File under “foot in mouth”

Last fall I was involved on a project to help a large international organization speed up their globalization process using centers of excellence. As part of the data gathering, I spent some time in South America talking to IT leadership about their efforts to transform the technology group from order takers to a world class IT service organization. In an interview with their VP of strategy, the conversation turned to organizational structure–their Global CIO reported in to the SVP of Corporate Services, putting him three ticks below the CEO…something that always makes me probe further. So I piped up and said:

You know, when I see a new CIO at an organization reporting in under another CXO and driving an aggressive IT transformation project, it tells me two things. First, the previous CIO was likely run out of town for dropping the ball. Second, the new CIO is being put under another C-level leader as babysitter for a year or so to see how they’re going to perform before being given their real spot at the leadership table. So, would you say that your CIO is in this situation, or is the current reporting relationship part of business as usual?

There was a rather long pause, and then she responded, “I should tell you, I was the previous CIO…”, after which I didn’t hear much of anything for a few seconds. When I came to, I wasn’t shown the door, as I expected, but rather was given an opportunity to witness first-hand a great leader in the process of becoming greater.

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