CIO in financial crisis: rethink leadership and management

CIOs need flexibility in shifting between their leadership and managerial hats to ensure efficient operations, given today’s financial/economic crisis

Today, the financial and economic climates in the U.S. are no longer what they used to be in light of the current crisis that faces the nation. This situation provides an excellent opportunity for CIOs to rethink their leadership and managerial strategies because their organization’s long-term survival may be at stake.

The challenge at hand
The challenge that confronts many CIOs is that their role has expanded beyond the tactical focus on technology stewardship (a support function often serviced today by a “chief technology officer” (CTO)) to the oversight of IT business strategy and chief communicator of corporate IT policy.

The new imperative
In this governance role, what’s important for the enterprise is for the CIOs to be able to alternate their leadership and managerial hats as needed to nurture the health and strength of the enterprise. Such a way of working puts the CIOs on a sure path to effectively repurpose their teams according to the changing needs of the enterprise, the projects, the marketplace, and the financial/economic factors impacting the organization.

This approach not only increases the accountability of the team in the project but it also enables the CIO to establish clear parameters for measuring what the success of the project will look like, not only at the enterprise level, but also at the project level, and at the individual level.

But alternating leadership and managerial hats is not a sufficient strategy in and by itself. The CIOs must also seek to enhance their leadership flexibility while achieving higher managerial efficiency. To make this happen, CIOs ought to consider turning to objective management consultants for assistance.

How to get there
Here are five tips on how CIOs can go about selecting such expertise:

To bring your leadership hat to the next level of flexibility:
Determine whether the advisor can help you achieve “process ennoblement”; an idea-driven concept, which can empower you to lead human ingenuity and innovation in order to foster better technology utilization.
Evaluate whether the consulting firm can show you how to effectively communicate the economic value of processes and innovation to the various stakeholders of the enterprise including the CEO and his or her management team, the board of directors, the investors, the employees, the customers, the media, and the industry analysts.

To augment the efficiency of your managerial hat:
Decide whether the consulting firm can advise you on how to leverage the historic professional experience of your staff as essential components of a “knowledge-based economy” that increase the market valuation of the enterprise through innovation and on-going creativity. This perception elevates personnel to long-lived assets worthy of on-going investment to preserve and increase the value of their future contribution to profitability.
• Seek a consulting firm that can best advise you on how to efficiently repurpose IT employees, leveraging their individual know-how and talents to build effective strategic teams. This repurposing can amount to one of the most important intangible assets the enterprise has in today’s fractured financial climate.
• Make sure that the consulting firm can advise you on how to save your team valuable time by minimizing the learning curve on new technologies via proven tips and techniques. An example – directing your team to master the critical features needed of a given technology as opposed to learning all the features provided by such a technology.

Today, CIOs cannot afford the status quo. They must seek new ways to enhance the flexibility of their leadership hat and to augment the efficiency of their managerial hat. Given this exciting challenge, CIOs should consider the merit of integrating into their strategies the adoption of objective management consulting expertise. Doing so is a smart move, which can potentially empower many CIOs to face head on the current obstacles on their plates in light of the current economic and financial crisis.