CIOs: Strategies for Navigating Change


No leader is expected to navigate change and disruption more nimbly than a CIO. And as ever there is the issue of ever-growing complexity. Too many large-scale challenges can cause leaders to be overwhelmed and pass that trepidation through their team.


Leaders need to sense upcoming change


CIOs generally have a functional antenna when it comes to risks. That’s why they are CIOs and not VPs of Accounting. It’s important to sense when change is coming and how it will positively or negatively impact your organization. Here's are some ideas to expand your sense of what is coming:


  • Network with a broad group of senior IT peers, both in and out of your industry. Attend conferences for senior IT members such as analyst events, events put on by industry media publications, and nationwide and regional IT organizations. Peer networks are invaluable. Also, check out #CIOChat.

  • Keep upskilling, broad experience helps develop your instincts. The same goes for your team.

  • Develop your staff and help them grow. With competency and confidence, your team will be able to respond quickly to mitigate failure. Empower senior contributors to deal directly with clients. Build trust in your team and help them build trust with non-tech staff.

  • Conduct risk assessments on a regular basis. Escalate issues that trigger concern.

  • Ask questions. Don’t let the status quo be satisfactory. Test your team and technology for continuity. Continuously research new risk prevention strategies or assign a staff member to do so.

  • Most importantly, build resiliency.


Another asset for managing change is the fact that CIOs are terrific problem solvers. Almost every challenge requires a need for data or systems or both. CIOs have the ability to process data to find the problem. Additionally, CIOs have a knack for thinking both wide and deep—compiling innovation, wisdom, and know-how. Together the sum of all these traits equals the ability to create preparedness for change or crisis.


Speed up your responses


Obviously, you are going to want to respond as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. Empower your team, give them resources, make sure they know who needs to activate which tasks and get out of the way. In fact, much of the CIOs function should be removing obstacles for the team.


Another tool is rehearsing scenarios and having the plans “on the shelf”. The basics of DR should be built into the organization's practice. Think through common crises, and create SOPs that can be adapted.


We are living in times of unprecedented uncertainty. Not only is the pace of technol