Culture – CIO to CIO

Culture is very important in any firm. A good CIO is one that understands, respects and does not fight it. I have tried to be a student of understanding culture. After all, I was head of IT for an America subsidiary with a foreign parent. Let us just say there were times when there was a culture clash. Culture became an important factor in my job  and understanding it allowed me to excel at what I did.

Every company, department, organization, and profession has its own set of norms, values, beliefs, and accepted ways. These elements come together to form the culture of the organization. To really understand culture, a CIO must understand that culture is ever changing and not static.

An effective IT leader recognizes the importance of culture and seeks to leverage it. A CIO that fails to perceive the significance of culture often misses opportunities to improve IT and its overall effectiveness and how it is perceived by the business.  

What specifically should a CIO do to influence culture? First, they must assess and analyze a company’s existing culture. Second, they must reinforce elements of that culture. Then CIOs can use this knowledge of culture to maximize and improve IT performance.

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6 thoughts on “Culture – CIO to CIO

  1. Great insight Arun – this is such an important component of the CIO’s job. It may be THE critical point that needs to be understood and mastered and I know that it’s something that not everyone may be conscientious of.

    To that point, I’d like to share Alora Christiakoff’s blog, The Pragmatic Contextualist which brings home this point. Not only CIO folks but Project Managers everywhere need to be sensitive to and master their environment/context. Failure to do so, would be fatal.

    • Thanks Lui. Alora’s blog is great. I think the lesson here is that everyone should try and make an effort to understand culture. By understanding culture we can therefore be successful.

  2. Arun,

    You are absolutely right in saying that Culture is a very important aspect that a successful CIO needs to understand in order to maximize IT performance. Culture is also a complex notion and each organization has a distinct way to define and evolve it into its corporate identity. Many have layers of sub-cultures or contradicting sets of values, beliefs and norms. I am looking forward to additional posts on “elements of culture” that the CIO should reinforce.

    Btw, thanks for including The CIO Assistant’s Blog in your blogroll. It has been moved to http://tao-of-living.com/blog/.

    Long

  3. The best way to understand culture is to engage in as many conversations with as many different types of people as possible. Ask a lot of questions and master the Art of Why.

    Thanks for the mention on the blogroll.

    -Chris
    CIO Dashboard

  4. Your insights are very astute. Balancing the needs of developers (freedom, creative, and learning) and the needs of the business (predictability, responsibility, and productivity) requires us to have a deep understanding of both cultures. A CIO who does not have the ability to mold the IT culture will fail eventually, regardless of the technical contributions made by the team.

    The business world of 2009 and beyond is not nearly as tolerant of the IT sub-culture as they were 5 or 10 years ago. One of the greatest challenges we, as CIOs, face today and in the future is the development and maintenance of professional, well oiled IT cultures. To compound this challenge, we must do so without hindering performance.

    -Brian Blanchard
    http://www.devrevival.com

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