Thor Madsen

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Thor Madsen
Executive Partner
10 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Thor Madsen is an executive partner with Gartner Executive Programs, supporting CIO clients. His primary areas of focus are executive communication strategies, innovation and the evolution of IT. Read Full Bio

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We the Competent

by Thor Madsen  |  July 25, 2010  |  1 Comment

Last month in a workshop for a CIO and their IT leadership team we helped address the new capabilities each of them think they will need to bring to the company’s impending transformation.  Rather than the “skills” they and their sub-teams will require (i.e. trainable, technical and focused on what we do) we spent the entire session focused on what “competencies” they will need (less trainable, built on existing strengths and focused on how you do what you do) to navigate the change (let alone meet with success).

The most interesting part in this session was the team’s honesty – to an individual, for both themselves and cross-team – in confirming the necessary competencies they did and did not have.  By the end, I witnessed the group transform their thinking from “how can I build myself to meet these challenges?” to “I need my team-mates’ help(!).  How can we share our competencies together in order to meet these challenges?”.  That, from my perspective, was the penultimate “ah-ha” moment.  I think it represents the key challenge to transformation at every organization: that is, moving from an individual contributor-based focus (even among the management ranks) to a social/group-performance focus that is required to create break-out value (especially if “transformation” increasingly becomes the new “maintain”).

Following are examples from my CIO client base where competencies are lacking yet required to make business performance impact (notice that all have a social component):

  • The CIO is building a new Enterprise Architecture (EA) team from ground up.  Who should lead?  What capabilities will they need?  Technical skills do not even come up.
  • Evolving an EA team from technical to business architecture focus.  Same as above.
  • The CIO is building a small (2-person) innovation team for the first time – to help the organization survive in a rapidly changing market by becoming more intentional in driving competitive advantage out of emerging trends.  Who should lead this effort?  How should it be led so that this is seen as directly correlating to business growth and transformation?
  • The CIO is readying an team to support major cross-organizational transformation including helping launch a new businesses.  Who are the individuals capable of “thinking different” and standing up to the current organizational atrophy?  In a professional, marketable way?
  • The CIO is building a PMO designed to fundamentally shift project management from time/budget-focus to business-outcome/capability focus.  Should we prioritize the best project management skills or the best business acumen?  How to balance?
  • Even the “we have to fix the foundation first” reasoning goes away as how “fix” gets done must be considered paramount.   To that end, I think of another CIO who focused their team on technical infrastructure excellence over a three year period to address just this problem.  At the end of three years they ended up with IT at the lowest group rating across their organization.  The new CIO who has taken over is completely shifting the team’s focus to prioritizing their work on business performance – whether applied to infrastructure or otherwise.

When I step back from these real-world examples above, the move in IT from prioritizing the task to prioritizing the approach just seems like a natural, necessary evolution.  If so, the next big question is what will the new IT “department” look like and what will we call it?

Reference:

Organizing for Success

New Roles and New Competencies: Blurring Boundaries

The Quest for Talent in a Digital Age: New Thinking, New Challenges, New Assumptions

First, Break all the Rules – The Gallup Organization


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