Dear Bob ...
I'm the CFO for a smallish company (a few hundred employees). We're growing reasonably fast, each of us on the executive team is stretched pretty thin, and my head of IT is driving me nuts.
All the guy wants to do is talk over his brilliant thoughts about strategy. He has a grand total of two direct reports. Our IT is pretty basic: what we can get done with QuickBooks Enterprise, plus Exchange/Outlook/Office and whatever our employees decide to install to make them more effective. We use a hosting service for our website that provides a good-enough toolkit and that's about it.
We hired Mr. Strategy three months ago because -- well, in retrospect, I'm not sure. Our two-person IT department did OK keeping the lights on, and between them, they were able to figure out whatever they needed.
There was a certain level of chewing gum and duct tape in what they put together for us, which meant we had more downtime than we thought was reasonable, and I wasn't in a position to evaluate what our techs told us we needed to spend to stabilize the systems. We figured we needed somebody more seasoned to figure it all out and get the situation stabilized.
Long story short, the situation hasn't stabilized and Mr. Strategy doesn't seem to have much interest in operating at that level. I'm about a week from tossing him out the door. Before I do, should I be listening to him instead of fantasizing about violence in the workplace?
Dear Frothing ...
What you're facing isn't uncommon, and it's been exacerbated by an endless stream of articles in the trade press extolling the virtues of the CIO-as-businessman-not-as-technician.
Chances are your head of IT is incurable. Once people are bit by the strategy bug, it's hard to get them to concentrate on real work, and that's just as true of CEOs and CFOs as it is of CIOs. COOs tend to be immune, because by definition their job is to take care of operations -- all too often to leave the CEO free to think deep thoughts.
Here's the conversation you should have first, assuming you haven't already had it: You have to explain, in no uncertain terms, that the head of IT for a company your size isn't like the head of IT for a Fortune 500 company, only shorter. It's a fundamentally different job, just like yours and just like the CEO's.