How Can I Prevent Loss of Strategic Momentum When Critical Staff Members Are Ill?

July 26, 2017

There are times when Murphy strikes and more than one key staff member is off at the same time - maybe even for an extended period of time.

As the IT Manager, I am the ultimate escalation and fall-back option, so I find myself fielding technical work.

But now all the strategic initiatives that have been started are in jeopardy. How do I make sure they do not grind to a halt?


One of our IT Leader Mastermind groups recently tackled this question. Here is a summarised version of the outcomes.

The Mastermind Answer

The first priority is to manage expectations. Your colleagues and superiors will understand the situation and gladly assist you / be more lenient, but you will have to identify priorities and clearly communicate the trade-offs you make.

Also, beware of your comfort zone, which probably is operational. Know that you will always be involved operationally and often have more work than you can deliver.  The trick is to first prioritize your most important work (a form of portfolio management) and then the rest.  Always know what you want to achieve in the week. Set out time for what is important and then go out and do it.

Some More Insights

  • Shorter Term Game Plan:
    • Do you really have to compromise the strategic projects or is there an opportunity to reclassify / re-prioritise other work whilst you don't have the resources (so that you, as the IT Manager, don't have to jump in)?
    • Can you implement a change freeze?
  • Longer Term Game Plan:
    • Use Business Continuity Planning to think through and plan for more of these scenarios.
    • What can you outsource? The things that you cannot outsource you need to build depth on internally.  Use job-shadowing as a means to create backup resources.
    • Moving systems and IT services into the cloud makes your infrastructure more resilient.
    • If you need lots of infrastructure skills evaluate a hyper-converged infrastructure which lowers the need for specialist skills.

Pro Tip

  • Having your big ticket strategic items as part of your KPIs does help to keep the focus on them.

Other Links

About the author

Business Agility Coach | Abundance Thinker | Helping Mid-Market Companies Evolve by Using the Kanban Methodology
- As trained Industrial Engineer with close on 25 years' experience as IT Professional and Business Executive in the mid-market IT industry, Mathias Tölken loves to share his experiences and expertise with others.

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