Replaceable You

Replaceable By steve heath on flickrWe all like to think that we are that one person in our family, team or company that is irreplaceable.

The bad thing…most of us are replaceable.

Sure…you can try to be the best at what you do…but unless you ARE the BEST at what you do, you are replaceable.

Very few people can be the best…so…by elimination, very few people are irreplaceable.

Seth Godin states it well in his book Lynchpin (amazon affiliate link):

“If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable.”

Let’s take a tour of the world of IT for a minute and think about the people within most IT groups.

You’ve got System Administrators. Developers. Project Managers. Testers. System Analysts. Business Analysts, Managers, etc etc.  The list goes on and on…

Out of this group of people how many are irreplaceable?

Each of these positions are necessary in the modern day IT group. That said, each is replaceable…but each is replaceable via internal or external means…via fireing/ hiring or via outsourcing.

Every single IT professional in every role has some chance of being replaced. From the CIO down the ladder to the most junior level IT grunt…everyone’s replaceable…unless they aren’t.

Think about your team.  How many on your team could be replaced (with someone of equal experience) and not have much of a hiccup?  Sure there’s some knowledge transfer that has to happen, but for the most part things would operate smoothly.

Out of a group of 100 IT professionals, are 10 irreplaceable?  How about 5? How about 1?

What makes an IT professional (or anyone) irreplaceable isn’t that they do a job or that they know something that others may not know…its how they do their job and how they apply their knowledge.

No longer can you lean on your years of service, expertise or ‘what you know’ to be successful and/or to remain employed.  To be irreplaceable, you’ve got to be irreplaceable.

You’ve got to be the person that everyone in your team / organization looks to for answers. You’ve got to be the person that everyone knows is irreplaceable.

Are you truly irreplaceable? Are you the person who gets the phone call when something ‘must get done’?  If not…you should be.

Image Credit: Replaceable By steve heath on flickr

15 responses to “Replaceable You”

  1. Replaceable You: We all like to think that we are that one person in our family, team or company that is irrepla…

  2. Replaceable You | by @ericdbrown

  3. RT @EricDBrown: Published: Replaceable You

  4. jfbauer Avatar

    I struggle with IT irreplaceability (if there is such a word … Chrome doesn’t think so). As a 20 year veteran of corporate IT, I’ve been downsized, outsourced, right-sized many times in my career. It seemed regardless of the unique value I provided to the organization, IT struggles with an accounting representation of why a $40 an hour new/junior/outsourced resource costs more to complete the same work request as a $80 an hour experienced resource. Until there is an accounting mechanism to represent that construct, outsourcing (replacing) will always look great on a balance sheet. There is good news with GE and others swinging the pendulum from outsourcing back to insourcing after not getting the cost to value expected from outsourcing.

    At the same time, if you are an IT resource that is so difficult to replace, you are also difficult to promote. In order to get promoted, someone needs to be able to back fill your current role to some degree. Trying to do what you previously did that made you difficult to replace plus take on new work is going to cause one or the other, or both, to suffer,

    So, having read Mr. Godin’s book back when it came out, he makes a compelling argument but I don’t believe it is really practical in an IT context.

    1. ericbrown Avatar

      @jfbauer Hi John – as always, thanks for the comment.

      While I agree with your thought process here and agree that insourcing is starting to take place, I have to say that if you look at the ‘replaceable’ issue at the individual level, this is still a very large issue, right?

      I know many people (in IT and in all other areas of the business) who believe that they are irreplaceable because of their experience and knowledge. My point is that nobody is really irreplaceable….there will always be someone / something that comes along that has the possibility to replace us.

      My point in the post (which might have been poorly made by me) is that we shouldn’t sit back on our laurels and expect that our past accomplishments will necessarily make us irreplaceable. Make sense?

      1. jfbauer Avatar

        @ericbrown I do see your perspective that people shouldn’t coast through their job, rather, continue to invest in their skills and contributions to be “irreplaceable”. Your post triggered the thoughts that I shared around promote-ability of highly skilled, competent IT resources that have become “irreplaceable”. also, I should have mentioned that my experience, primarily, is from large IT shops (around 1000+) and spans the last two decades. I bumped along with the IT outsourcing waves of the 90s and experienced first hand that no matter how “irreplaceable” a super star IT person was, accounting always trumped work output and quality. Also, I’ve seen and experienced myself from the “irreplaceable” perspective that weak IT managers will consciously or unconsciously retain irreplaceable staff in order to benefit from have that quality and competency on their team. Their job is much easier with that resource and will become very challenge for them to replace.

        So, my goal wasn’t to challenge your point, rather, just share an parallel experience of mine that, maybe, helps someone who was recently let go, not for cause, but truly, outside of their direct control, for accounting reasons alone.

        Thanks for bringing up this topic!

        1. ericbrown Avatar

          @jfbauer Thanks John….and thank you for stepping in to leave your thoughts…they are always appreciated.

          One thing that i love about comments is that it makes me think about what I say / write and to improve. I do agree with your thoughts completely and think they would have been good to incorporate into the original post for clarification

  5. Shared: @EricDBrown Replaceable You <JB:Don't completely agree and provided my thoughts in comment

  6. Interesting and thought provoking Blog from Eric Brown to start your day… are you replaceable?

  7. Replaceable You from @ericdbrown

  8. Good discussion on irreplaceability over on @EricDBrown blog post

  9. Thx for comments and sharing – RT @jfbauer: Good discussion on irreplaceability over on @EricDBrown blog post