Blog: So You Want To Be an Agent For Change

Blog: So You Want To Be an Agent For Change

So you've dusted off the crystal ball and drawn the chicken entrails and by now can do a pretty good impersonation of a "Soothsayer Extraordinaire". Why not don some flash new clothes to accentuate your sorcerer's cloak? How about, for instance, the stiff lines and glistening buttons of a Commander's uniform, accessorized - convention be dammed - with the shiny ceremonial staff and leather bag of the Standard Bearer?

A new opinion piece by Alex Cullen of Forrester Research suggests it's time CIOs wanting to be transformation agents recognize their potential as Commanders of business processes, Standard-bearers for customer service, Visionaries for new business models, Champions for enterprise Social Computing, and Paragons of insightful observation. Not much of a tall order, is it, especially since CIOs also, he says, must be likeable?

"21st century CIOs", Cullen says, become agents of transformation by first seeing how they can effect change in their enterprises.

"Because the firms depend on technology and due to the inherent third-party objectivity in the CIO role, CIOs are often the right people to take a leadership role, making sure that they internalize the five prerequisites for success," he says.

Those five prerequisites are both useful and prescriptive. Strangely enough, Cullen seems to think that just announcing your intention of becoming a transformation agent won't get you very far. Instead, he says, you should examine the role your IT organization is playing in the firm and determine if its role is too reactive and mired in firefighting and the day-to-day. When you are sure it isn't, you can start to think about and internalize the five skills and attributes of transformation agent CIOs.

  • First is listening. You can't effectively drive business change without a baseline understanding of the current state, and you can't get that understanding without asking questions, observing, and then asking more questions. "New CIOs in particular should view their 90-day honeymoon period as a chance to listen to their own staff, hear the issues expressed by C-level execs, and internalize the expectations of the boss," he says.
  • Then comes language. You'll never get to maximize the possibilities for business transformation speaking techno-babble. "Transformation agents are conversant with desired business outcomes, understand contextual aspects of the business - like competition, external regulations, and key trends - and have a solid grasp of how different areas of the business measure themselves," he says. And they speak to stakeholders in business language, and they engage in all discussions.

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