There are a huge number of risks in being the man or woman called upon to drag the organization kicking and screaming into a new reality.
The turnaround CIO knows doing what needs to be done takes time and involves the infliction of serious pain. That resistance may ultimately be futile but is likely to be pervasive in the short term. That their efforts risk breaking the organization. And that failure all-but-guarantees their downfall.
Brought in when a company is suffering financial pain or performing badly, or when the organization needs to be nursed through a merger or a major strategic or operational shift in directions, the turnaround CIO needs to rack up as many quick wins as possible, and to win the confidence of his fellow executives. The trouble is, organizational inertia is a powerful force militating against change. As a fellow of EDS wrote last year, inertia is what makes companies continue in a direction long after signs of change have passed. It's represented by fixed-cost decisions, when the enterprise is sometimes incapable of overcoming bad decisions simply because they were made recently and must be defended despite better reason.
The CIO must be a force in overcoming organizational inertia and be a strong voice in understanding not only the points at which systems fail, but also the point at which optimal performance is lacking. This "if it ain't broken, break it" attitude will be critical to future success.
But he also must be able to read people like books to have much hope of success.
"There are multiple dangers for the turnaround CIO," one told me a while ago.
"One of them is that you get people actively obstructing the change, and that's a common one, that's pretty normal. But the really tough one is that when you're changing things, if you're not careful you can break the business - with the IT you can break the business.
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