Five Often Overlooked Ways CIOs Stumble

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 04-25-2014
IT stress

By Samuel Greengard

There are many ways for CIOs and their staff to go down in flames. Here are a few that seem to fly below the radar:

  • Focusing on the company. Sure, you have to think about business and IT from your organization's point of view. But the real story isn't the organization, it's the marketplace, business environment and customers—and how leadership reacts and adjusts. Somehow, this point often gets lost in the daily shuffle. The end goal is to build systems that fully engage customers and allow employees to do their best work. Remember, an enterprise can hit every single metric, but if you've identified the wrong metrics, you will fail in business.
  • Getting stuck inside the box. You know the drill. You sit at a meeting and listen to the group debate an idea, concept or project. You have the gushers on one side and the D Club (doomsayers and devil's advocates) on the other. The problem is that both groups are too often focused on the wrong thing: a perpetuation of the status quo. You really want to innovate? Imagine you're starting a new business or project from scratch and lay out all the options before making any decisions.
  • Placing the focus on IT. Within many organizations the sum of all IT projects does not add up to the level of value that departments and teams desire—and require. Alas, the wrong priorities get plugged into the equation and, because legacy thinking prevails (i.e., getting stuck inside the box), a mish-mash of half-baked initiatives results. The primary focus shouldn't be on IT. It should be on enabling business functionality. This means saying "Yes" to Ms. CMO, Mr. COO and others way more often and finding ways to make "Yes" happen.
  • Promoting burnout. Former Apple executive and thought leader Guy Kawasaki points out that the glorification of busy exists in our culture. One manifestation is an inability to take time off, including vacations. Unfortunately, burnout isn't the basis for happy, inspired and productive people or great decision-making. Moreover, working more doesn't necessarily mean you or your staff is working any smarter or better. Actually, it probably just means you're working more.
  • Failing to disconnect. For many professionals, the e-drip is always on—e-mails, instant messages, text messages, voice mails and more stream in and out. The daily onslaught of traumas, dramas and so-called emergencies make it nearly impossible to approach problems and challenges in a creative, innovative and strategic way. Call a time out for a walk or a dinner and switch the devices off. Completely disconnect for a weekend. I guarantee the world won't come to an end and you may actually think more clearly about the Big Stuff.

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, "CIOs Must Bleed Open Source," click here.