Watch For This Pattern with CTO/CIOs 👀

May 13, 2022 2:01 pm

Happy Friday the 13th!

I was thinking about a conversation I was having about when groups do re-orgs and some articles people shared that they liked when I started thinking of all the re-orgs I've been through or helped with.

Its more than I care to admit.

While each article focused on clever communication acronyms or the important of change roadmaps, I could only think of the inevitable mess they are, the good people who leave, and how little change actually happens.

Cynicism aside, there is a pattern I've seen a lot over the years that I'd like to tell you about though regarding CIOs and CTOs.

Some time ago someone mentioned that the average tenure of a CIO/CTO is 18 months. That doesn't seem out of bounds from my own observations. So then, what does someone do in 18 months?

Here's where the pattern emerges. These folks want to make a big difference really quickly, so a lot of them wind up going through the same steps rather regularly.

Here are the pieces:

  • Lay out big change effort or transformation
  • Hire your favorite big-name consultancy to back you
  • Hire in your trusted folks as people leave
  • Leave when the transformation is about 85-90% complete

Now, if you work in a place that has a new CIO/CTO, you might want to watch for this pattern to emerge. It is usually pretty messy and frustrating. However, it is also full of opportunities.

You see, even if the change itself doesn't work as intended, the intent is to change. So you can use this time to suggest changes that were otherwise unpalatable. You can create skip-level relationships to help. You can operate with a lot less permission required because people want stories of change and success to share.

The hard part in this, is to see and act on the opportunity when the anxiety of the unknown paralyzes you. If you find it hard to balance the anxiety, see if there isn't someone else you know that can be your sounding board to help you take steps.

One of my client's companies has gone through re-orgs about every six months for a while. That is a whole different pattern. I was able to coach him through the anxiety and then to move quickly to establish stronger relationships and deliver results amidst the chaos. This resulted in several promotions and becoming a trusted advisor to senior leaders.

The point here is to look for patterns in the places you work and ask yourself if there is a way it could be an opportunity in disguise?