The Grill: Paul Lucidi on the importance of employee appraisals

This healthcare CIO stresses the importance of employee appraisals.

Paul Lucidi's 25-person IT team supports approximately 600 workers at Insulet Corp., a Bedford, Mass.-based medical device company. As CIO, he says he strives to ensure that his IT workers are at the top of their game, and to do that, he focuses on assessing and developing his employees. "You have to build an organization that helps your business succeed, so you want people who are fully engaged, and to be fully engaged, they need to come to work and feel successful," he explains. Here he shares more thoughts on his priorities and strategies as well as what he brings to the task.

Paul Lucidi

We're evaluating Microsoft Surface Pro, so some if it is learning the device and some of it is learning Windows 8. It's different, but I'm getting the hang of it.What's your next career step? I'd like to continue to expand operational opportunities beyond IT into something like a chief operating officer role.What do you do in your spare time? I like doing anything outside: I ski, I golf, I like fishing.Is there something that not many people know about you? I once wrote an article for Ducks Unlimited magazine. They bought it, but I don't know if they published it. This was when everything was done by mail.

What is the biggest IT initiative you're working on right now? "Conventus," which means "coming together" in Latin. We had acquired a company almost two years ago, and at the time we made the acquisition we did some limited integration. But now what we're focused on is harmonizing business processes and bringing both together on common technology platforms. We have some significant deliverables.

How did you prepare your organization to handle this? I have a small but talented team, and we do a really good job at resource planning. So we evaluated where we had competencies in-house and where we needed outside resources. For areas where we need help, we looked at the landscape and did an RFP and ultimately settled on one [firm to hire for help]. And we made a couple of key hires at the end of last year anticipating we would be starting this project.

What skills do you look for in employees? It depends on the job that we're hiring somebody to do. We look for depth and experience with our core platforms. But beyond that, beyond specific technologies and experience, we look for business process skills, knowledge of governance concepts. We always look for communication skills and industry-type things, [such as] whether you understand HIPAA and information security because they're relevant to healthcare.

How do you assess individual employees to ensure they're performing at their best? I look at it from two sides. There's the individual's contribution to the role and the organization's contribution to the individual. On the individual side, it's how well are they performing on the job, and on the other side, how well have we defined the role, do we give employees what they need to be successful? It's the environment in which we operate and how well do they do in it.

How do you work to improve the performances of employees who could be doing better? There are really five components to it. The first is communication and honesty. It's really being clear with the individual about what's expected of them in their position and having an honest conversation about their performance. And it's having that conversation as it's happening and not waiting for an annual review. Then the third piece involves listening. If someone is struggling, maybe it's because they don't have what they need to be successful in their role or they're just not right for the role. So after the communication and the honest feedback and the listening piece, then comes whatever the set of corrective actions are. Sometimes you have to decide to move on.

How do you assess your own performance as a CIO? It's hard to separate how you're doing and how your organization is doing. I can't be successful if my organization isn't successful. But there are four things I use [to assess my performance]: strategy, execution, personal leadership and my ability to influence other people. Some of those have clear measures, like on the execution side, but others are subjective, like the ability to influence, and it could be mixed. You might be able to influence some peers but not others.

Are these ways you judge yourself or how others judge you? They're really both. If I looked at my goals for the year and the way I structure them, they fall into those categories. These are key attributes you can apply to a number of executive roles.

You have a dual role: leading IT and leading Insulet's global program office.How do you balance the two jobs? I assumed responsibility for the program office in early in 2011, and what the program office does is run a lot of the business programs for new products and technologies. So I have a team of [program managers] there -- all engineers, all talented -- and they focus on new products and technologies. There are a lot of similarities with running this and IT. You manage scope and resource planning and project plans, but the nature of the work and the deliverables are different.

For me, it was a natural fit. But it's not so much a line between the two jobs, it's just for whichever projects you need to focus on due to priorities or they need attention in some ways, you switch your focus.

-- Interview by Computerworld contributing writer Mary K. Pratt ( marykpratt@verizon.net)

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This story, "The Grill: Paul Lucidi on the importance of employee appraisals" was originally published by Computerworld.

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