CIOs and IT executives have a complicated job.
Systems need to run, hardware needs to be up to date, longer-term architecture strategy needs to be developed and executed on, transformation programs need to be rolled out, capabilities need to be delivered, and proper governance around information security and risk need to be ensured.
At the same time, CIOs must innovate with the business and continually demonstrate the competence, strength and value of the IT organization. All of this is going on while budgets are being challenged, e-mails are piling up, and the leadership team is focusing on tending to the careers and morale of a complicated mix of highly intelligent programmers, analysts and IT support staff.
What happens over and over again? The CIO becomes distracted and focuses on just one (usually the most urgent) of the many key ingredients they know are essential to their success. Why do they do this? Because many times the IT leadership team, the IT organization and business partners expect them to become highly involved when an urgent matter arises. And let's face it: the CIO enjoys digging into the latest urgent issue--especially if it is technical in nature--since many of us grew up as technologists.
As with any typical IT organization, there are steady streams of urgent matters that perpetually arise, and the CIO loses track of the most important elements of running the organization. This scenario happens over and over again, most times to the detriment of the CIO.
To mitigate this, CIOs will try many things to avoid this trap. They hire a chief of staff. They ask their executive assistant to incorporate "think time" into their calendars. They go to leadership training. They start lists. They stay late in the office. They have staff meetings to "catch up" on what is going on. They cancel town hall meetings. And the list goes on.
However, for IT leaders, the key to success is balance. CIOs must have a very balanced attack of key responsibilities and focus on all of them, every single day. This means that they need to delegate more, trust their leadership, read current research on industry trends and communicate more thoroughly. Otherwise, business leadership will lose faith--and the life span of the CIO can be dramatically cut short.