Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Noli contendere Amor Omnium

As the title would suggest, in the world of technology the CIO is rarely the recipient of an abundance of love.  Because most business processes are automated by software and the like, it is logical to assume that IT is the first stop when things go wrong.  But conversely, IT is also one of the first places people go when they want to make things better.

Good CIOs know that in normal times the demand for IT projects and services always outstrip the resources available to meet them.  A "good" CIO will have mechanisms in place to accept, track, and process work


requests.  As always, a solid project management methodology (demonstrated in the graph above) is the key to establishing a a structure that allows for predictable delivery against a litany of demands. Enforcing rigor and discipline establishes two things:  (1) transparency and buy-in from customers, many of whom are peers to the CIO and (2) goals that the IT staff can rally around.  Time and again I am amazed at how much an IT organization can accomplish if they only have a clear understanding of expectations that do not change unpredictably!

Since I've described what good CIOs do, let's now address what great CIOs do differently.  The difference is remarkably similar and yet profound.  Great CIOs cover all the fundamentals of work management and technical excellence that are expected from their "good" counterparts.  What great CIOs do in addition is relationship management.  I'm not just talking about what some refer to as "playing politics".  What I mean is that these CIOs get out of the office and into the areas of the business where operations are occurring, customers are being serviced, and money is made.  These CIOs get to know the needs of the company by seeing firsthand how technology is helping or hindering profitability.  They think, conceptualize, and develop ideas which are turned over to the excellent teams they've built.  It becomes a productive cycle - the great CIOs get out in front, build relationships that can be used to give them real-time information, and use that knowledge to build the most productive systems that the company can reasonably operate.

This all sounds great, so why don't all CIOs do what I've just described?  While there are many reasons, getting out in front creates one big problem.  With great visibility comes great resistance.  Even though we don't like to admit it, people with high energy and drive constantly battle what I refer to as "organizational inertia".  What I mean by this is that not everyone wants to line up to work harder to support a CIO or any leader who is trying to lift a company to a high level of productivity and energy state.

So, if you want to be a great CIO, think back to the title of this article: "Noli contendere Amor Omnium".  This is an abbreviation of the full Latin quote: "Noli contendere Amor Omnium; Deus Non!"  In English this phrase translates to, "Don't strive for the love of everyone; not even God does that".  Those that set themselves apart will never be loved by all.  But they will earn the admiration of those that count.

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