Working with specifics
This minimized the time the executives needed to spend with him, while demonstrating that he and his team had done their homework. Nothing annoys executives more than a vague request like "Tell me about the strategy," or "Tell me your objectives." It usually makes much more sense to give them something specific to debate and agree or disagree with, while showing you are completely engaged in your industry, business and competitive positioning.
Petrey built his credibility in a step-by-step process, understanding that it is something that comes from your executive colleagues.
Another approach is what I call "buy-in through envy." It works this way: You come into an organization and find that people don't understand why you have been appointed. It's hard to get any buy-in to what you need to do, and you begin to feel that you wouldn't have taken the job if you had known then what you know now. But it's a bit late for that, so you have to start small, be specific, and show your colleagues what is -really possible.
It's best to start with just one business colleagueperhaps someone who has trouble getting resources, but who really understands how she can use information and technology to take her business to the next level. You put some of your best people on a small project that they can deliver in 90 days. It's a bit like "do something and learn from it," except the goal here is "do something, succeed and have others take notice."
Their reaction: "I want to do that too," or "I sure could use some of those resources." I have seen this tactic work many times. You just have to locate one executive you can work with successfully and get started.
I have been at quite a few company meetings when the outcomes of a small project in one business were reported. Other business headsusually of larger business unitsget agitated that they did not get access to that kind of expertise, and now they want it, too. You create a visible honey pot and draw them in, raising your credibility at the same time.
Based on that credibility, you can get the resources and permission to undertake various other IT initiatives. In Petrey's case, these were quite limited in the beginning. Usually those initiatives have outcomes and results, which, depending on what they are and whether they benefit the enterprisein the eyes of the enterprise leaderseither enhance or diminish the CIO's credibility.
The whole process then becomes either a virtuous cycle or a downward spiral. Every successsuccess, again, being in the eyes of the leadersbuilds more credibility. Every failure chips away at the CIO's credibility and, in the medium to long term, decreases his or her ability to gain "access rights" to participate on a daily basis in things that really matter to the business.
The ability to be "in sync" with the business requires building strong personal relationships, and being politically smart, with executive colleagues.
The only success metrics that ultimately matter for a CIO are those of his or her executive colleagues. n
Marianne Broadbent is senior vice president at Gartner Inc., responsible for Gartner's global research business strategy, and a Gartner Fellow. Her next column will appear in August.
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