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The Recession and Its Effects on Executive Behavior
Leaders Need More Confidence, Executive Coach Susan Cramm Says
August 28, 2009,
Volume 138, Issue 4

Many business leaders [surveyed] expressed feelings of incompetence about leading with technology

-- Susan Cramm

Speaking to the Sun Inner Circle, executive coach and IT industry expert Susan Cramm reports seeing two perspectives among the leaders she talks to on the effects the recession is having on the IT industry. Operations-level managers remain excited about their current projects, she says, while executives take a darker view of the economic situation. Generally, Cramm observes, the more experience a corporation has with dire economic conditions, the more positive the views expressed by their leadership. An executive's role is to exercise leadership, she maintains, which is what subordinates seek in their managers.

Cramm sees the possibility that, even after the economy turns upward, a pool of permanently unemployed workers whose skills are outdated or whose jobs have been outsourced, will present a pressing problem for the economy. Those workers who still have jobs have cut back their consumer spending, and so no longer exercise the positive effect on the economy that they did during the recent boom times.

According to Cramm the downturn came even earlier for the IT sector than for the economy in general. "IT had its heyday with the run-up in spending prior to the year 2000. Once that blew up, IT was stuck with legacy costs, because for every dollar invested in a new IT capability, you have to keep on spending to keep it current. Since 2000, that spending has been in decline, so IT has been focused on cost transparency, process discipline, outsourcing, and capital expenditure governance for some time now," she says.

Laying off staff has become a less painful process, given how common the practice has become, she continues, adding that many managers accept the practice as a current part of doing business.

Cramm also made note of the difficulty executives, like everyone, have in making substantive change in their thinking and behavior. Unless the recession is long term, she doubts whether it will result in major changes in executive behavior.

In her next book, “The 8 Things We Hate About IT”, Cramm says she is writing about how to move beyond frustration and form a new partnership with IT. She said she is writing for operational-level business leaders who want to understand how to lead with technology. According to a survey Cramm helped conduct, many business leaders expressed feelings of incompetence about leading with technology. Their counterparts in IT are doing everything they can to close that gap but are running out of tricks, she has found. There is a gap. And since it’s impossible to move the business forward without IT, we need to close that gap. The book will cover the core leadership principles of how to leverage IT as an asset, not simply an organizational structure, she concludes.

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    Other articles in the Features section of Volume 138, Issue 4:
    • The Recession and Its Effects on Executive Behavior (this article)

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