#4/10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO - Corporate Contributor

This is the fourth article in the series of 10 Crucial Survival Skills for the 21st Century CIO. If you haven't read the earlier postings, start your journey here.


Image: Still shot from the Alfred Hitchcock movie: Lifeboat
We've all face them.   Choosing the type of car you can afford vs. the type of car you want. Choosing a life partner. Choosing a thick juicy steak over tofu (Wait! there's no choice there!)

As leaders, we sometimes find ourselves making difficult choices that have profound impact on other people.

We can't be in charge only when times are good.

Which projects are delayed? Or cut?

If things get tough enough, the choices may get harder.

You have to reduce your team size.  Who do you pick?

Side note: If the thought of doing this makes you incredibly uncomfortable, that means you are human.  If you could never, ever let someone go, then you should not aspire to be a senior leader.  There are times you will need to do this.  It comes with the territory. On the flip side... If you can let people go and it doesn't bother you, then I would suggest you are missing a key element of leadership - empathy.

Philosophy classes over the years have loved to present these ethical dilemmas - the most famous of which is the "Lifeboat Dilemma". Who stays? Who goes?

Here's a wrinkle in this scenario.

Sometimes the person with the dilemma is not you.  It's the person you report to.  If they were faced with operational cuts, would you or your department survive?  Especially with all the Cloud vendors hawking the increased performance and reduced costs that the cloud will bring? (Disclaimer - this is marketing rhetoric, not my opinion).

I would suggest that your personal and organizational survival are based on one key metric - value.  And by value I mean the contribution you and your team make to the overall corporate goals and objectives.

So the competency of today's post is... Corporate Contributor.

Corporate Contributor
As mentioned in the last post on Collaboration, IT is one of the only departments (along with Finance) that is horizontal - working with every department and function within the organization. We offer great value in our exposure to all of the parts and processes, and our knowledge of how things fit together.

All of this knowledge does little good if your stakeholders cannot articulate how the IT department helps them be successful.  You may be doing the most innovative things in the world, but you may find yourself on the wrong side of a decision when cuts are made if the executive and board aren't aware of your department's contribution to the organization.

This isn't about boasting, but putting practices in place (metrics, KPIs, feedback mechanisms) that ensure that IT's contribution is clearly understood and documented.

It's also very relational. It is you and your Directors and Managers getting out of your offices and "putting a face (or a person) on technology". Your stakeholders aren't dealing with the "IT department", but dealing with Diane, Asim, Humaira, Jason, Jennifer, Mike, Nathan, Jon, Elaine, etc.

Corporate Contribution in practice looks like this:

  • Your CEO or President can complete the following phrase in a positive way: "The IT Department helps us be successful by..."
  • Your board members and other members of the executive team can do the same.
  • Your stakeholders can do the same.
  • You have established KPIs for your team, and you regularly meet or exceed your performance goals.
  • You manage your IT budget well, and transparently.
  • You have established sound project management practices to ensure projects are done on time, on (or under) budget and in scope.
  • Your results (performance increases, operational efficiencies, cost savings) are real and measurable.
  • You allow yourself to be accountable.
  • Each of your IT initiatives can be directly tied to the organizational goals and objectives.
At the end of the day, your contribution could be summed up in the sentence "You help people be successful in what they do, or do things they didn't know they could accomplish."

How would you describe corporate contribution in action?

I'll be presenting one competency per posting over the next while, and compile them into one big, long post when complete.

Here is the list of all 10 competencies with links.

Next posting: Conceptualization


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