Bad Behavior: Why CIOs Don’t Get Along With The Rest Of The Business

by drjim on February 3, 2010

A CIOs Personality Often Rubs Other Departments The Wrong Way

A CIOs Personality Often Rubs Other Departments The Wrong Way

Forget the whole alignment thing, is it possible that a CIO’s behavior is the root of the problem that the IT side of the house and the business side of the house have never been able to get along? Could it be that this is the secret as to why there has always been such a gap between these groups?

What Drives CIOs?

You may not be a CIO just yet, but I’m willing to bet that you share all of the bad personality characteristics that your CIO has. Perhaps if we take a moment and uncover just what is holding the IT department back from being all that it can be, we’ll also be able to uncover a way to solve this problem.

IT by its very nature likes to focus on things like technology and processes. However, it’s that “people dimension” that turns out to really be the most important thing. It’s how people interact that either allows IT and the business to align – or keeps them apart.

Studies of CIOs have revealed that they have two personality characteristics that help them be good CIOs, but which are probably dooming their ability to interact well with other departments. Wonder if you share these traits?

What Makes A CIO Good & Bad At The Same Time

A recent personality study of more than 500 CIOs, managers, and IT staffers have uncovered two personality traits that appear to be crucial to doing well in IT while impeding interactions with other departments.

The first of these personality traits is the need to do things right and to do them perfectly. I’m sure that we can all agree that we share this characteristic in some manner. When the CIO has this personality “feature” , it has a habit of being adopted by the entire IT department.

The problem with this trait is that it means that IT can be very slow to change how it does business. CIOs won’t want to make changes until they can be assured that the change has been tested and that it will work correctly in every situation. Needless to say, if the rest of the company is dynamically changing in order to adapt to the market, then IT will come to be seen as a drag on the rest of the company.

The other trait that CIOs share is a deep set need to do things correctly and to find ways to continuously improve what they are doing. We’ve all seen both of these characteristics show up in countless internal IT improvement programs. This is something that can help an IT department get more done, but it’s going to hinder working with other parts of the business.

The problem with this trait is that when other departments show up and ask the CIO to do something quickly or to do a job only partially in order to quickly react to a changing market situation, CIOs often balk.

When the rest of the company encounters resistance to their requests from the CIO, they are not pleased. This kind of internal roadblock is dealt with by the rest of the business by either complaining to the CEO that IT is not being responsive or else (and we’ll all seen this before) the business ends up going around the IT department in order to solve their problem.

How To Fix These Personality Flaws

These personality flaws are a challenge for any CIO to deal with and will remain that way when you become CIO. The issue is that you need to have these personality features when you are performing IT functions, but you need to find a way to deal with them when you are interacting with people from other departments.

Knowing that these two personality traits are a hindrance to aligning the IT department with the rest of the business is the first step in finding a solution to this problem. The next step is to realize that you need to consciously work to “turn them off” when you are working with other departments. This can be done by forcing yourself to step into their shoes and working to see the world the way that they do, not how IT sees it. Not easy, but doable.

What All This Means For You

When you become CIO, there probably still won’t be true alignment between the IT department and the rest of the business. This means that it will fall on your shoulders to finally solve this problem.

Knowing that one of the root causes of this problem lies in the very personality traits that will make you a good CIO is the first step in finding a way to deal with this issue. Your focus then needs to be on finding ways to turn these traits on when you are dealing with IT issues and off when you are dealing with business issues.

You may feel as though this will require you to become sorta of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde type of CIO. Perhaps this is true, but if it allows alignment to happen then go ahead and drink the potion…!

Do you think that you already have these two personality characteristics that could make it difficult to get along with the rest of the business?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you become CIO, vendors will enter your life and they just won’t leave. What this means is that they’ll be a constant pain in your neck, always wanting your time and attention. However, on the flip side, they will be a valuable resource that can provide you and your team with information and guidance that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Don’t do what too many new CIOs do and stop talking with vendors after the deal is signed…

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Caesar February 3, 2010 at 11:36 am

This is a very interesting post. I agree that IT leaders have to maintain two faces in order to successfully deliver our services.

However, there is one piece that I think was missed (or at least not implied); Building/Maintaining IT Credibility. What I mean by this is, as an IT leader, I feel we (maybe more than any executive/manager) has create an environment of credibility. We have to build partnerships across the organizational spectrum with the goal of being seen not as a blocker of growth or change, but rather as a key partner in the change process.

One key element of building these partnerships is making a conscious decision to learn more about your peers operations, goals and pain points (similar to any IT vendor/service provider) who is trying to sell an IT leader his/her products or services. Immerse yourself in the guts of business. Create partnerships with other leaders within the organization. Be a leader of the business, not the “IT Guy” and soon you will find that you can still pursue excellence within your IT organization and your partners will be more open to your goal of delivering excellent services.

If all else fails, the one key partnership that every CIO should go “all in” with, is the CEO. He/She should be one of your greatest supporters.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson February 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Tony: you make a really good point. Credibility is something that is both built over time (no silver bullet here), and then maintained once you achieve it. It’s hard to get and even harder to hold on to…!

Reply

Tony Caesar February 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm

You are correct on all points.

Reply

Eden Crane February 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

>>A recent personality study of more than 500 CIOs,
>> managers, and IT staffers have uncovered tw
>>o personality traits that appear to be crucial
>> to doing well in IT while impeding interactions with other departments.

Please provide a reference for this study.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson February 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Eden: CIO Insight’s 2009 CIO role study

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