This C-Suite Recognizes That Failure is Part of Innovation

At Toyota Financial, a close-knit, collaborative group of C-level execs allows for missteps in the company's innovation strategy.

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Toyota Financial Service Offers Advice for CIOs

Duplicating the success that Toyota Financial Services has had in building and nurturing its C-suite dream team is quite simple. Gather executives who have spent a long time working together -- maybe a decade or so -- and have establish trusted relationships. Have a CEO and team members willing to ignore titles and give everyone an equal voice. Get the blessing of a company with deep pockets and the willingness to ride out some inevitable bumps along the innovation road. Simple!

While that may not be a plan most companies can follow, TFS executives offer some advice that any CIO can use to build a collaborative C-suite:

  • Develop partnerships with other executives and keep a business-first mind-set.
  • Ensure that all executives view IT as a true enabler of business success, not as a necessary evil.
  • Find the sweet spot in technology conversations -- make sure executives can comprehend the topic, but don't oversimplify. Challenge them to raise their tech IQ.
  • Don't forget to think long-term. CIOs who are short-term thinkers -- or worse, obsessed with getting recognition for what they did today -- will lose the trust and confidence of their C-suite peers.
  • Build a candid, trusting relationship with the CEO on matters of IT spending. If a project is going to go over budget, don't wait to tell the CEO and other stakeholders.

This level of executive teamwork won't happen at companies where protecting turf and divisional boundaries are part of a hierarchical management culture, says Peter High, a management consultant and president of Metis Strategy. A collaborative culture starts at the top, with a CEO who has an extraordinary degree of self-confidence.

"If you have a CEO that wants to think of the org structure more as a military hierarchy, as has been tradition, then it's not going to filter down," High says.

"I'm hearing more and more CEOs say they want this type of culture, where leadership team members transcend their respective functional needs and expertise and embrace mutual responsibility for the digital opportunities and challenges," says Rick Pastore, vice president of strategy at the CIO Executive Council, a business unit of's parent company. Collaboration and mutual ownership of IT-enabled innovation represent a culmination of the Future-State CIO Journey, the council's progression model for IT-business relationships. "It's the opposite end of the spectrum from the business handing off solutions for IT to implement as a service provider," Pastore says.

The payoff is big. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' fifth annual Digital IQ study, companies with strong relationships between the CIO and other C-suite executives are four times as likely as less-collaborative teams to achieve business results such as revenue growth and high profit margins

Tim Scannell is director of strategic content at the CIO Executive Council (

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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