Rotsa Ruck Senōr – The evolving role of the CIO

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Kai-Fu Lee, Google's ex-head of China operations

As Dr. Jerry Luftman pointedly mentions in his book, “Managing Information Technology Resources,” (2009 Edition, page 157), in 1985, to be a Chief Information Officer (CEO), you had to be a “hierarchical kingpin, a dictator, a Technology guru, a mainframe bigot, having 20 years prior experience at IBM Laboratories, and possessing a Ph.D. at MIT.” In other words, being a big brain with a nasty attitude, having a high level of education and working at a niche company that’s unrelated to the current business for a certain amount of years, no matter how miserable you may be there. As well, one just having IT knowledge without being able to speak a word of business language to communicate effectively to other organizational members would “put one on top.”

Today, the CIO is a lot more. The CIO today must be a “visionary leader, a relationship manager, a marketer, one that’s open-systems oriented, having 20 years at LOB (line of business) management jobs, possessing just a Masters, and a minority (such as Spanish or Chinese).”

There are some big reasons for this change, which I will explain further.

One reason is that in the past, CIO’s were so ineffective in communicating with other organizational members and providing leadership that they had earned some derogatory nicknames. Names for CIO’s like “Career is Over,” “Career in Overdrive,” “Curious Information Obsession,” “Coding is Overrated,” “Cautiously Inspecting Outsourcers,” “Categorically Impossible Occupation,” “Chief Ignorance Officer,” “Crisis is Outgoing,” “Couch in Office,” “Curtailing Internal Operations,” “Confusing Indecipherable Occupation,” “Cafeteria is Open,” and “Career in Obscurity” (book, page 151) have abounded. Communication is of key importance, as is proper leadership. I can cite countless examples where things went wrong due to improper communication.

Being a visionary leader/relationship manager over a hierarchical kingpin is also important. A CIO who’s a hierarchical kingpin/dictator may mandate that processes are structured in a manner such that to use the washroom, one would need to impersonally fill out a “washroom usage form” (sic) with at least 20 signatures, no matter how badly one has to go. Suffice to say, the company’s progression in technology will go slower than a snail. There’s too much control, too much constriction, and many employees won’t appreciate that, save for not being motivated enough.

Being a minority while possessing just a Masters degree, today, provides one with a major advantage over one who has a Ph.D. while being a majority for one very simple reason. Culture in the US practically demands faster work done at a cheaper price. Being a minority, for better or worse, practically means that one can and will get paid less than someone born in the country where the services are being performed.  Why else do large like Microsoft outsource much of their work to countries like India and China (more so India since they speak British English, due in part to being heavily influenced by British culture throughout the first half of the 20th century)?

As well, naturally, one having a Masters degree will invariably earn less than one with a Ph.D. for the sole reason that earning a Ph.D. takes longer time, is much more difficult to earn, and  therefore warrants more money for the time invested.

So, one who’s a minority with a lower level of education will be cheaper for the employer. Cheap is good. I’m only surprised that Dr. Luftman didn’t mention that in the next 20 years one also will need to be a female since historically, females in a male-dominated society earn less than men do. While there are only 11% of women in CIO roles (source: Week 4 slides, slide 66) thereby making the future CIO requirements list “one who’s a minority, one who’s earned a Bachelors of Science degree, and one who’s a female.”

Is there anybody yet who I have NOT offended?

¿Hay alguien que no he ofendido?


What We Can Learn From Chimps

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A while back I was reading a great post by SearchEngineMan on what we can learn from Chimpanzees.

This not only applies to internet tools, but in real life.

Below is the post in it’s unabridged form:

There are two kinds of chimpanzee’s: the ones that live in trees, and the ones that live on the ground.

When the chimpanzee’s in the trees look down, they see a bunch of smiling faces.

When the Chimpanzee’s on the ground look up, they see a bunch of ***holes.

There’s nothing worse when you are knee deep in your day to day tasks, when the HiPPO (Highest Individual Paid Per Organization( dumps the latest emergency task on your plate, the one you hate. Never mind that they knew about the deadline weeks ago.

Since you’re such a smart worker you’ve already made allowances for these kinds of interruptions and race to get the task done. Again.

Your reward? Overtime catching up on your regular work.

What is truly annoying is that you will find this same situation repeats itself, but you’re too busy on the next task. “We just need to implement X-Technology to fix the problem!” – Everyone nods, nothing happens. Sound familiar?

Why Technology and the Internet fails in the Workplace?

How many gadgets on your cell phone do you actually use?

Is texting really an efficient use of your time?

Has email made your life less complicated?

This might explain the subconscious hostility arround Wiki’s, Apps, Blackberry’s, Schedulers, Calendar Software or Productivity technology. We roll our eyes when yet another technology enters the workplace.

This hostility by culture and refusal by management to embrace new tools is so ancient that we bump into our friends the chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee’s, Termite Popsicles and Power Tools

Chimpanzee’s developed a really effective method for extracting termites from a nest.

They take a stick, and lick it.

They plunge the stick into the termite nest

The termites get stuck on the stick

Voila! Instant termite Popsicle. Snack Time! (

A study was done to try to change the chimpanzee behavior, using better tools. Imagine what could be done to productivity?

They gave the chimpanzees power drills.

They took the power drill, and licked it.

They plunged the drill into the termite nest

The termites get stuck on the drill bit.

Voila! Instant termite Popsicle. Snack Time! Again!

(OK- we DIDN’T do this… PETA would not be amused. It’s an analogy…go with it…)

The problem is never the tools. Its the energy and investment and cost required to adopt technology and methods. Most HiPPO’s are not even aware of these problems, because they get someone else to clean up the mess (Chimpanzee’s in the trees). Your problem (as a ground dweller) is that you are rewarding bad behavior. It’s easier for the HiPPO to reach for his tool to get the job done…You!

Stop being a Tool!

To stop being a tool you must find a suitable replacement for your HiPPO’s habits. Not all of us have the luxury of saying no. Changing bad behavior means identifying the root of the problem, by gently showing the consequences to the HiPPO’s bottom line in a currency the HiPPO respects (Money, Ego, and Power).

The solution must be actionable by you and Dodo( simple, technology is your last line of resort.

Managing Client & Customer Expectations and get to the finish line before the HiPPO does.

Get somebody else (with power) to present your solutions to the HiPPO

Pulling a Scotty (Star Trek) -It’ll take 3 weeks (then do it in 1 week)

Swamp your HiPPO with details (They tune out and run away)

Show how the hated competition uses X method, so we should too. (EGO)

Be nice to your HiPPO, fix one of their problems in advance.

Make the HiPPO think it was their idea in the first place.

Say No (nicely)

The bottom line is you are not going to change the behavior with technology. It won’t work with Chimpanzee’s and it won’t work with your HiPPO. He still uses his uber-powerful computer like a type writer / TV crossover…

I’m curious if any of you have managed to get your chimpanzee to use any power tools.

Do you have any HiPPO stories? Feel free to share.