Enabling The Connected Organization

As a young
programmer working at Columbia University, I heard a story that may be useful to
recount here. Dwight Eisenhower, before becoming the President of the United
States, served as president of Columbia, a University which, like all Ivy League
colleges, took pride in the well-manicured lawns of its campus.

One
day, Eisenhower received a frantic appeal from the head groundskeeper. The
students, ignoring multiple warnings to please stay off the grass, were wearing
unsightly paths through the lush grass of the main quadrangle.

"Why do they walk on the
grass?" Eisenhower asked.

"Because it is the quickest
way to get from the main entrance to the central hall," the groundskeeper
said.

"If that’s the way the
students are going to go," he said, "then put a pathway there."
Problem solved.

Every army general in history
learns one thing about leadership–a leader is the one who notices which way
the troops march and then gets out in front. Eisenhower knew it is folly to
resist people validating the fundamental principle that the shortest distance
between two points is a straight line.

The evolution of the connected
organization is another of those fundamental forces in the affairs of men and
women. The changing shape of this new organizational structure can and should be
channeled, but the reality that it is changing cannot be blocked or argued away.

Significance of change

As a CEO, I
believe the job must start at the CEO level. As a technologist, I am certain of
it. While the work of eliminating the disconnect involves every corner of the
organization and must engage the talents and resolve of every participant, the
task must begin with the chief executive. The CEO must be the main advocate of
any meaningful transformation. The buck not only stops here, it starts with the
CEO.

CEO of a connected
organization

ARTICULATE A
VISION THAT IS GERMANE TO THE BUSINESS:

Without a bold vision of business, clearly articulated and effectively
implemented, well-aligned IT is irrelevant. However, technology is the necessary
base and business enabler. If that base is not conspicuously in place or does
not work reliably, there is little if anything to enable. The vision must have
hooks at every level. It must be broad enough to inspire buy-in from everyone in
the organization, leaving no one out, yet specific enough to inspire IT
initiatives at the grassroots level.

THERE IS A FINE LINE BETWEEN
VISION AND HALLUCINATION:
Steve Jobs, has
a forceful, visionary outlook that changed the face of the computer industry and
perhaps the world. He pressed everyone, especially doubters, to align with his
vision. Sometimes Jobs’ persistence paid off. More often, it failed. Job’s
leadership did not allow for collaboration, his colleagues eventually suspended
their own judgment when they entered what was termed Jobs’ reality distortion
field. My point is that CEOs of the connected organization need all the help
they can get. Teamwork cannot be sustained in an environment that shouts down
naysayers. If your vision cannot survive attack, it may not be worth defending.
There can be no assistance from colleagues whose best judgement is suspended in
deference to your vision.

AN OUNCE OF APPLICATION IS WORTH
A TON OF ABSTRACTION:
I have a bias for
action. Do something and see if it works. I admire one company with a creative
program for getting executives and computers together. This company invites the
teenaged sons and daughters of executives to come into the office on weekends
where they are trained on the various office information systems. At that point,
the company sends the systems home with the teenagers so that the kids can train
the executives in the comfort of their homes. The systems are already loaded
with relevant corporate data. As the executives learn the system, they work with
real corporate data so they can immediately see the value of analyzing data.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A
TECHNOLOGY-NEUTRAL DECISION:
The IT
element of businesses is becoming dominant and transparent. IT per se can no
longer be divorced from the myriad decisions CEOs have to make. Organizations
are pure information-processing machines. Their job is to capture, massage and
channel information. The information processing infrastructure you enable, will
increasingly differentiate your company from the competition. Only IT will
create the connects between your product and service and the customer. Because
every decision you make has an IT implication, it is vital for you to be
informed and comfortable with the strategic issues. The quality and quantity of
information comprehended per unit of time may now determine who wins or loses,
whether the issue is a customer order or a national war.

IT DOES NOT SUPPORT THE BUSINESS,
IT IS THE BUSINESS:
Give up any idea you
may have about how IT can support your business. Your business is information
and information is your business.

IT changes everything you have
ever learned about business management. It has changed the very meaning of
management and the skills needed to do it well. IT flattens management. IT has
already flattened millions of managers who have failed to accommodate themselves
to the inevitable. Forces like this make no exceptions, even for you.

You are in good company. People
all around you–your colleagues, your competitors, even your customers–are
reeling. Thanks to the renegotiation.

So deeply embedded in every
process, IT will underlie every business activity in the connected organization.
IT will not be considered a tool or even a way to leverage human knowledge. It
will become an expected utility, much like electricity, noticeable only in the
rare event it is withdrawn.

NEW ROLES FOR THE CIO:
Look for a new model of the CIO’s role in the connected organization. The new
CIO will be more focused on the enterprise infrastructure (in fact, the CIO may
well be redefined as Chief Infrastructure Officer). The primary job of the CIO
will be to guard and control the process of acquiring knowledge. The CIO will
help learning organizations remain flexible by designing highly adaptive
information processes and systems. As ambassadors working closely with the
business units, CIOs will help rethink and transform operations through IT.

CEO AS CHIEF NUDGER:
If you never hear the CIO say "No!" during the realignment, you are
not pushing hard enough. To the extent the organization has a technology vision
it must be the CEO’s vision. Moreover, the vision should be outrageous. I
believe it is deadly for a CEO to articulate an IT vision, or any vision, for
that matter, that turns out to be too easily attainable. People or organizations
rarely attain goals higher than those they set for themselves. They look to the
CEO for scope. It is the job of the CEO to recalibrate the objectives of the
enterprise such that there is no possibility of the organization ever exceeding
them.

IF ALL OBJECTIONS MUST FIRST BE
OVERCOME, NOTHING WOULD BE ATTEMPTED:

There are, no doubt, many objections against embracing the connected
organization. More than a few people will defend the status quo. Opposition and
protest will fly fast and furious from those who are scared or threatened, as
well as from those who are sincere and occasionally even accurate. The committed
CEO will not feel the need to have an answer for every objection. Some changes
cannot be completely planned. They have to unfold.

IN THE LONG TERM, PUT FIRST
THINGS FIRST:
CEOs must combine two
attitudes that do not often come easy–taking the long-term point of view and
putting first things first. CEOs must decide to resist that pressure and
cultivate the payoffs that come from research and development, quality
initiatives, strategic partnerships and other long-term activities. For many
CEOs this will mean evolving a more balanced approach to measuring progress. A
balanced scorecard not only reflects traditional values such as financial
results and shareholder value, but strategic technical, sociological, and
environmental considerations as well.

What Goes Into A Connected Organization

  • CEO must have a well-defined vision, open attitude and welcome criticism
  • Precise planning must be in place at the CEO’s end
  • CIO’s skills must be focused towards the 

ENDING THE DISCONNECT REQUIRES A
MIND-SET, NOT A SKILL-SET:
In the last
analysis, ending the disconnect is a decision that starts with the CEO and is
sustained by every participant in the organization.

Do not kid yourself. The unavoidable truth is
that all change comes at great cost, for the guilty and sometimes for the
innocent. The approaching business transformation will not be different. The
transformation will require all participants to revise the way in which they now
deal with one another and with the outside world. The lines defining the
disconnect do not simply go away. Someone has to erase them. But eliminating the
disconnect is not, by itself, a goal worth fighting for. Our efforts will be
measured not by what we erase but by what we build.

Excerpted
from Techno Vision II
By Charles Wang 
Published by
McGraw-Hill 
Courtesy:Computer Associates

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