Thursday, October 5, 2017

Digital CIO’s “Balance” Practices: Step Back in Order to Lead Forward

Step back, hand-off, bend over, fail fast, when necessary, in order to lead forward and catalyze digital transformation.  

There have been a lot of brainstorming and debates about "What makes a good CIO?” And how can CIOs lead effectively? There is a distinct difference between a great CIO and an average CIO in terms of identifying and implementing competitive business advantages and improving IT organizational maturity. Here are three digital CIO’s “balance” practices for making a leap of digital transformation.

Step back in order to lead forward: We have long known that IT managers and professionals at all levels require an appropriate balance of technical, business, management, industry, and interpersonal skills. The CIO role has always been about ensuring that technology within a firm is a platform for enabling business growth and delighting customers. Sometimes, you need to take a step back for understanding things holistically, build the groundwork with the platform to provide tailored business solutions. Leading only with operational considerations is not the way forward. The multitude of IT management disciplines and practices needs to be accomplished by working with business partners to leverage opportunities for changing how the business competes in the marketplace. Taking a step back sometimes allow IT leaders and managers to truly dig into the root cause of the problems, rather than just rush up to keep hands busy for fixing the symptoms. The best way is to go inwards to see how your own actions might be contributing to the overall problem as they are the easiest things to change. Digital IT organizations are not just commodity IT service providers, they need to work closely with business partners to leverage opportunities for changing how the business competes in the marketplace, and offer timely solutions to emergent business problems or overcome challenges. Thus, taking a balanced approach is, in fact, important for “Doing less, but achieving more,” step back in order to lead forward.

Hands-off in order to manage effectively: Due to continuous disruptions and fast-paced changes, the majority of IT organizations today are overloaded and understaffed. IT managers have to manage a balanced portfolio to “run, grow and transform” their organization. Still, busyness is not always equal to effectiveness. In fact, ineffective “hands-on” means IT management is interfering, undermining their people and inhibiting the fluid decision-making processes. Even worst, it could mean a clear vision or the real strategy is lost to the detriments. Ineffective “hands-on” implies micromanagement syndrome, the problems are escalated to the top IT leaders because managers are afraid to make decisions or they are not empowered to take on more responsibilities. That could mean IT is deep in the weeds, with meddling, tinkering, interfering or being overbearing. Therefore, the balance practice CIOs should take is to learn when to hands-off in order to manage more effectively. Strategic CIOs should spend more time on the key management processes that feed them the fact upon which to make better strategic decisions and measure how well they are doing and delegate many operational duties to the subordinates. They also empower their highly capable technical people to make their own decisions, be accountable for what they do, take a journey of autonomy, discovery, and mastery.
Fail fast in order to innovate relentlessly: As the old saying goes: There is no innovation without failure. It is very much an intrinsic part of innovation. Like many other things in businesses, to “Do more with innovation,” is a balancing act to have enough failure and an environment that encourages learning from failure quickly and cheaply, take calculated risks without having failures that are too frequent or too expensive. Part of being a leader is taking the risk, but also control the risk. That means IT leaders need to take a balanced approach to manage innovation as well as risks in a structural way. Ultimately, it is crucial to improving the success rate of innovation which results in financial successes or a business will not remain competitive. However, in many organizations, most of the time, failures are not structural, they either miss an opportunity to boost business growth or they over-invest in particular opportunities. A balanced approach for innovation management is that failures need to be analyzed, and “lesson learned,” should be applied in the future. Fail fast in order to innovate relentlessly.

The digital CIO is not just tactical IT management position, but a dynamic leadership role who has to keep learning, be keen about exploring new technologies and emergent markets. More importantly, to deal with digital complexity and uncertainties. Digital CIOs have to take balanced approaches, set new rules, not for stifling innovation, but for enforcing management discipline; do not micromanage, and step back, bend over, when necessary, in order to lead forward and catalyze digital transformation.  


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