CIO Magazine's September 1 digital edition includes an op-ed from Bryson Payne, CIO at North Georgia College & State University. Payne suggests that the way to get ahead in an organization is to ask yourself "What would the next CIO do?" then tackle those challenges. This puts the organization's priorities in a new light, and lets you see the problems facing your teams in a new light.
Payne uses this method to identify three areas of concern to his organization:
- Pain points - What are the things that a new CIO would fix?
- Jackhammer issues - What are the top problems that nag your users?
- Relationships - How would the next CIO connect with the institution?
Payne looks at the issues as a way to be the "hero" of the organization. But unfortunately, the essay reads (to me) as someone who is looking to forestall the inevitable in his career there (and even notes, "Fortunately, I'm also a tenured associated professor, so I'll get to opine about IT leadership long after my 'best if used by' date has passed.")
But considering what someone new to the role would do is still an interesting thought process and would lead to thinking in new "out of the box" ways. So instead of Payne's article, let me instead direct you to Brian McDonald's essay, Taking on a new role (PDF). Even if you've been in your current position for years, and expect to stay there for many years yet, you can still gain new insight by thinking like an outsider. How would someone approach your issues if they were taking it on as a new role?
Brian advises seven steps in taking on a new role:
- Share broad themes early
- Read the landscape
- Build relationships
- Create a SWOT profile
- Assess the talent needed to get the job done
- Get briefed on the finances
- Sketch out priorities for the next 3-12 months
Two of those map directly to Payne's three items, and I've put those in bold for you. Note that when you create a SWOT profile of the issues facing you and your users, you also identify pain points and jackhammer issues.
In general, I do a SWOT ("Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Strengths") exercise with my team about twice a year. I actually break this down to the elements of a SWOT: I start with a vertical line on the whiteboard, labeled "+" on the left and "Δ" on the right. Then I draw a horizontal line through that, labeled "now" on top and "future" on bottom. From that, we do a straightforward "plus-delta" exercise, but think about immediate issues ("now") and things that will help or hinder us in, say, another twelve months ("future").
Interestingly, this translates directly to a SWOT: Strengths are "plus-now", Weaknesses are "delta-now". Opportunities are "plus-future" and Threats are "delta-future".
To be transformative, think "outside the box" like someone new to the role, don't just sit on the status quo. Do you have the right people doing the right things, or would any of your teams be better suited to new, larger roles in the organization? How can you develop the talent in your organization? What are you doing that simply "meets the needs of your users", versus what should you be doing over the next 3-12 months? What would move the organization forward?
Like Payne, I think asking yourself "What would the next CIO do?" would help you to make your organization better. But it's not about being a "hero" in the institution — I'm not here to make a name for myself, I'm here to serve the campus. Instead, use the opportunity to be constructive. Take some i-time to look at things with a fresh perspective, and consider how you can make your organization better.