The prior post discussed a comparison between CEO and CIO priorities and the observation that the two are more aligned then many would want. This post talks the limited value of a simplistic view of the CEO/CIO relationship and the nature of the alignment.
Comparing priority lists is a popular way of assessing the relationship between two roles. If the same things are on both lists and in the same order, then people are thought to be in alignment. Sounds simple, both people are interested in the same things – then they are all on the same team – right?
Measuring alignment by sharing the same things on the list is more a measure of consistency or similarity – in other words a sign of ‘group think’ and potentially weak management.
Everyone focused on the same things in the same order is more likely driven by a lack of diversity, imagination or focus among the leadership team. So I would not want to see a lock step alignment of priorities, particularly priorities that are expressed at a rather generic level.
Priorities like: grow, cut costs, satisfy customers etc. are fine but they are rather vague leading the impression that people are aligned when they are actually working across purposes
Lock step alignment even on general principles can indicate groupthink and a situation where everything is everyone’s priority – making it effectively no one’s responsibility.
Sure its great to have focus, but an enterprise is not so simple that everyone can have the same priorities and definitely not have the same plans. This is why there will be variance in priorities across the executive team – there should be as each executive is responsible for
This simplistic approach is particularly damaging to the CIO and their position on the executive team. CIOs play a specialized role in the executive team, one that has both strategic and operational responsibility; one requires both specialist and general management skills.
What you want to see if a commonality of goals, but a set of priorities that reflect unique resource responsibilities of the executive team. This means IT should be creating platforms for growth via combinations of information, computational and application resources. Finance should be delivering capital in sufficient levels and at a sustainable cost. Marketing positions products and services via market values and in the perspective of competition. The supply chain fulfills demand at speed, scale and cash efficiency. The list of specific roles goes on.
So the next time someone says that CIOs or any executive is out of sync with the CEO because they do not have the same priorities or in a similar order recognize that having the same list probably constitutes a sign of weak management and a less capable management team that cannot recognize the interdependent roles we all play to create success.
Look instead at the priorities of the individual role in the context of their resources, responsibilities and the expectations of the other roles. If you can connect the dots, if the priorities match the resources, then chances are the lists will not be identical.