January 24, 2009

Vision and The Total CIO

Vision is often the telltale demarcation between a leader and a manager. A manager knows how to climb a ladder, but a leader knows where the ladder needs to go—leaders have the vision to point the organization in the right direction!
Harvard Business Review, January 2009, asks “what does it mean to have vision?”
First of all, HBR states that vision is the “central component in charismatic leadership.” They offer three components of vision, and here are my thoughts on these:
  1. Sensing opportunities and threats in the environment”—(recognizing future impacts) this entails “foreseeing events” and technologies that will affect the organization and one’s stakeholders. This means not only constantly scanning the environment for potential impacts, but also making the mental connections between, internal and external factors, the risks and opportunities they pose, and the probabilities that they will occur.
  2. Setting strategic direction”—(determining plans to respond) this means identifying the best strategies to get out ahead of emerging threats and opportunities and determining how to mitigate risks or leverage opportunities (for example, to increase mission effectiveness, revenue, profitability, market share, and customer satisfaction).
  3. Inspiring constituents”—(executing on a way ahead) this involves assessing change readiness, “challenging the status quo” (being a change agent), articulating the need and “new ways of doing things”, and motivating constituent to take necessary actions.
The CIO/CTO is in a unique position to provide the vision and lead in the organization, since they can bring alignment between the business needs and the technologies that can transform it.
The IT leader cannot afford to get bogged down in firefighting the day-to-day operations to the exclusion of planning for the future of the enterprise. Firefighting is mandatory when there is a fire, but he fire must eventually be extinguished and the true IT leader must provide a vision that goes beyond tomorrow’s network availability and application up-time. Sure the computers and phones need to keep working, but the real value of the IT leader is in providing a vision of the future and not just more status quo.
The challenge for the CIO/CTO is to master the business and the technical, the present and the future—to truly understand the mission and the stakeholders as they are today as well as the various technologies and management best practices available and emerging to modernize and reengineer. Armed with business and technical intelligence and a talent to convert the as-is to the to-be, the IT leader can increase organizational efficiency and effectiveness, help the enterprise better compete in the marketplace and more fully satisfy customers now and in the future.


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