Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The CIO as the Digital Master: From Managing Change Incrementalism to Leading Innovation Breakthrough

Digital CIOs must have critical thinking skills, the high level of versatility, communication and engagement skills. 

Digital businesses become more information based, people-centric and hyperconnected, riding change curves is particularly important for improving business responsiveness, increasing organizational speed and reaching the high level of business maturity. Nowadays, Information technology is the growth engine of business. Today’s CIOs have multiple roles to play and take broader leadership responsibilities from managing change incrementalism to mastering innovation breakthrough to transforming their organizations into the high-performance digital powerhouse.

Managing change incrementalism as the daily tasks: Today’s organizations are far from perfect, there are ineffectiveness, dysfunction, overlapping, complication, silo, gaps, infighting, inefficiencies, or unhealthy competition, etc., all over the place. Thus, change management as a competency needs to reside in all areas of business where change happens. From IT management perspective, managing change incrementalism means to improve things they have more control of such as business processes or IT management issues, but also makes a broader impact on the organizational scope. Keep in mind, change is not for its own sake, but to improve the business in a continual way. The key issue is whether the management recognizes a need for improvement and will support both the necessary change management and training/orientation. Change isn't managed through tasks on a plan, although you have to have them, it is managed on the ground, every day, in every conversation and interaction. Change management is all about balancing the main elements impacting change such as people, strategies, processes/ procedures and IT. Change Management has to maintain and fix any imbalance in those elements by involving the executives in different functions including IT, to make sure all of the management is on board and educated well on the change objectives and how to carry them out effectively. From the organizational structure perspective, the goal of the change is to enforce transparency, improve business viability, keep things flow and grow. Fine-tune your team or organizational structure so they can best express this purpose and accountability. Managing change incrementalism also includes how to break down the change processes into phases and communicate each phase to employees on time, make adjustments if needed, and measure the change results accordingly.

Leading innovation breakthrough confidently: Breakthrough innovation is ‘anything new to businesses’ or some call it as ‘new to the world.’ It’s something new that disrupts or replaces something else. Information Technology is in fact, the key element of either incremental or breakthrough innovations because technology is often the disruptive force behind digitalization and information brings both business opportunities and risks all the time. Still, CIOs need to know that running an innovative IT won’t happen with controlling type of thinking. The old thinking just leads to a burden of support for operations whereas the true IT potential is in liberating new products, services, and business models. The realities of corporate life with limited budget and resources don't allow companies to spend all their resources on radical and thus intrinsically riskier--breakthrough innovation. Modern digital CIOs have to play different roles and communicate with the different audience such as boards, business partners, customers, vendors, etc, for advocating IT as the game changer, and getting the right sponsorship and support for continuous IT investment.  Digital IT leaders need to be equipped with a set of digital mindsets, audacious to encourage innovation and take advantage of emerging digital technologies. On the soft side, CIOs who practice creative communication with openness can help others contextualize better as well as demonstrating the trust. Sometimes you have to challenge the traditional methods of communication to stand out from the noise. It’s also important to balance creativity with the order, change, and stability to ensure future growth.

The 'good news' is that under the current digital protocol, disruption is inevitable. We are overloaded with information, knowledge is only a click away nowadays, but we starve for insight. Digital CIOs must have critical thinking skills, the high level of versatility, communication and engagement skills. Ultimately, the success of the change program or innovation performance is measured by results that bring important values to the organization and build the long-term organizational competency.


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