How CIOs Can Get What They Don’t Have (But Really Need)

by drjim on September 15, 2010

CIO's Have To Take The Time To Learn What They Don't Know

CIO’s Have To Take The Time To Learn What They Don’t Know

Not being invited to sit at the company’s strategy table is a problem that has plagued CIOs since the position was invented. Instead of just talking about the problem, it’s high time we did something to turn things around. But what should we do?

Skill Building

The reason that CIOs aren’t being invited asked to contribute in a significant way to the types of decisions that go into running the company as a whole is because the rest of the senior management team doesn’t believe that the CIO has the skills that are needed to contribute to this process in a meaningful way. Unfortunately they are correct more often than not.

Sure, your average CIO has the technical skill set that got him / her into the position that they now hold; however, that’s not enough to get them invited to participate in running the company in a meaningful way. What they are viewed as missing are critical skills such as finance, marketing, R&D, etc.

Coming Up With A Plan

In an ideal world, a newly minted CIO would be able to sign up for a specialized course (or set of courses) that would teach the very skills that he / she is missing. We’re not talking about college courses here, these would have to be very specialized.

What the CIO would want to (really have to) learn is exactly what the role of IT needs to be in order to help each of the other parts of the company. The focus wouldn’t be on technology, but rather it would be on just exactly how IT could be used to maximize the performance of each of the pieces that make up the company. An emphasis on how things are in the real-world instead of in dry textbooks would also be a key to successful leaning.

How To Do This In The Real World

Sadly, I don’t think that such a set of courses currently exists. Don’t give up hope, it just means that when you become CIO you’re going to have to take a different path. Your home-brew educational program is going to have to consist of three main steps:

  1. every company has a set of educational programs that they offer. Generally these are designed to teach workers about what the company does and just exactly how it does it. These courses are often taught by other workers who have years of experience. CIOs need to sign up and show up for these classes – the information that they’ll cover is like gold to a CIO.
  2. Eat Lunch With Different People Every Day: CIOs need to introduce themselves to as many managers throughout the company as possible. This is how they are going to learn how the different departments work and what challenges they are facing. This isn’t exactly a classroom, but rather it’s like getting a complete education one conversation at a time.
  3. Forget About Technology: While a CIO is learning about the different parts that make up the company and just exactly what they do, issues of technology need to be left behind. Once an understanding of how the company runs has been achieved, then the technology discussions can start, but while the learning is going on the CIO needs to shut up and fit in.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs don’t know what they don’t know. This is what is keeping them from being invited by the rest of a company’s senior management to participate in the business of plotting out the company’s strategic direction. CIO’s need to get the training that will provide them with the skills that they are missing.

Although specialized training would be the best way to do get this information, CIOs are going to have to build their own training program. This will include signing up for internal company courses, talking with managers from other departments, and leaving technology behind for awhile.

In the end, a CIO is the one person in the company who is best positioned to find ways to use technology to solve the problems that the company is facing. However, before they can do that, they’ve got to go back to school and do some more learning…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you had to sit back for just a moment and come up with an answer to the question: what are CIOs doing wrong, what would that answer be? I think that the answer would be that we are spending too much time trying to solve problems in ways that really don’t help the rest of the company that much…

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