by Jim Rinaldi - 3GC Board Advisor: Former CIO of JPL, IRS, FDA, and Marriott
When you are with an organization for more than 3 plus years, there is a risk of getting comfortable and/or assuming everything is the way it is... well until it isn’t!
The world of your work is constantly changing thanks to many external factors, such as changes in leadership, market conditions, and of course, technology. This can make it difficult to remain comfortable in our jobs, as the conditions that once made us happy and satisfied may no longer exist.
My experience as a CIO has taught me how to deal with change in many ways. Some of my techniques may be helpful for you. I developed these techniques over time to help me stay objective and not stay stagnant or fall in love with the past.
My most effective response was whenever I took time off, usually around the holiday time period. I would take a few days to get into “non-work” mode which would then allow me to relax. In that relaxed state, I could now reflect on the past year and what went well and what went not so well. I could do this in an objective manner and if I found myself being defensive vs. objective, I would know to reset my thinking.
Specifically, the technique I used was to pretend I was the new CIO just starting on the job at my company and would observe what the last CIO left behind. Assessing the IT organization, the customer organizations, and conditions as a new CIO let me be critical and complimentary, objectively! This technique also allowed me to plan for the upcoming new year as a new CIO would. It was exciting to play the part of being the new CIO and then being able to come back to work with that energized mindset.
Another way to refresh your thinking is to get out of the office and visit other companies, go to conferences, and network with peers and others to learn what they do regardless of industry. I always learned something new and grew my professional network in the process. This can come in handy for many reasons, including finding potential new employees and maybe even new opportunities for yourself.
It is a good idea to meet with your colleagues and customers in other departments. Having lunch, dinner, or drinks not only gets to know people better but also hear what is on their minds. This seems obvious, but many CIOs don’t find the time. Your work colleagues from other departments can give you insights you will not get from data collected through help desks. I also found it to be an effective way to listen and communicate updates on what I was planning. Encouraging your direct reports to do the same is a great idea so you have the bottom-up covered as well.
Being CIO for over 14 years at JPL is a perfect example of my own preparedness and how the organization was always prepared for change. Most CIOs don’t last that long at any one company. I never had the same organizational chart from year to year, yet we were always ready to go. This is a direct outcome of using the techniques.
As implied earlier, “change or be changed” is almost a certainty. Use the techniques to guide the changes in direction, organization, and service offerings. Being proactive and anticipating the future is a great way to stay current and be prepared so you can be adaptive to change!