Mr. CIO Meets the Interns

My company has started a new program to get our interns oriented to process and provide relevant information about various departments. It is called “Jumpstart”.  The goal is to give all our interns a flavor and/or in depth knowledge of various “things” they should know to work effectively. Most firms just throw their interns into the deep end and have them either sink or swim. We are taking the more humane approach in our internship program.

So I was asked to present about what is IT, what we do and some high level overviews of some critical apps. It has been some time since I present such information. Like most CIOs, I usually present to boards and execs, information with a lot more detail, ROIs, KPIs, budget projections, and a bunch of stuff that can make the average person fall asleep. It has been a very long since I was intern, so I had to spend some time thinking back to when I was one what did I want to know?

It was hard. So I created a fluff 40 slide PowerPoint that showcased the MIS department and the critical processes and applications I think any intern should know. I was shocked. It worked out well–very well. I had engaged my audience of 20 somethings by keeping it light and funny or as funny as technology can be.

Something else had occurred that I was not expecting. They started asking questions about why we do certain things and it turned into a brainstorming class as they began to think outside the box on how to improve the organization. Some of their ideas, I must admit, were out there, but I saw the future benefits.

The lesson I learned was to not write off the interns. In fact, as CIOs we should listen to them. They have not been tainted by corporate politics or turned into status quo zombies. They might have fresh ideas that can improve the bottom line of an organization. Think Facebook…

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Where Is Your Risk Assessment?

One of the few analyses that are overlooked in most IT departments is a comprehensive risk assessment.

A risk assessment should identify, analyze, and weigh all the potential risks, threats and hazards to a company’s internal and external business environment. 

The process of identifying risks/threats, probability of occurrence, the vulnerability to each risk/threat and the potential impact that could be caused, is necessary to prepare preventative measures and create recovery strategies.  Risk identification provides a number of other advantages to a company including: 

  • Exposes previously overlooked vulnerabilities that need to be addressed by plans and procedures
  • Identifies where preventative measures are lacking or need reevaluation
  • Can point out the importance of contingency planning to get staff and management on board
  • Will assist in documenting interdependencies and point out single points of failures

An effective risk management process is an important component of a company’s MIS department. The principal goal is to protect a company and its ability to perform its mission, not just its IT assets. Therefore, the risk management process should not be treated primarily as a technical function carried out by the IT, but as an essential management function of the organization.

Risk is the net negative impact of the exercise of vulnerability, considering both the probability and the impact of occurrence. Risk management is the process of identifying risk, assessing risk, and taking steps to reduce risk to an acceptable level. This assessment provides a foundation for the development of an effective risk management program, containing both the definitions and the practical guidance necessary for assessing and mitigating risks identified within IT systems. The ultimate goal is to help a company better manage IT-related mission risks.

CIO Blogs for January 2011

Better Communication: Technology Isn’t Always The Best Solution by Mike SchaffnerCIO Blogs

CIO as General Manager? by Mark Brewer

Can a CIO be successful without IT experience? Define your terms! by Peter Kretzman

Four Models for success for the CTO / CIO- CTOVision by Eric Brown

Why CIOs Need Management Power Maps To Get Anything Done by Jim Anderson

How To Cope When The Boss Is A Bully by Andy Blumenthal

“Talk amongst yourselves…”

It’s funny; the hardest thing I do during my day is manage staff. It encompasses the bulk of my time and is where most of my energy is spent.

As I transition the department, from what it was to what it should be. I am encountering some bad practices.  One of the bad habits that I am seeing is the lack of communication among my staff. It is not horrible, but it definitely could be better.

I have tried to get to the root of the problem, but trying to explain that there needs to be better, more open discussions is easier said than done.

Personalities play an important part in how staff communicates among each other. Some people are just natural introverts while others are the opposite. Getting staff to talk takes time and effort. As leaders we have to set the example and create the forum for staff to be able to perform this task.

Keeping Your Staff Engaged

In today’s dismal job market, where layoffs are a frequent occurrence and employees are doing more with less, everyone seems to be in survival mode. Today’s workforce has been wounded and suffers from severe battle fatigue. How is a manager supposed to keep his/her staff motivated and engaged in today’s harsh environment?

There should be open communications and a lot of it. When employees do not know what is going on the gossip mill begins to churn. Rumors of layoffs, takeovers, and other forms of destruction will spread and spread quickly. Communicate relentlessly and be honest and upfront with everyone from your direct reports to your junior staff. Dispel the rumors that are wrong and provide whatever information you can about those that have some truth. If your firm is cutting back, let them know and let them know the circumstances. Your employees will appreciate your honesty. Provide ways to handle the situation and project what the future holds for them and the company.

Refocus your employees. Try to focus their energy towards getting the job done. As a manager try to make it easy to get things accomplished given that their thoughts will be elsewhere. Be certain that they know what is expected of them and they understand how to meet those expectations.

Keeping employees engaged in today’s job market will require a lot of work from you as a manager. Do not become a passive leader. Get out from behind your desk and engage your employees. Talk to them. Let them know you are there for them and that you care. Refocus their efforts. Treat your employees fairly and with respect and you will hopefully make it through as a stronger better team.

To Delegate, Or Not To Delegate: That Is The Question

Delegation is the hardest skill for any manager to learn. “If I delegate, things will be out of my control. I don’t want mistakes. I can do it all myself. It is easier to do it myself then explain it to someone else.”   Fear can be a hindrance for managers to effectively delegate. But it should not be…

The definition of delegation is:

Delegation (also called deputation) is the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. However the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work. Delegation empowers a subordinate to make decisions….Delegation, if properly done, is not abdication. The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager provides too much input, direction, and review of delegated work.

Delegation is important because it:

  • It enables the manager to spend more time on more important tasks.
  • It is a good way of developing staff that wish to move up in the company.
  • If done effectively can be highly motivational.

When is the proper time to delegate? You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can someone else perform this task, or is it critical that you do it yourself?
  • Does the task provide opportunities to grow and develop another person’s skills?
  • Do you have enough time to delegate the job effectively?
  • Is this a task that I should delegate?

Steps to effective delegation:

  • Know what you want or can delegate
  • Clearly express your objectives
  • Set expectations
  • Have confidence in that person’s abilities
  • Communicate and follow up

Remember, “No manager is an island”. Effective delegation will help you achieve a work-life balance and will allow you to become a more productive leader. It also gives your staff the opportunity to prove themselves and gain the necessary confidence to succeed. In the end, proper delegation is a “win-win” for everyone involved.