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July 30, 2010

Bad Behavior: Why CIOs Don’t Get Along With The Rest Of The Business

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A CIOs Personality Often Rubs Other Departments The Wrong Way

A CIOs Personality Often Rubs Other Departments The Wrong Way

Forget the whole alignment thing, is it possible that a CIO’s behavior is the root of the problem that the IT side of the house and the business side of the house have never been able to get along? Could it be that this is the secret as to why there has always been such a gap between these groups?

What Drives CIOs?

You may not be a CIO just yet, but I’m willing to bet that you share all of the bad personality characteristics that your CIO has. Perhaps if we take a moment and uncover just what is holding the IT department back from being all that it can be, we’ll also be able to uncover a way to solve this problem.

IT by its very nature likes to focus on things like technology and processes. However, it’s that “people dimension” that turns out to really be the most important thing. It’s how people interact that either allows IT and the business to align – or keeps them apart.

Studies of CIOs have revealed that they have two personality characteristics that help them be good CIOs, but which are probably dooming their ability to interact well with other departments. Wonder if you share these traits?

What Makes A CIO Good & Bad At The Same Time

A recent personality study of more than 500 CIOs, managers, and IT staffers have uncovered two personality traits that appear to be crucial to doing well in IT while impeding interactions with other departments.

The first of these personality traits is the need to do things right and to do them perfectly. I’m sure that we can all agree that we share this characteristic in some manner. When the CIO has this personality “feature”, it has a habit of being adopted by the entire IT department.

The problem with this trait is that it means that IT can be very slow to change how it does business. CIOs won’t want to make changes until they can be assured that the change has been tested and that it will work correctly in every situation. Needless to say, if the rest of the company is dynamically changing in order to adapt to the market, then IT will come to be seen as a drag on the rest of the company.

The other trait that CIOs share is a deep set need to do things correctly and to find ways to continuously improve what they are doing. We’ve all seen both of these characteristics show up in countless internal IT improvement programs. This is something that can help an IT department get more done, but it’s going to hinder working with other parts of the business.

The problem with this trait is that when other departments show up and ask the CIO to do something quickly or to do a job only partially in order to quickly react to a changing market situation, CIOs often balk.

When the rest of the company encounters resistance to their requests from the CIO, they are not pleased. This kind of internal roadblock is dealt with by the rest of the business by either complaining to the CEO that IT is not being responsive or else (and we’ll all seen this before) the business ends up going around the IT department in order to solve their problem.

How To Fix These Personality Flaws

These personality flaws are a challenge for any CIO to deal with and will remain that way when you become CIO. The issue is that you need to have these personality features when you are performing IT functions, but you need to find a way to deal with them when you are interacting with people from other departments.

Knowing that these two personality traits are a hindrance to aligning the IT department with the rest of the business is the first step in finding a solution to this problem. The next step is to realize that you need to consciously work to “turn them off” when you are working with other departments. This can be done by forcing yourself to step into their shoes and working to see the world the way that they do, not how IT sees it. Not easy, but doable.

What All This Means For You

When you become CIO, there probably still won’t be true alignment between the IT department and the rest of the business. This means that it will fall on your shoulders to finally solve this problem.

Knowing that one of the root causes of this problem lies in the very personality traits that will make you a good CIO is the first step in finding a way to deal with this issue. Your focus then needs to be on finding ways to turn these traits on when you are dealing with IT issues and off when you are dealing with business issues.

You may feel as though this will require you to become sorta of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde type of CIO. Perhaps this is true, but if it allows alignment to happen then go ahead and drink the potion…!

Contact Blue Elephant Consulting to find out how your team can be trained to be ready for their shot at the top spot. We’ve can lay out the skills that they will need to develop. By working with Blue Elephant, your IT team can be ready for the day that they call their name to become the firm’s next CIO…!

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3 Comments on “Bad Behavior: Why CIOs Don’t Get Along With The Rest Of The Business

Information Technology
March 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Hi,

Thanks for the article. I guess I my only issue is that in doing what I do for 30ish years, I’ve never encountered a situation where a CIO is dislike by his or her business (unless, of course, we’re talking about someone who is disliked by “everyone,” which is rare).

From my own personal experiences (and I help CIOs set strategy), I can say that most CIOs are highly respected and looked up to by their business counterparts. I can also say that most CIOs know how to balance the “do things right” vs. “do things good enough.” The reality is that most leaders who get to a CIO level understand that there’s only so much money, time, or energy to solve given problems and that priorities and resources deal what you go after first and how many balls you can juggle, simultaneously.

Anyhow, thanks again for the article.

Theresa Dorman
TD Software
IT Strategy and Change Management

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admin
March 24, 2011 at 6:25 am

Theresa: What I’ve seen is conflict at the “C” level. The other top staff already have a relationship and then all of a sudden a new CIO with new ideas crashes the party. All too often in this situation the CIO can be marginalized or, even worse, ignored. This is exactly what we need to find a way to stop…!

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Information Technology
March 24, 2011 at 7:00 am

Hi,

I’ve seen strong IT leadership and weak IT leadership, as is the case with any role in any business. Strong leaders never let themselves get marginalized. They use a combination of political skills, people skills and domain knowledge to get things done. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t have challenges. There will always be people and organizations that don’t want to change, for many reasons.

1) We can’t make blanket statements to say that all CIOs are bad and should correct their behavior a certain way. Everyone is different.

2) Often, other leaders are threatened by powerful, charismatic and successful IT leaders. Believe it or not but there are many enterprises with the CIO knows more about the business of a company than many of the business leaders, themselves, because the CIO has a broader view and an understanding of how all the data and information fits together, and why.

3) What makes someone successful in one enterprise may not work the same in another enterprise. It’s not always about the quality of the IT leader but the culture in an enterprise, the resources available, willingness to change and adapt, etc. There are many variables and they’re all different from one enterprise to another.

In summary, I don’t believe there’s one magic recipe that can broadly be applied to all CIOs to make them all successful in all situations in all enterprises.

I hope this makes sense.

Theresa Dorman
TD Software
Information Technology Strategy and Change Management

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