One of the more curious entries in the Book of Lists, a little-known yet fascinating almanac of random trivia first published 32 years ago, is a list of the 10 worst human fears. It starts with dogs then escalates through loneliness, flying, death, sickness, deep water, financial problems, insects and heights. Incredibly, the thing we fear most is speaking before a group of other people.
Imagine now that the group of other people is your organisation’s Board and your CEO. He sees your department as a black hole into which way too much goes, and way too little is returned. Put simply, he doesn’t like you.
If you give them technical details about the execution of a project rather than its solid business reasons then you will not be the CIO of that organisation for long
Let’s face it. As a CIO, there are some things you should just NEVER do. Or say. Or even contemplate, given our propensity to occasionally think out loud or mutter under our breath.
1. Using geekspeak
As a weekend boating enthusiast, Dematic CIO Allan Davies has no fear of deep water. Nor is loneliness an issue for Davies since he enjoys his own company. But there is one thing he would never do in the boardroom.
“Just entering the room is enough sometimes,” he says. “But if you really must, then don’t compound your folly by overusing computer industry jargon when you speak. Just don’t do it.”
Hemant Kogekar agrees. The former CIO of Suncorp Metway, Citibank and Franklins now runs his own IT consultancy. He says talking technical jargon is tantamount to throwing yourself under a train.
“If you give them technical details about the execution of a project rather than its solid business reasons then you will not be the CIO of that organisation for long,” Kogekar says.
2. Blaming IT legacy for problems
This one is only for cowards, or those foolish enough not to realise that blaming the last guy or girl in the job -- or the one before them -- does not even begin to solve the problem today. And that’s your job.
Says the CIO of a large fast moving consumer goods company: “It’s a cliché, but they’re clichés for a reason: CEOs want solutions, not problems. Imagine how much you can piss them off by claiming the fault lies not even with a problem that you’ve helped to create, but with someone they probably sacked six months ago. They’ve all heard that one. It’s one of the most effective ways to put a target on your back.”
Kogekar has heard it too. “Blaming the business or the current state of your legacy IT for project failures is a certain way to commit professional suicide in the boardroom.”
3. Springing surprises
Surprises are for birthday parties, anniversaries and lottery wins. In these times of thrift, planning and caution, nothing will put a shiver through the ranks of your C-level colleagues more than an epiphany from you when they least expect it.
“Never suggest new initiatives to the board that you have not already discussed with your CEO or executive committee beforehand,” says Kogekar. “CEOs just don’t like surprises.”
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