by Paul T. Cottey

New CIOs don’t always have time to ease into their new role

Sep 21, 2015
CIO Collaboration Software IT Strategy

You are expected to make an immediate impact as a new CIO. You do not get 100 days to address the critical IT problems that got you hired.

You are a new CIO. You are looking forward to laying out a 100-day plan to meet your customers, understand the business, and dig into the solutions to the issues that caused you to be hired. If you are taking over for someone who retired after a long and storied career, and you had a nice, six-month transition period, you may have a 100-day honeymoon in which you can visit with everyone and get in the groove. For the other 99 percent of you, however, the clock is ticking and it is not ticking down from 100 days.

Before you think I am unfair, put yourself in the shoes of your customers:

Example 1: The demonstration system doesn’t work consistently, so your sales team, as often as not, is left talking through a canned presentation or making shadow puppets in the bright light of the projector. The VP of sales does not have 100 days to build or close his/her pipeline, so you don’t get 100 days.

Example 2: The company had a security incident and your customers are clamoring to understand what happened and, more importantly, what you are going to do to address it and to prevent a recurrence. Your CEO and COO do not have 100 days in which they can avoid taking your customers’ calls, so you don’t get 100 days.

Example 3: There have been a lot of complaints about IT’s engagement with the business. Business people want change and they want it NOW! You must engage with the business people, but you should not jump to the conclusion that you know the answer to the problem. Take some time to understand the people on both sides of the discussion, but make progress long before 100 days.

Example 4: IT manager No. 1 comes into your office to complain about IT manager No. 2. Thank manager No. 1 for his/her candor, but don’t jump to a conclusion about manager No. 1 or about manager No.2 until you have more firsthand information. You have time to meet one-on-one with each your direct reports and with your senior staff members to get the overall picture of your new organization. You even have time to hold an All-Hands meeting, before addressing specific personnel questions. By 100 days, though, you should have announced what you intend to do with your team, and you should have figured out the manager No. 1 and manager No. 2 situation.

You are able to be thoughtful, even deliberate, in your first days in your new role, but there are other times that diving right in is the best answer. As a rule of thumb, if the issue is people-related, take your time and get the right answer the first time, but if the issue is technology-related, it is not going to get better with age.