by Abbie Lundberg

Knowing Things Need to Change is Only Half the Battle

Sep 14, 20082 mins
IT Leadership

New ideas are all well and good. But do you have a plan?

This year’s CIO 100 Symposium was exceptional. The speakers were smart, experienced and engaging, and they offered solid takeaways to the 250-plus IT executives filling the International Center at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. While they covered many topics, one theme in particular ran through the two days, sending a strong message about how to move the needle in your business and your life:

Do you have a plan? And are you fully committed to the change you’re trying to effect? Peter Darbee, CEO, president and chairman of the board of PG&E, introduced this theme as he related the story of his company’s dramatic turnaround. “If you want change, you have to be thoroughly committed to it,” he said. “The CEO needs to have a white-hot commitment to change.”

PG&E had a lot to fix, emerging from bankruptcy in 2004 with a less-than-stellar reputation. But by providing a clear mission and set of goals, and reshaping the company culture around that, Darbee, CIO Pat Lawicki and PG&E’s other executives have indeed moved the needle, increasing customer satisfaction, net earnings and shareholder value, and becoming an environmental leader (PG&E has contracts in place to get 24 percent of its energy from renewable sources).

Day one wrapped up with a presentation from Ina Kamenz, VP and CIO at Thermo Fisher Scientific. One year into a major change effort, Kamenz said she mentions her six-year plan at every opportunity inside the company. By sending the message that she’s in it for the long haul, Kamenz hopes to keep her team as focused and committed as she is.

Best-selling author Christopher Gardner, whose book The Pursuit of Happyness was turned into a critically acclaimed film starring Will Smith, received a standing ovation for his inspiring talk about perseverance in the face of adversity. Asked if he was an optimist,

Gardner answered that “optimism is fine, but more important than optimism is having a plan and being committed to it.”

Finally, astronaut James Reilly recalled the philosophy of his first commander on the International Space Station, who would ask team members the following three questions: Do you have a plan? Is it working? And are you ahead or behind?”

What about you? Do you have a plan for achieving your professional or personal goals? What’s your philosophy for getting things done? I’d love to hear about it.