I was recently reading a survey on how CIOs divide their time between activities; internal customers, external customers, vendors, management and business meetings, staff review meetings, fighting fires, responding to emails, learning new technologies, and attending a host of IT events. CIOs are a busy lot, they have to balance all this with some time also to be allotted to their families.
So I started talking to a few CIO friends to understand what keeps them busy through the day. It was an interesting revelation; the CIO keeps business running as usual, the networks, the servers in the data center, distributed architecture in many cases, information security, and plethora of applications that keep the business alive, new projects that business wants and some that the CIO feels are necessary even when business does not care. There are, of course, the urgent yet sparsely defined requirements for changes, the IT team and finally the IT vendors.
I am not even getting into new trends that promise disruption to the existing landscape; the flavor changes frequently. Not in any particular order they have been the Internet, Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, Mobile Computing, Thin Clients, Work anywhere, Cloud Computing, Social Media, Big Data, Virtualization, Advanced Persistent Threats, Mobile Commerce, ad infinitum. Educating and managing expectations across all the hype along with running IT operations; all in a day’s work!
So one of the pet peeves that I heard is that there is no time for any discretionary work, little time to sit back and think about the strategic direction IT should be taking, no time to engage with other CXOs and end customers to work on the innovation agenda, no time to mentor/ coach the team which looks up to the CIO for direction, no time to educate self on what could be the next disruption to their business. No time for the stuff that they enjoy.
Are CIOs any different from other CXOs who also have to balance variety of similar but dissimilar tasks? Every leader within the enterprise has to stay abreast with the industry, the economy and how it impacts the company’s market position; what interventions will make a difference. At the same time they are expected to manage internal and external perceptions while leading and managing the team to create success. Successful CIOs I know do this every day.
A very large conglomerate’s CEO abhors the lack of time cited by every busy executive; his group of companies are well respected for their market leadership and value creation. Almost everyone in his companies leaves the workplace before the sun sets. His mantra? If you cannot complete your work within the stipulated time, then either you are incapable, inefficient, or your manager/ boss does not know how to allot and divide work within the team.
In many companies, busyness is also a well fueled perception; culturally these companies encourage activity and spending time beyond working hours. It then becomes a race to be seen late evenings and even nights to say I was busy; don’t leave before the boss is a way of life. Perpetual state of motion does not guarantee outcomes. Don’t tell me how hard you work; tell me how much you get done. I have lived by this maxim and it has worked for me.
I believe that every leader including the CIO needs to empower, delegate and let go of tasks and focus on outcomes. In the end what matters are results! Manage time and don’t live by the clock. Prioritize the important and the urgent based on the impact. Your becoming indispensable to the company is bad for you and the company. It will stunt your growth opportunities and also give you no time.