Monday, March 4, 2013

Which Color is CIO’s Parachute

CIOs need to orchestrate, know-how about business, also understand technical logic.

Based on the feedback from CIO forums, it seems that it is not only the CIO who is being asked to simultaneously be proficient as a strategic leader to a tactical manager, but even a technician being able to sing Kumbaya with every level in her/his company. It seems that other technical  specialists may also be getting asked to perform similar functions. If this type of talent is really out there, it seems that the term associated with the above condition is described via the Purple Squirrel Syndrome.

1. Purple Squirrel Syndrome in the Talent Management Industry 

  • Purple Squirrel syndrome: The term Purple Squirrel is very familiar to some talent managers as it is widely used in that industry. A Purple Squirrel is a creature that is nearly impossible to find and in staffing the term refers to a job specification with skill and experience requirements that are impossible, or nearly impossible to find. 
  • Mindset is Cause: It’s not only a syndrome, it’s a mindset that spans many lines of business and it is dangerous, especially to innovation. This mindset is largely a leadership issue. Leadership in some areas of business is being narrow-minded. They want a candidate to have all these specialties but seldom does it happen that way. When faced with a "purple squirrel" you have to take a step back and ask yourself some hard questions that break down the needs. Then create some solutions. 

  • IT Ranked CIOs often only see one side of the coin: CIOs get bogged down with operational detail that they have no business being part of the solutions. This is common to high achievers that have risen through the ranks and are unwilling to let go. When they have to be replaced, it seems like they create the job description for the CIO position from his/her resume and overlook that the CIO may not need his/her exact knowledge/experience to do an outstanding job. Other factors are more important at that level.

2. The True Color of CIO’s Parachute

CIOs have to focus on strategic aspects. And sometimes, tactical programs/projects have to be undertaken to bridge the gap. To confuse a strategy job with a tactical job is a mistake when hiring. Although there might be some "savings", in a medium to large organization, each level has its time frame and although a CIO might be very conversant with the tactical problems, that is not his/her job. The CIO has to look out for the strategic value of the IT direction with the business strategy and interact with his/her business peers giving them alternatives that improve the bottom line. The CIO as C-Level leadership role, is a rule maker, not just an order taker. Not only do CIOs need to wear six thinking hats, but also they have every color of their own parachutes:

  • Blue Dots at Influential Point: It’s not necessary for CIOs to become pilots to fly from A to B these days, however, as a CIO, you should have a clear vision of where you need to go, the art of choices on how to get there, thus, CIO need be more as strategist and visionary; the CIO's influential point is also about their thought leadership, insight, and how to communicate it well. BLUE represents Blue Ocean, not always Blue Sky.
  • Yellow Dots at Inflection Point: The speed of business change is accelerated, either you are the cause of inflection or you are the subject of inflection, thus, modern CIOs do need to become change agents, with a transformational mentality, and focus on business long-term growth. YELLOW is the symbol of positivity with caution.  
  • Multi-Color Dots at Decision Point: Modern executives' main tasks are to make the right decision, to leverage the multitude of PoVs, to take advantage of data analysis (white dots), to synthesize seemly opposite opinions, and how to think fast and think slow properly, thus, CIOs need be a logical thinker with a certain level of creativity and intuition (red & green dots), CIOs also need be cautiously optimistic and intelligently paradoxical as well.

3. The Art of Search or the Science of Search, Which one is superior 

Talent Manager, be a change agent yourself: If there are companies that have Purple Squirrel wish lists on a Position Specification, talent managers should act as a change agents, jump into this dialogue, re-configuring the bullet points of the wish list into a marketing piece narrative with winning approach, allows the Art of search to take over the science of search, and talent manager need to seek candidates who show evidence of personal and professional growth throughout their career who are capable of growing into a position, such as the ability to be able to learn quickly and be able to apply the skills effectively.

The goal is not just to look for an individual candidate, but with a strategy to build a leadership team with complementary strength and having a few very driven people with a high aptitude for learning to lead and guide specialists. Such a combination is very valuable in both creating and executing a strategy. Many times, CIOs need to orchestrate, know-how about business, and also understand technical logic, but compared to technical jobs, executives in leadership roles should be good at synthesis, not just analysis, betterment, than just accuracy, insightful than just knowledgeable. So don’t hunt for a perfect CIO, but have the best and most versatile CIO available.


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