Monday, December 19, 2016

Top ten from 2016, part 1

2016 has been a great year. I was fortunate to take on a new position that I love, and I moved back to the Twin Cities. As the year winds down, I like to reflect on some of my favorite articles. Here are my top ten, in no particular order:

1. Advice for new managers
When I started work all those years ago, a colleague gave me a little book filled with aphorisms about life in the office. At first I thought it was a humor book, with comments like "When the office secretaries say they are cleaning out the fridge of anything older than one month, it is time to grab your bottle of salad dressing and put it on your desk." But in the first month of my first job, I quickly realized the truth behind these pithy observations. When I later became a manager, I wished someone had shared similar wisdom with me about how to act as a new manager. So I would like to share a few brief observations that may help first-time managers.
2. Why executives use Powerpoint
In my new CIO role, I'm in a much larger organization. I'm always meeting with people. That in-person contact is very important to me; I like to build relationships with those I work with, as a way to get things done. When I'm not in a one-on-one meeting, I'm usually in a committee meeting or a steering committee meeting or a governance meeting. These are important meetings too; they are the mechanics of projects. But the side-effect of all those meetings is that I rarely have time to write documents. So instead of writing documents, I prepare a Powerpoint slide deck, and I speak to those issues when I'm making my presentation.
3. Five levels of performance
At what level is your organization performing? Are you exceeding expectations? Falling below expectations? Or just meeting the expectations? Some experts refer to four levels of performance, originally credited as the "Four stages of competence." Others refer to five levels, with the fifth level indicating either an ability to instill performance in others, or a "super-performance" level. I prefer the latter. These five levels of performance apply to both individuals and organizations.
4. Understanding risk
Throughout my career, I have tried to take a risk-based approach to actions and decision-making. This has become more important to me as a CIO. Understanding risk is an important part of driving change. If you understand the risks, you can decide which risks you can accept and which you cannot. In doing so, you avoid "analysis paralysis" where you continually evaluate options without actually choosing a direction. By taking a risk-based approach, some options become obvious.
5. About governance
No matter how IT is organized, you must always consider how IT is governed. How do you ensure that IT is meeting the needs of the business? This governance can be formal or informal depending on the relative maturity of the business and of IT. But at some point, IT needs help to "vet" IT decisions to best serve the needs of the business. Governance can take on many forms, but the general process is that someone listens to business needs, and a governance group prioritizes requests and creates projects to execute them.
I'll post the remainder next week.

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