Monday, August 05, 2013
Stay relevant, stay hungry
In the last few weeks by accident, coincidence or that suddenly it has become a big discussion; I had a few CIOs young and old, and other senior non-IT friends wanting to discuss job security and career progression. Their questions were fairly similar with the prime theme being how do they contextually stay relevant to their changing role and expectations and at the same time address the flavor of the month or season. After all with every even slightly disruptive technology trend comes the hype that the CIO role is no longer relevant.
Everyone has an opinion on IT today and they are trigger happy in their pronouncements; not that it matters who they are, or the power or authority they wield, there is always an opinion on what the CIO should be doing to survive the bad world of changing expectations. CIOs are used to this now, but when some non-IT friends raised similar doubts it had me wondering. A little more than a year back I had explored the subject of changing skills (Re-skilling for the future) and I did not see any change.
It is a fact that the role of technology professionals has changed over the last many decades; it is also known that CIOs have come up to the situation with varied degrees of success. Staying unaligned to enterprise politics and power struggles, in most cases the CIO has acted in the best interests of the company. This was an easy path with multiple conflicting priorities or interplay within functions. This position brings with it a strength and vulnerability leaving the choice to the person on how s/he uses it (a post on this coming soon).
The evolution curve has created some first amongst equals or the crème who are seen as the role models. They are visibly successful, appear to do everything right, have good presentation and oratory skills, are able to shift across companies/industries and roles with ease, end up attracting great talent and retaining them. They appear larger than life and are favorites as speakers for seminars, group discussions, quotes for publications, great networkers and are even sought after by executive placement companies too.
The relevance of a role in a company changes with industry ups and downs, size and growth, profitability and industry positioning, the culture and politics, and finally the incumbent individual. All these changes require adaptation to the new paradigms with focused action. Changes are rarely sudden and give fair opportunity to prepare; high professionals align quickly and hit the ground running. No one can afford to lag behind for too long, the outcome will be Darwinian; everyone is responsible for their own survival.
Everyone almost always thinks that they are doing well in whatever they do. It is typical for people to wait for feedback and when none is coming, they live in a false sense of complacency. Many also wait for their development plans to be created by HR or their managers, or training to be scheduled by the learning function; effectively it is a passive approach to skills enhancement and development. The crème takes ownership of their vectors and creates the desired path and outcomes more frequently.
Sustaining relevance to the role and context is important for continuity; for growth, demonstration of hunger is necessary too. It is important to create a persona that people associate with and are able to relate to. I have observed many CIOs drifting along with a sense of helplessness while enviously looking at the visible CIOs. They wonder why they are unable to rise; I do not for a moment believe that they are disadvantaged in any way except their inertia and self-created limitations of what they can achieve.
Survival is not mandatory said Edwards Deming the quality guru, while Darwin postulated that the adaptable survive. In the hyper-competitive and uncertain world that we live in, everyone has to fend for themselves. I believe that CIOs should take charge of their future as well as demonstrate leadership for their teams to keep themselves relevant. This has worked for everyone I know in the crème group; there is no reason for it not to work for you. Go ahead, stay hungry, and stay relevant.