Larry Bossidy, coauthor of Execution: the Discipline of Getting Things Done, earned a reputation as an executive who got results. The former vice chairman of General Electric became CEO of AlliedSignal in 1991 and saw revenue double and the stock price soar during the next nine years. Now retired, Bossidy shared blunt advice about corporate discipline in an interview with CIO.
CIO: What do you tell CIOs who want to be better at executing their plans?
Bossidy: Be specific about what is going to be accomplished in the year ahead. Look at the track record of those people to whom you’ve assigned [tasks] so you can get a handle on who is likely to execute and those who are likely to struggle. Have a process that you’re going to revisit with some frequency to make sure you’re on target for reaching your goals.
IS spending has slowed, yet information systems are still critical to achieving business goals. Is there a disconnect between how the CFO or CEO views IS and its contribution, and the effective execution of corporate strategy?
CIOs are being asked to put more of their resources into obtaining cost reductions, but good companies are not shorting systems organizations. The right thing to do is continue to fund systems but take more of the program money and devote it to productivity projects than you might do in a dynamic economic environment. CIOs [must] be aware of corporate strategy so they can be an equal partner on the team of the CEO and not just technical grunts.
You write in your book that execution requires integrating three aspects of your operations?personnel, strategy and the operating plan. Where do CIOs have the most influence?
I would say with people. There needs to be more discipline in software development, not only in terms of [ensuring] its effectiveness but also for the time it takes to do it. This takes people who have as one of their primary interests getting things done?as opposed to designing the most sophisticated system in the history of the world. Developers have always had an interest in whether systems work. They’ve often not had an interest in what they cost.