CIO Update guest columnist John DeBenedette of INTTRA.">

Managing Technically Oriented Executives - Page 1

Sep 5, 2007

John DeBenedette

There's no doubt that executives with a technical orientation—those logical, analytical left brain folks—bring many positive attributes to the table, but they can also pose a unique challenge for a CIO.

A technology orientated management team will naturally want to challenge the CIO's ideas. Although this can be healthy, executives that second guess everything a CIO proposes make the job of managing IT resources more difficult for the CIO than it needs to be. Also, technically-oriented executives often underestimate the resources required for ad-hoc projects to be carried out, which can lead to unrealistic expectations.

Finding an antidote to this type of behavior, however, shouldn't be the sole responsibility of the CIO. Getting the most out of a technically-minded management team is the responsibility of the management team itself. Establishing a team-based corporate culture will arm most technically-oriented executive teams with the tools to achieve their corporate strategy and avoid conflict.

Fostering Teamwork

First, the management team has to be onboard to foster a company-wide culture of collaboration and teamwork. Next, from the top down, the leadership team should create organizational development programs, and establish protocols and values that support a corporate culture of high-performance teams.

Promoting this environment requires some key ingredients: Everyone's roles and responsibilities need to be clear to the entire team and measurable goals should be set. The working relationships between players need to be well defined to be effective. All the players on the team must be accountable at four levels—to their department, to each other, to the CEO, and to the entire company—if the organization is to achieve its goals. Not only should the level of information sharing and communication be high, but most importantly, soft skills and individual behaviors such as active listening, influencing, and conflict resolution should be core competencies.

Let's drill down further on some of the challenges CIO's face when surrounded by technically-oriented executives, and explore some of the tools available to overcome them:

Managing the solution-seeking technical executive: Keeping executives above the details is tough at times but necessary. Clear company goals and corporate strategy will help your technology-oriented executives stay focused on the bigger picture and not waste time diving into aspects of potential solutions that do not create value.

Reducing second guessing: The CIO really needs to have his or her metrics nailed own and be clear about the organization's corporate strategy. Make sure the portfolio of projects are clearly communicated to the team to gain buy-in and provide regular updates on performance against agreed-upon specifications. This reduces the need for executives to second guess IT solutions, or worse, start new projects that could undermine core deliverables.

Countering the "That's easy" suggestion: People with tech experience have a tendency to think that a given project isn't a big deal or will be quick to resolve. "All you have to do is x, y, z," they'll say. What they may not take into account are other factors, such as IT best-practices and standards that ensure any successful IT solution is created on a solid foundation. If this level of understanding is not fostered, a gap can easily form between executive team expectations and what the CIO can deliver for them.

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Tags: collaboration, management, IT, technology, IT Leadership,

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