4 Ways That CIOs Can Start To Make Better Decisions

by drjim on May 11, 2011

CIOs Need A Tool To Help Them Make Better Decisions

CIOs Need A Tool To Help Them Make Better Decisions

An important part of the job of being a CIO is the ability to make good decisions. Lots of good decisions. In fact, the ability to make more good decisions than bad decisions is arguably what allows a CIO to keep his / her job. Now the only problem is that it’s really, really hard to make good decisions all the time. To help you do a better job of this, I’m going to share with you four decision making tools that will help you every time you have to make a decision.

A New Way Of Making Decisions

CIOs need a new way to make correct decisions. Our ultimate goal should be to find ways to make the right decision more often than not. One way to do this is to adopt the “evidence based decision making” approach. This form of decision making rejects using gut feels and relying on past limited personal experience and instead is based on evidence and logic.

The problem that most CIOs run into when they try to apply evidence based decision making to their organizations is that it runs counter to the way that things are currently done. Every company has its share of stories about gutsy managers who just knew what the right thing to do was, and did it. What we forget are the stories about the managers who thought that they knew what to do and ended up doing the wrong thing.

Ask For Evidence

CIOs are always being presented with requests for something. More often than not it is for funding, but it can also be for resources or even simply for permission to proceed. You need to take a careful look at each of these requests.

When a CIO is using the evidence-based approach to making decisions, he or she needs to ask the people who are making the request for evidence. They are proposing doing something, they need to be able to prove to you that by taking the action that they want to take, good things will happen. If they can’t prove it, then you need to reject their request.

Look At Logic

When plans are presented to a CIO, they are often backed up with the results of surveys, charts and graphs of data, and lots of other impressive looking results. When presented with this type of information, CIOs need to be on the alert.

All too often in our very busy lives we tend to accept what is presented to us at face value. What we really need to be doing is taking a step back and looking more closely at the underlying data.

The question that you need to be asking yourself is if the results that have been drawn from the data really make sense. Are there any gaps or leaps in logic that really just don’t hold up? You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll find things that don’t support the conclusions that have been reached. When this happens, you need to send the team making the request back to the drawing board.

Experiment & Reward

Not every project is going to succeed. In fact, in the world of IT some projects fail in a spectacular fashion. Things really don’t have to be this way. If CIOs could become better decision-makers then a lot of this could be avoided.

One way to avoid big IT project failures is to encourage small IT project failures. That’s not as bad as it may sound. CIOs need to create an environment in which employees are encouraged to start pilot projects and to try out new ideas using trials before the CIO has to commit to a much larger project.

Many of these smaller projects will fail. This is a good thing – far better to have a small project fail and learn from it than have a much larger project fail and learn nothing. CIOs need to reward IT staff that work on projects that fail – everyone needs to see that there is much to be learned from each project no matter how it turns out.

Find Wisdom

Perhaps the simplest way for CIOs to make better decisions more of the time is for them to have one simple realization. If a CIO can understand that they don’t know it all, that there is still a lot that they need to learn, then they’ll be able to make better decisions.

Far too often CIOs assume that they know everything that they need to know in order to make the right decision. However, the reality is much different – there is no way that they know what they don’t know. Admitting that you don’t know it all is the first step in being open to collecting more information and becoming a CIO who makes better decisions.

What All Of This Means For You

All too often CIOs lose their job because they made bad decisions. It turns out that a big part of being the CIO is the ability to make a lot of good decisions. What is needed are tools that will help a CIO to do a better job of making the correct decision.

Four such tools exist and can be used by CIOs. The first is to demand evidence when a proposal is made. The next is to test the logic behind any proposal that is made. To ensure that the IT department can support the CIO in making good decisions, the CIO needs to allow trial programs to be run. These trials need to be allowed to fail and IT employees have to be rewarded for uncovering information before a bigger investment was made. Finally, CIOs need to teach their staff that they don’t know everything and everyone must respect the fact that there is much more for them to learn.

Although CIOs deal with technology, much of the their day-to-day job has to do with teaching. In order to make better decisions, they need to take the time to teach their IT department how to look at opportunities and how to use the information that is available to make the best decisions each and every time.

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

Question For You: How do you think that a CIO should react to an IT trial program that failed?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you are CIO you will quickly come to dread (or maybe you already do) the annual strategic planning process for the IT department. Talk about choices: mobile devices, privacy issues, cloud computing – who can pack strategic planning for all of these issues into one short period at the beginning of the year – there’s got to be a better way

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vaclav Zid May 12, 2011 at 7:45 am

First of all, I believe, for a good CIO, it cannot be a surprise. He/she should recognize in advance the patterns of program’s failure and his/her decisions were instrumental in the final outcome. The reason “why these decisions were made?” really matters. CIO should investigate the cause of the failure and lead the discussion within the team. ICT is a team game. To communicate the failures with high transparency is essential. The team members have to understand the causes of the failure. CIO has to convince them, despite the failure, that a certain progress was made. There are more measures within the team than a program success, so the team members can be rewarded. Other important part of this is to communicate the failure with stakeholders. This is the crucial role of CIO and it depends on her/his ability to recognize the stakeholders and to choose the optimal way of explanation.

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Dr. Jim Anderson May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am

Vaclav: you are correct. The trick here is that for the CIO to get the information about projects that have failed, he/she is going to have to demonstrate leadership by getting the IT teams to open up and tell why the failure happened. All too often when something goes wrong everyone blames everyone else and the real cause of the problem is never found! CIOs who can create an atmosphere that permits real information to be shared will be able to learn from past mistakes…!

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