Thursday, September 07, 2006

September 11, 2006


It has been often said there should be two Presidents for the United States; one to deal with politics, and another to tend to the true affairs of government. The same can be said for today's Chief Information Officers (CIO). Although they should be tending to matters of state, they are all too often preoccupied with politics and gamesmanship.

Ideally, the CIO is the information keystone for a company. As chief architect and information broker, the CIO represents the catalyst between understanding business information needs, and the development organization who must satisfy them. Although the position often comes with much pomp and circumstance, it is all for naught if the CIO cannot effectively tend to this pivotal role.

As the focal point for a company's information resources, the CIO must deal with a wide spectrum of people: end-users concerned with the status of their development projects, as well as reporting problems to existing systems; technicians who argue over tactics of implementation; vendors marketing the latest technical panacea; and CPA's who scrutinize every penny spent by the CIO. Sound hectic? It is. Feeling harassed, the CIO tries to insulate himself, and herein lies the problem.


The CIO begins his tenure as an "ambassador" between his department and the rest of the organization. But as demands close in, he builds a buffer around himself, an electronic cocoon of voice mail and E-mail. Though voice mail is designed to record messages while a person is away from the office, it is primarily used to screen out unwanted callers (both internal and external). Consequently, calls are not returned. E-mail is touted as a convenient way to enhance organizational communications, but the CIO finds himself besieged by a ton of memos and notes (most of which go unanswered). By coordinating these two technologies, it is possible to avoid human contact altogether. However, this would negate the need for the organizational cocoon.


After the electronic cocoon is in place, the CIO develops an infrastructure featuring several layers of management. This allows the managers to concentrate on the day-to-day operations of the department, while the CIO concentrates on hobnobbing with the corporate brass. As problems rise through the organization (as they invariably will), the CIO simply adds another layer of management to deal with the problem. In departmental issues, the CIO is more concerned with who gets to deal with the problem than what the true solution might be.

The CIO's final and crucial sentry is his secretary. Used properly, secretaries play vital roles as expediters for their managers. For the CIO, the secretary has more of a "pit bull" role, with explicit orders to redirect phone calls and mail, and to tell anyone foolhardy enough to try for a face-to-face encounter that the boss is "in a meeting" and cannot be disturbed.


The CIO often speaks in a forked-tongue. On the one hand he is conversant in the latest catch phrase (i.e., "re-engineering," "enterprise architecture," "business rules," "extreme/agile programming," etc.), but on the other he must be politically correct when talking with his peers. Although he balks at technical discussions with his own staff, he loves to overwhelm executive management with his technical verbosity. Conversely, he dazzles the technical staff with management jargon, discussing the "global impact" and "bottom line strategies." As a consequence, the CIO fails miserably as translator between management and the technicians. He plays a different part for each group, making sure neither group can understand (or attack) his grandiose ideas.


Surrounded by the false security of e-mail and voice mail, protected by platoons of managers and his diligent secretary, the CIO can finally relax. However, due to poor communications with the CIO, executives and users do not know how their business information requirements are being satisfied. And since you cannot communicate with someone who is not there, they become frustrated with the elusive executive. Technicians, awaiting their marching orders, are following a leader who has lost touch with the real world. Impossible to communicate with, he cannot properly manage his department.

Without proper management, chaos reigns, and the CIO's tenure will be brief. Perhaps this is why the average life expectancy for a CIO position is between 6 and 24 months. How can an IS department plan for the future if there is a revolving door at the top? CIO's must shed their insular layers and become accessible to their own people and executives. Only then will information systems be synchronized with the goals of the business.


The CIO is the pivotal player for satisfying the information requirements of an enterprise. The CIO, therefore, must recognize interpersonal communications as an inherent part of the job. Instead of avoiding it, he must master it. Some suggestions:

  1. RESTRICT THE USE OF ELECTRONIC MAIL - there are some merits to passing documents electronically throughout the company. However, legislate the distribution of junk mail (spam) as a felonious crime.

  2. DUMP THE VOICE MAIL - its dehumanizing effect is perhaps the biggest irritant around. Instead...

  3. HIRE AN EFFECTIVE SECRETARY - not just a clerk to chase people away on the phone. A real secretary can expedite problems when the boss is busy or away. The CIO's secretary can be one of the most powerful people in the IT organization.

  4. FLATTEN THE ORGANIZATION - building an empire with layer upon layer of management only causes confusion in terms of responsibilities and slows the decision making process. Even worse, important decisions tend to fall through the cracks.

  5. TALK IN PLAIN BUSINESS TERMS - using the latest catch phrases (technical or otherwise) may be trendy but they may also be misleading. Find out what you're talking about, and express it in simple terms. If your executives or technicians cannot follow what you are saying, you are not communicating. If they truly understand what you and your department are doing, you will have real backing and support, instead of a sign-off for the latest superficial offering.

  6. Last but not least, ANSWER THE DAMN PHONE! People like to know there is a real person out there, not someone who is obscure and runs around the world answering messages by e-mail or voice mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is...
"If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers; projects would be executed on time and within cost. However, the reality is, we live in an imperfect world."


We've just introduced a new free service for managers to perform a self-analysis of their style of management, including leadership and corporate culture. Check it out at:


Also be sure to check out our new "MBA Daily Productivity Analyzer" which is a free calculator to evaluate a person's personal productivity during the day. It is also available at our corporate web site.


The Society for Information Management will be holding their SIMposium 2006 on September 17-20 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. For information, contact SIM headquarters in Chicago at 312/527-6734

Verify 2006, the International Software Test Conference, will be held October 10th-11th in Washington, DC at the Crown Plaza Hotel Crystal City. For information, call 703/725-3051.

The Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA) will be holding their 2006 International Conference and Expo in San Antonio, Texas, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on October 22nd-25th. For information, contact ARMA's headquarters at 913/341-3808 or 800/422-2762 or visit their web page at

The International Institute of Business Analysis will be holding their World Congress for Business Analysts (in conjunction with ProjectWorld 2006) on November 6th-9th at the Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando, FL. For information, call 212/661-3500 x 3702 or visit their web site at:

If you have got an upcoming IRM related event you want mentioned, please e-mail the date, time and location of the event to


Folks, we've just released a new book on management entitled, "The Bryce is Right! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture." This is a frank and candid description of the state of the art in management and includes essays on the problems in management today, along with some pragmatic advice on how to deal with them. Basically, this is a condensed course in management. As such, it is suited for managers, either those aspiring to become a manager or for those who need a refresher course. It will also be of interest to young people entering the work force, and is excellent for college curriculums.

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As we all know, Reality TV shows rule the airwaves these days. What interests me lately are the shows aimed at applying basic management to our homes and pets, such as Fox's "Nanny 911," ABC's "The Supernanny," ABC's "Wife Swap," and National Geographic's "Dog Whisperer." These types of shows are getting some very good ratings. I guess our fascination with them is based on seeing what appears to be some rather simple household problems being corrected by some rather logical and commonsense management principles. We all laugh at kids running amok, a disorganized household, different lifestyles, and pets that lack discipline. The viewer watches these antics and chuckles at the ineptitude of the parents or owners. Specialists are then called in to advise the people how to bring control and harmony back into the household. Laugh as we might at these shows, they say a lot about ourselves.

I fail to see how these scenarios are much different than what is found in the workplace. For example, cluttered offices, project delays, budget overruns, and worker behavior problems are essentially no different than what is addressed by the nannies and the dog whisperer. "Wife Swap" is a thinly veiled analogy to implementing changes in the corporate culture. Whereas we laugh at the families in these TV shows over their incompetencies, we should probably take a closer look at our own offices and perhaps bring in a specialist to address the problems we are experiencing. From my perspective, its no different.

The common problems experienced in the office have not gone unobserved. For example, Scott Adams' "Dilbert" comic strip and NBC's "The Office" frequently portray the common incompetencies in offices today. The reason we laugh at them is because they hit so close to home.

Maybe we need a new TV show, such as "The Office Whisperer 911" who comes in, establishes the dominant worker, organizes the office, and sends socially dysfunctional workers to "time out." I wonder what kind of ratings this type of "Reality Management" program could get?

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Friends, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but we've added a Frapper map to the "Management Visions" web site. Frapper is a free mapping service offered by the folks at Rising Concepts, LLC, and allows you to plot yourself on a worldwide map. This is a great way to keep track of our listeners and I encourage you to try it out through our web page or by clicking HERE.


I received an e-mail from a Martin Dimond in Ohio who wrote me regarding last week's Pet Peeve of the Week entitled, "Music in the Work Place"

Martin writes:

"I'm surprised, I would not have pegged you as any kind of micro-manager, which is what this is. If people are productive, what does it matter about music choice as long as no one else has to hear it? I have been listening to music at work for decades, since the first Walkman came out, so this is not an IPod thing either. My first office actually had 'white noise' to muffle sound, and when that went away and open-concept offices became the norm, I have used headphones just to maintain my own 'audio space', so other people's conversations don't interrupt and reduce my productivity."

Thanks Martin for your note,

Sounds like I hit a nerve last week. As a point of clarification, Theory X "micromanagement" deals with telling the worker what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This means managers spend more time supervising as opposed to managing. As I have written on numerous occasions, I believe in managing from the bottom-up, which means empowering the workers and let them supervise themselves. This is more akin to Theory Y or Z.

However, the manager is responsible for creating the proper work environment. This includes influencing the corporate culture as well as the physical aspects, including music. If a manager sees no harm in allowing the use of iPods and CD players, that is his/her decision. As I mentioned in my essay, I question the validity of this decision as I have seen too many shops where workers are being distracted by such devices. Again, I believe music has value in the workplace and recognize it can have a positive impact, I just question letting everybody do their own thing.

Earlier this year I came upon an interesting study performed by Kings College in London for Hewlett Packard, the purpose of which was to study the effect of technology on worker performance. Basically, the study said that excessive use of technology can have an adverse effect on a person's brain power. Its a somewhat controversial paper but I believe they are correct.

Again, Thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

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