Grooming the 2010 CIO

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 03-12-2007 Print Email
Grooming the 2010 CIO

The development of important capabilities in executives usually occurs in a four-step, iterative cycle. In the context of CIO development, it is useful to think of this cycle as starting with a talent identification process. During talent identification, past performance is examined and future potential is predicted. Talented individuals with the right dispositions and traits, who need further development in certain areas, are identified. To fill capability gaps, it is typical to start by laying a foundation of factual knowledge or fundamental skills through formal training. Then, this foundation is further developed, internalized and enriched over the course of normal and special work assignments.

Action learning [on the job] is crucial in the cycle because true behavioral change occurs not when individuals are exposed to ideas in the classroom, but rather when they apply these ideas to their practical situations.

Finally, coaching and mentoring are commonly used to provide feedback on specific strengths and weaknesses and to help candidates find and practice tactics for refining their behaviors and perspectives so that they suit the local context. While formal training addresses a "knowledge" gap, coaching and mentoring address "performance" gaps. The four approaches--talent identification, formal training, on the job training and coaching/mentoring should be complementary and reinforcing.

While both self-service and enriched firms in our study used all four of these approaches to develop their CIO candidates, we did observe some differences in the details of how they work the development cycle. In general, at enriched firms, HR initiates and drives the development cycle, while at self-serve firms, on the other hand, development decisions tend to be done closer to the individual.

In enriched firms talent identification is an elaborate process that involves both human resource professionals and several layers of management, sometimes beginning before the first supervisory appointment. In self-serve firms, talent identification may only begin in earnest when an individual has been identified as a potential successor for an executive position. Self-serve firms place more emphasis on external formal training, while enriched firms invest more in internal, peer group training. Self-serve firms are more likely to assume that candidates will develop via normal work assignments, while enriched firms emphasize rotational assignments. Both use coaching and mentoring to fill performance gaps.

The earlier development begins and the more cycles of identifying and eliminating capability gaps, the fewer gaps there should be to fill in the last year or two, and the less the CIO has to do to groom a candidate, or the better the foundation the CIO candidate will have. Nevertheless, early development cycles do not eliminate the need for a final grooming period that is usually managed by the existing CIO, in both self-serve and enriched firms.

The companies in our study used a wide variety and range of development practices as part of their talent management process in general and for CIOs in particular. Our findings indicate that such variety is essential because any one approach is insufficient to address the multi-dimensional nature of desired CIO capabilities.

Research done by others suggests that companies that are good at growing leaders tend to have a similar range of development practices as those who are not so good at it. However, what is striking about best practice companies are three things that very clearly distinguish them from the average performer: (1) the sheer quantity and intensity of their development practices, (2) their commitment to measurement, and (3) the commitment of the chief executive to making development happen. We found evidence of these best practices in our study as well. In addition, we identified the importance of customization of development plans as a fourth best practice. Customized plans use extensive rotational experiences and coaching to fill specific capability gaps.

Roles of the 2010 CIO

Strategist Innovation catalyst, effective business partner, shaper of mission and vision

Relationship architect Relationship builder across and beyond the enterprise, relationship manager

Leader Designer, leader, inspirer, developer of people

Information steward Guardian of high-quality data and operationally reliable systems, security, privacy

Integrator Leader in enterprise-wide integration of processes, information and decision support

Educator Missionary who provides insights about key information technologies

Utility provider Supplier of solid, dependable and responsive IT infrastructure services


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