When we become CIOs, we are typically asked to fix some pervasive problem: IT Security, OMB Compliance, failing projects, etc. Lately, I’ve been quoting Teen Talk Barbie, who if she were a CIO today, would say “Being a CIO is hard!” versus “Math is hard!” As CIOs, we have to take the time to understand the environment that we work in. We need to understand the needs of our customers, constituents, and stakeholders in order to help them along the needed technology, cultural, and process changes. Without the understanding and without the requisite change leadership skills, a CIO will beat her head against a brick wall for nine months, turn around and pound the other side for nine months, then quit.
Change Leadership is about transforming an organization, through people, processes, and technology, towards some needed improvement or in a new and challenging direction. The art of successfully doing this will energize an entire organization to WANT to go in the desired direction.
“Art begins with resistance – at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.” – Andre Gide
The art of Change Leadership is not a paint-by-numbers approach used by grade-schoolers to make a still life … it is the ways and means that the change artist coaxes a masterpiece out of the canvas of her organization. It’s not the paint-by-numbers approach that uses only directive communication plans, it’s a flexible strategy that seeks to eliminate barriers to change, implement the change, and integrate the change in the hearts, minds, and souls of those effected. It builds a shared vision with the community that the CIO serves.
When we become CIOs, we have to realize we are not working in a dictatorship and that we need change leadership competencies in order move the change agenda forward. The CIO’s failure to effectively execute the art of Change Leadership will result in change that is merely temporary or in 18-month CIO lifecycles.
Linda Y. Cureton, CIO NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center