CIOs are no strangers to chaos. Working in IT means you’ve dealt with your fair share of chaotic moments. Technology has an annoying habit of not working properly – even when everything seems to be set up correctly. IT pros have had to learn to keep their cool when the tech just isn’t working — and the end user is feeling the frustration.
Being able to handle chaos is a skill every leader must develop. But long-term success working in a continual state of chaos can cause problems. Chaos can cause a surge of adrenaline and some people begin to subconsciously crave that adrenaline rush they feel from chaotic moments. When that happens, they may start to create situations that result in chaos and can cause those adrenaline rushes. The best example of this would be a student who consistently procrastinates on their assignments because they feel they “work better under pressure”.
Is it really possible that accomplished professionals and industry leaders can repeat the same mistakes that a college student would make? Absolutely! Stress naturally spikes cortisol levels, which is the built-in alarm system in your body. That spike in cortisol is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s our “fight or flight” instinct and it plays a number of roles in our body. Specifically, it boosts energy so you can handle stress and then will restore the balance afterward.
Many driven and ambitious people love that energy boost and thrive on the tension that a challenge creates. After all, meeting and overcoming those challenges is how they found success!
But if you find your IT organization in a constant state of chaos, it might be time to check in to see if you’re causing it and making more trouble than IT needs. Here are 7 signs you’re attracting chaos to your IT organization.
You’re working in a vacuum
Siloed thinking and poor communication habits can cause many problems for an IT organization. Many technologists do not focus on their communication or collaboration skills. In many organizations, IT has been seen as unwelcoming and isolated. When you tune out other departments and their needs and don’t include them in solution designs, you end up with workflows that aren’t followed, products that aren’t used to their fullest capabilities, and too many “last minute” requests that cause stress.
You don’t communicate in business terms
Learning to speak the language of the business is one of the most important things a CIO can do. Without describing – in business, not technical terms – how IT solutions fit in to business objectives, you’ll spend a lot of time and effort defending your initiatives, shifting initiatives at the last minute, and potentially working on initiatives that don’t contribute to needed business outcomes. Once you start mastering how IT and technology contribute to business objectives, you can position your initiatives in a better light, and this will decrease resistance from the C-suite.
You have shiny object syndrome
Everyone needs the newest, fastest, shiniest technology, right?! No, they don’t. Non-technologists and leaders in the C-suite might always be pushing you to invest in new technologies, in the belief that those technologies will instantly solve every business challenge. But without proper analysis of the challenge that needs to be solved, this mistaken belief in bright and shiny new technologies will only keep IT and the rest of the organization spinning in circles. You will experience the tension and challenge of continually deploying and training on new technologies – and be blamed when those new technologies don’t address the problem that needed solving. And you’ll spend a lot of money on tools that “don’t work”.
IT success isn’t clearly defined
How is IT success being defined? Often IT success is defined only as delivering projects on-time and within budget. But that definition ignores IT’s contributions to business objectives and the organization’s bottom line. By defining IT success in terms of business results and bottom-line impact, the CIO becomes a strategic leader in the company, and IT becomes a valued partner within the organization, not perceived as a necessary, but expensive, cost center. By failing to establish IT success measures in terms of organizational success, you’ll spend time and energy on hitting metrics that don’t properly elevate the CIO or IT.
Pushing change at the wrong pace
Accelerated timelines can be common in IT organizations – but are they realistic? CIOs are often operating under unrealistic expectations (see above) and therefore trying to force innovation without laying the proper groundwork. This can sometimes feel like running straight on into a brick wall and expecting it to topple over on the first try. You will quickly burnout and exit out if you push change at an unreasonable pace. Instead, CIOs need to set realistic expectations with the C-suite regarding the pace of change and establish realistic and achievable milestones to show that digital transformation is on its way.
You spend all your time putting out fires
Are you constantly involved in every little fire that comes up within IT? If you can’t rely on your team to handle the day-to-day fires that will always exist in IT so you can free up your time to focus on the bigger picture and strategic initiatives, then you are contributing to that chaos. I’m not saying that you should ignore those fires, but as CIO, you have to trust your team to handle the day-to-day work and provide coaching and support to get IT out of fire-fighting and into leading business innovation. Your time is better spent focused on solving the bigger business challenges within the organization.
You ignore the foundations of your IT organization
Foundations can be boring. They do not cause stress or any excitement when (if?) you think about them but having a strong IT foundation is absolutely necessary. The foundations of your IT organization include your workflows, processes, and value streams, and are what keep the wheels of IT turning, even during the chaos. If you ignore the steps it takes to keep your foundations optimized, you will continually get stuck in day-to-day fires and siloed communications which waste your time and your team’s talent.
Having a little bit of chaos can be a good thing. It can inspire innovation and create motivation but it’s a little bit like rainstorms. You want enough of it to keep things growing but you don’t want to live in it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As the CIO, you have the responsibility to balance having that healthy level of chaos in your organization while at the same time, be the calm in the storm. That tension and those cortisol spikes will still come — only this time, it will be because you’re working on bigger challenges that will have a larger impact on the success of your organization.Share