CIOs face plenty of challenges in today’s business climate. As organizations are pressured to do more with less, CIOs must find a way to be as productive as possible and deliver more value to their business stakeholders. They must also ensure that they have enough qualified personnel to meet their needs and that their teams are engaged, collaborative, and contributing to the organization’s success.
In the many companies I’ve worked with over the last 20 years, there are three key areas where CIOs often struggle, and all three boil down to cultural issues. Working across teams is key to DevOps and culture needs to fill the void. CIOs must create an organizational culture that encourages ownership, teamwork, intensity, and situational awareness (“playing smart”). If people lack the right mindset and organizational practices, digital transformation projects will magnify those flaws.
Here are three top challenges CIOs should address in 2023.
1. Lack of empowerment
Employees want to feel like they can make a direct impact on decision-making. Team members who do not feel empowered remain passive, simply doing what they are told without considering how it impacts the organization's overall objectives. This can reduce productivity and stall progress.
[ Also read 4 tips for motivating IT teams during tough times. ]
To overcome this problem, create space for their employees to proactively engage in problem-solving skills and reward those who can anticipate potential obstacles and develop creative solutions. This helps each team member to take ownership of their role and feel a sense of pride in their contributions to the project.
Taking ownership of projects is essential for any team to succeed. Cultivate this trait within your teams by providing clear direction and guidance, setting achievable goals, and offering support when needed. An environment in which people routinely take ownership builds trust. It makes other team members feel more confident because they understand who is responsible for which tasks.
With ownership at the foundation, teamwork becomes the next layer. This fosters collaboration, builds cohesion, and allows the team to celebrate successes.
As team members feel more empowered, it’s important for them to bring the right intensity and know how to play smart. Through ownership and teamwork, each person should understand their role so they can focus deeper to improve performance and outcomes. An empowered team can better understand situations and contexts and know the right play for each – for example, when it might be necessary to work over the weekend. Only then will teams become genuinely empowered to reach their full potential.
2. Lack of process
Too often, organizations lack processes, even for something as predictable as a software release. This often results in a frenzied, last-minute push that frustrates everyone involved. Teams that lack processes are often inefficient, with members working in silos and struggling to prioritize tasks.
Without defined processes and guidelines, teams can also fail to take advantage of new technologies or ways of working that could improve their productivity – for example, DevOps or agile best practices. Furthermore, without established procedures and accountability structures, it can be difficult for team members to understand their roles and responsibilities and foster a culture of collaboration.
[ More advice: Agile: Starting at the top ]
To solve these problems, ensure that your teams have implemented processes specific to the goals they are trying to achieve and regularly review them to ensure everyone is on the same page.
3. Poor communication
Perhaps the most difficult – and the most critical – challenge for any CIO is ensuring your teams have the information they need when they need it.
Providing accurate and timely communication is essential to any leader’s role. This requires an environment built on ownership, teamwork, and trust. Foster this by setting clear expectations for behavior and providing consistent feedback about those expectations.
Noted author Brené Brown calls for businesses to operationalize culture. She says organizations must connect their values to specific behaviors, so employees know what is expected, encouraged, and rewarded.
Setting clear goals, creating a positive working environment, and encouraging collaboration and innovation can motivate your teams to reach their potential. It also drives effective decision-making, enabling employees to ask, “Does this align with our values?” when they make decisions.
In 2023, successful leadership requires an engaged workplace. Adapting quickly to changing demands and uncertain environments requires high-functioning teams and processes. In addition, effective communication and emotional intelligence remain essential skills for navigating a wide range of workplace scenarios with confidence and clarity of purpose.
[ Check out essential career advice from 37 award-winning CIOs! Get a variety of insights on leadership, strategy, and career development from IT executives at Mayo Clinic, Dow, Aflac, Liberty Mutual, Nordstrom, and more: Ebook: 37 award-winning CIOs share essential IT career advice. ]
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