Next year at this time the supersonic leap from space will be remembered, while (unprompted) the name Felix Baumgartner will disappear. The huge team of engineers that made this possible is already unknown. The folks from David Clark who made his crazily-complex suit are unknown to begin with. They made this man’s life sustainable with layers of Nomex and Gore-tex, layered and shaped in deviously clever ways. Watching him fall from space made me think of decisioning making during IT staff meetings. It was ‘Tiger v Timid.’
Why do CIOs make mild decisions not wild and bold ones? Ask the boss. CEOs and Boards riveted on short term investor demands for more of a share and a higher price of a share can crimp innovation. It can certainly crimp taking chances or risking making new friends or upsetting the apple cart. (I love the expression, ‘upsetting the apple cart,’ because I have never seen one.).
How many CIOs are compensated for ‘innovation and risk taking?’ CIOs are compensated when the lights stay on, we are in compliance, we can report the numbers and the widgets all get ordered on time and paid for on time. And can they collaborate across an industry and tell their large software supplier: “No. This stuff is inferior and we won’t take it anymore.’ In the CRM space there is one vendor crushing all others, as in HR/HCM there is one vendor leading the way. And both got there because they created products for which the CIO becomes of second level importance. The line of business cares about the CIO because they need someone to complete the plumbing. But the Line of Business has already bought the shiny new kitchen and bath.
IT has been gutted of top-brain engineers, and first-class programmers have been reduced in number or gone to work for Google long ago. Why? Well, low pay, boring remits, lots of stress, lack of a compelling job path, and not enough reward for the challenges before them – few of which are exciting but many of which are difficult. Of course the top folks flee.
And in case anyone blame the CIO, we have to end with another classic adage, the origin of which I do not know: ‘The fish rots from the head.’ Great CIOs are largely found where there is inspired leadership that sets the CIO loose to make change happen.
How is your organization positioning the role of the CIO? Be honest, and show the facts. Congratulations Mr. Baumgartner. And the wonderful team that stood behind you, below you, and by you.