Just how distinguished are you?
In a lovely little booklet a couple of years ago entrepreneur, author and teacher Rajesh Setty pointed out that in an era when technology professionals worldwide are getting caught in a tsunami of massive commoditization, being part of the commodity crowd erodes your value.
With technologies evolving so rapidly, and technologists under constant pressure to give more and be more effective, efficient and productive, most technology professionals are chasing "short-term skills", a strategy that is good for achieving short-term results but harmful in the long run.
When technical competency matters but is not enough, Setty says, CIOs and other technologists need to find ways to distinguish themselves and move above the commodity crowd.
His comments seem particularly relevant today, and provide a useful follow-up to my last blog post: The Disappearing CIO. If an increasingly technologically confident business community is preparing to draw many of its CIOs from its own ranks, rather than those of the technologists, all technology-born CIOs should be fighting to distinguish themselves at every possible opportunity.
Setty has some great ideas about how to do just that.
Amongst his rolled gold suggestions are a couple of especially useful gems that echo the survival strategies of some of my favourite CIOs, including particularly: Set the right expectations: under-promise and over-deliver.
It's easier said than done, Setty concedes, since most projects fail even after the team puts in a lot of hard work and often the project's success isn't even dependent on the amount of effort put into the project.
"If wrong or unrealistic expectations are set, even the smartest teams can fail. The #1 requirement to succeed in a project is to set the right expectations for all parties involved.
"Organizations are systems. Very rarely are projects executed in silos. Every project is connected to one or more other projects; a delay in one project has a cascading effect and the impact will be felt in more places than you might have imagined. Understanding these relationships is the foundation of Systems Thinking (take a look at Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline to learn more about this topic). The more you understand Systems thinking, the better you will be at setting expectations as you will be aware of the overall impact of missing a deadline on your project.
"Also, remember that expectations keep rising without your knowledge. My friends Michael Weissman and Dave Mosby of Fresh Perspectives have authored a phenomenal book on this topic called Paradox of Excellence in the form of a business fable. It's a MUST read for anyone who is engaged with a client in some form or fashion," Setty writes
Excellent advice, in my view, as are other little gems like:
ASK FOR HELP
CELEBRATE SMALL VICTORIES
SET HIGHER STANDARDS
PURSUE THE RIGHT MEMBERSHIPS
EMBRACE UNCERTAINTIES and
KNOW YOUR VALUES
And he says in a world of short-term thinkers, one way to distinguish yourself is to think long term. CIOs should certainly empathize with that.
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