reliable?

Bob’s last word: If it isn’t already clear why having IT’s current employees apply for positions in the new org chart is inferior to appointing them, just ask yourself how good you are … how anyone is … in basing hiring decisions on how well each applicant interviews.

Depending on your source (mine is a study by Leadership IQ), about half of all new hires fail within a year and a half.

My advice: Slot employees to jobs based on what you know about what they are and aren’t good at, not on having them apply for internal jobs as if they’re unknown quantities.

Bob’s sales pitch: My friend Thomas Bertels and his co-author David Henkin have written an engaging business fable about how to improve the employee experience and, by improving it, how to make a business more effective and competitive.

It’s titled Fixing Work and does a fine job of focusing on the authors’ goal – connecting the dots that connect making how work gets done better for both employees and their employers.

On CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide: The ‘IT Business Office’: Doing IT’s admin work right.” It’s a prosaic piece on how to handle IT administrivia.

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