Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Digital CIOs as Anthropologist: How to Run a People-Centric IT organization

 IT needs to think like the anthropologist for running a people-centric organization to enchant customers, empower employees, and evolve business partners. 

Contemporary CIOs are no longer just glorified geeks, but business savvy strategists and versatile digital executives. Great CIOs have multiple personas, varying personalities, and impressive leadership profiles. Digital leadership sophistication is crucial in complex problem-solving and strategy management. Digital is the age of people, how to truly understand your people and run a people-centric IT organization for improving business maturity?


Reading between the lines: Understanding context is often the first and one of the most important steps in leadership perception. With information permeation and continuous disruptions often driven by technologies, it’s simply not sufficient to just run IT as an isolated function to “Keep the lights on” only, IT needs to be a linchpin for running a digital organization today. It’s important for CIOs to both have business acumen and IT knowledge to ensure IT acting as an integral part of the business. From the IT management perspective, contextual understanding is about getting to understand the whole meaning of functional dialects and business dynamic and perceive the business insight in a cohesive way. Behind every problem is a relationship dynamic out of alignment. Thus, understanding the interconnectivity of systems and relationship dynamics are also important as well for both identifying the real issues and solve them smoothly.

Manage multi-layer business relationships: From IT management perspective, there are multi-layer relationships CIOs need to manage. IT leaders should target different audiences, such as business peers/shareholders relationship, customer relationship, vendor relationship, etc, tailor special needs in order to build up the long-term empathic leadership competency.  Digital is the age of people and options, it provides the opportunity to think the new way to do things, so it forces CIOs to get really creative on how they architect and implement change. Understand the psychology behind changes is an important step in running a frictionless digital organization. Building people-centric changeability is a prerequisite for dynamic digital strategy execution. The change capability of the business is built through the alignment of people, process, and technology. At the high mature digital organizations, change management goes hand in hand with strategy management. From IT management perspective, CIOs need to be like the anthropologist and psychologist, who can diagnose the problems from the mindset level, understand the variety of thoughts behind the changes, and build the culture of learning and innovation. The overall employee engagement is very low in many organizations, and people fear or resist changes. They are not motivated to be the innovators or change agents. Thus, IT leaders need to inspire and exemplify changes, develop change capability in those who'll help drive and deliver the change, consider also the capability of those impacted by the change to handle its impacts. It is about providing a more intensive and effective working environment enabling the organization to get all the right people with the right capability in the right position to solve the right problems from right angles.

Master audience tailored communication: CIOs are no long IT geeks who cannot communicate with business via common language and mutual understanding. In fact, digital CIOs are “Chief Interpretation Officer,” “Chief Interaction Officer,” and “Chief Influence Officer,” today, etc. They are able to initiate communication in the different level of the organization with clarity. CIOs as good ‘storytellers” will help business customers or partners gain open perspectives on IT performance and potential, close the perception, communication, and collaboration gaps between IT and business. Because communication gaps decrease productivity, cause mistrust and decelerate business speed. The CIO’s strategic communication should embrace creativity, context, cascade, and tailor the varying business audience, in order to close cognitive gaps and enforce mutual understanding. “Lost in translation” syndrome is caused by mistakes that most organizations make in business communication that fails to translate the high-level language of strategy into the professional language or functional dialects. CIOs as “Chief Interpretation Officer” should ensure IT folks understanding the commercial end point of their work rather than it being an abstract set of code. It is worth the effort to take better communication approaches and become both creative and critical in enforcing business and IT collaboration.

Digital CIOs, are born to change, how they overcome the digital transformation challenges depends on their ability to think, adapt, proactively plan and execute, with a sense of humor. IT needs to think like the anthropologist for running a people-centric organization to enchant customers, empower employees, evolve business partners, invite all sorts of business partners for feedback, and ensure the right people getting the right information at the right time to make the right decisions. It helps to rebrand IT as a creative and a trustful business partner.

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