Workflow or Work Slow?

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There’s a phrase you don’t hear as much in business as you used to, or at least so it seems. The question is fairly simple, but the answer is increasingly complex: Are you executive material?

Once upon a time that was a common way of ranking the rank-and-file in large organizations. The workforce in those supposedly simpler days was divided into three general categories — workers, managers and executives. Workers could be management material, and managers could be executive material, but the advancement track often was unstructured and dependent on someone somewhere noticing a person’s abilities.

Surely there are corporate cultures out there where this haphazard approach still works, but most companies of size are going to more formalized methods of workforce assessment and advancement. In the IT industry, certification is, of course, a linchpin in that system. Employers frequently use certifications as a pre-hiring indicator of abilities and as a post-hiring tool for promotion.

So, are you executive material?

It’s still not an easy question, so let’s break it down a bit. First, let’s take the skills question off the table and assume you have the requisite technical and management knowledge. Second, executive careers often are influenced by having a wide network of contacts. For this exercise, we’ll assume you’re well-known and beloved and ready to join the party. Third, there’s everything else: Are you honest (you must work here at least two years before getting indicted), ethical and unflappable? The questions get more complex.

I’ve identified one more executive challenge: work habits. Executives are nose-to-the-grindstone type of people, right? You know, the dull-boy Jacks who like all work and no play. They’re focused, motivated and driven.

Well, not always. Turns out executives are prone to the same bad habits as everyone else. According to a recent study from NFI Research, 64 percent of senior executives and managers save the hardest work for last, tackling first the low-effort, faster-to-complete projects and moving on to the time-consuming elements.

Procrastination can be the great equalizer, apparently. Of course, in the IT world, procrastination or even such comfortable scheduling isn’t always possible. Like mathematics, so much of IT is process-oriented and can only be done in certain logical orders. Other workers and executives alike might have the luxury of determining workflow, but not always the IT pro.

I’m being facetious with this column, of course. The reality is workers at all levels have certain similarities and certain differences, and with the proper training any person can do any other person’s job in at least a certain respect. But in a business marketplace that often places high importance on such titular distinctions, it’s interesting to see how alike we really all are.

Are you executive material? A better question: Are they IT material?

Tim Sosbe
Editorial Director

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