Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Thrown Out of the Game

Wednesday, June 04, 2003  

I just finished reading another article in CIO Magazine called, "10 Worst Mistakes CIOs Can Make". Naturally I compare my own performance against their benchmarks. Let's see if I do anything wrong.

1. Reign from your office. Well, as much as I like to stay out of everyone's hair, I do visit the branches and other department managers no less than every other month to check in on what they're up to and how the IS department might help. I think people are generally satisfied with our performance, judging by their comments. I should spend more time talking with front-line people. The truth is that I stopped doing that when the only feedback I got was regarding a print error they had that day (N.B.: not even recurring problems). Our front-line employees, supposedly a repository for creativity and ideas, just don't seem to want to share. I need to figure out a way to get them to do it. [Note to self: think.]

2. Be strategic, not tactical. Not a problem for me. Although I do have strategic control over the infrastructure, I do NOT have input into the business strategy. If we have one. Which doesn't appear to be true.

3. Be tactical, not strategic. Cost control is big but so is creating an IT department that can respond to business needs in a flexible, creative and rapid manner. Especially if I (and senior management) don't have knowledge of the Big Picture.

4. Address demand on a, "you pay, we play" basis. As I said in (3), cost control is big and weighs heavily on my mind. Assuming my budget grows 1-2% a year for the next 3 years (a distinct possibility) I need to continue addressing the squeeze in salaries, maintenance and other costs that rise year over year.

5. Say "yes" to everything. This isn't my flaw.

6. Always say, "no." I am inclined to say no for what I see as frivolous without pushing it to senior management for a decision. I do not enter big contracts or make sweeping changes without some senior management buy-in, even if it's only my boss.

7. Subscribe to the big bang theory of development. I don't practice this at all. I primarily believe in quick project turnaround, visible ROI and payoffs under a year. Any project over that requires senior management buy-in. I refuse to hang myself or my staff out to dry with big projects and the constant slew of change requests that always accompany them. This doesn't mean the small projects don't hang together in a larger framework -- it just means there has to be some benefit realized quickly, even if we're working towards a larger goal.

8. Treat architecture and security as outputs rather than inputs. I'm not entirely sure what they mean here, except that we continue to create a more reliable, available infrastructure capable of accommodating (assimilating?) new systems without totally redesigning everything. I'm not a builder, in the sense that I'm looking for resume accomplishments all the time.

9. Pretend that your organizational weeds are really untended flowers. I have worked to rid myself of poor performers in the past. I work with those on my staff who have spotty quality records to show improvement before I decide it's their time to go. As a small business, it is a significant impact to the organization to get rid of an underperformer completely rather than simply try to motivate to better performance, as spotty as those results are on occasion.

10. Rely solely on your gut. We don't have formal measurements for projects. This is a blessing and curse. Senior management occasionally uses IT projects to beat on each other with, which amazes me. A balanced scorecard might help in some cases with that. Sometimes it's just posturing.

I don't seem to be behaving self-destructively. Of course, there are other considerations when talking about washing out of a company. The one they didn't mention is culture -- I've mentioned our management culture before. Even if I stay away from these ten items, if I cross the culture I would lose pretty quickly.

posted by Henry Jenkins | 6/04/2003 03:25:00 PM

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