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’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.

You aren’t paid what you’re worth. You’re paid what you can negotiate.

Or so said the in-flight-magazine ad for a negotiation class I read a couple of decades ago.

It’s a bit o’ wisdom that’s correct, but while it might be a useful insight for your average job candidate trying to maximize their salary, it provides little help for a payroll analyst assigned to draft the company’s compensation framework.

Last week’s missive provided just such a framework. Within it, the annual raise … and by extension, salaries or hourly pay rates … are determined by the labor marketplace. The law of supply and demand for a given job category dictates its median pay.

This way of looking at compensation is useful in large part because of its objectivity. It delivers an outcome where an employee has no financial incentive to leave for greener pastures, while their employer has no financial incentive to replace them with a more economical supplier of effort.

It is, if I say so myself, both complete and pragmatic, which, if you have to create a corporate compensation framework, are major advantages.

They aren’t, however, satisfying if you’re an employee and think you’re underpaid. Quite the opposite – if you’re an employee and think you’re underpaid it’s probably because you look at the value you create by doing your job well, and figure you deserve to see more of that value reflected in your paycheck.

Which leads to Compensation Rule #1: If you want to be paid for the value you deliver, you need a way to objectively demonstrate the value you deliver. If you’re in Sales you can do this. Interestingly enough, if you’re in Sales you probably are paid for the value you deliver. Likewise Product Development. If those aren’t you you’ll have to use your ingenuity.

If there’s a Compensation Rule #1 there must be …

Compensation Rule #2: You aren’t paid what you’re worth. You’re paid the lifestyle company management thinks is appropriate for the work you do. In the heads of company management there’s a rough-and-ready translation of job titles to lifestyles.

So if you’re, say, a Senior Developer you can be sure the CFO (for example) has a mental image of what size home you should be living in, in what location, what model and age car you should be in a position to drive, and so on.

It’s a nicer home and in a better neighborhood than an Administrative Assistant but not so nice, nor in as nice a neighborhood, as your manager.

Good things come in threes, and so there is, inevitably …

Compensation Rule #3: In addition to your lifestyle, and parallel to the official org chart, your place of employment has a pecking order based on the jobs and titles of its employees. From this perspective you’re paid based on the social stratum company management thinks a person with your job belongs to.

As a general rule, managers figure they’re the social superiors of the employees who report to them, just as their managers are their social superiors. And so on. Especially in management, an employee’s perceived social stratum frames the compensation the company’s executives figure they’re worth.

Bob’s last word: Disappointed? Think compensation should be more of a science?

Be happy. In the best companies, it might not be a science, but it just might make it to art.

Which just might give you more wiggle room to negotiate than you’d have if it was a science.

Bob’s sales pitch: As we enter KJR’s home stretch you’re running out of chances to add your ManagementSpeak to the repository. So now’s the time to stop procrastinating and send in your favorite “What managers say and what they really mean.”

On’s CIO Survival Guide:The ‘IT Business Office’: Doing IT’s admin work right.

What it’s about is establishing an organizational home for all of IT’s administrivia. It’s about the difference between running IT like a business (bad idea) and running it in a businesslike way (a necessity).