The relationship between the CIO and the Board of Directors is fraught with risk and misunderstanding. While many CIOs have presented to the Board of Directors, these interactions are can be problematic.
CIOs feel the need to explain IT and their inititiatives to an audience. Given the average duration of a board presentation is about 30 minutes, there is not enough time to explain the detail. This leads to CIOs feeling that either the board either does not seem to understand or seem to care about the point.
Addressing this situation requires recognizing and tailoring your message to your audience. Relative to the board it involves answering the following four questions:
- What is the objective you are trying to achieve?
- What is the plan you have to achieve that objective?
- What are the measures you and we should use to assess progress and success?
- Do you have the organizational capability to deliver the objective based on the plan?
These questions are common to many executive initiatives and are not particularly unique to IT. They should not be, because board executives build their confidence in a decision or direction based on their expert judgment.
Expert judgment is the way in which we all take in new information, by comparing it what we know and seeing if it fits. Board members use their extensive experience and connections as their basis for judging the quality of your decision and action. These questions support expert judgment by saying simply what you are trying to do, how you are going to do it, how you know you are making progress.
If your answers do not seem reasonable, then you will get questions and challenges. If they fit in the minds of the Board, then you have confidence that you have the right objectives, the resources to reach the objectives and you know what success looks like.
That is a much better than trying to teach them IT so they see the wisdom of your decision. Use the four questions as a way to speak in a way that is consistent with how they are able to listen and judge the merit of your direction and decision.