CIOs as Storytellers? Reply

In a recent article in online magazine CIO & Leader Chris Potts argues that technology has come so far that CIOs need to start to take the lead and help businesses move beyond the antiquated structures of yesterday.  He says that CIOs need to tell a story of how the business could be, how it should be.  He says that CIOs are uniquely equipped with the technological mindset to tell the story of the business of the future.

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In  recent tweet I was harsh on Chris but in hindsight I believe I need to be more brutal.  The world does not go round for a lack of dreams.  Businesses are not short on vision.  What is lacking is execution.  Projects do not fail for want of strategic intent, they fail for want of expert systems engineering and expertise in engineering systems.  This means that an enterprise doesn’t only need good technical expertise in their horizontal functions but they need expertise in the methodology which carries that knowledge as it passes through the market verticals.  This is to say that it is fine to be a good project manager but can you manage the project from market analysis through to business development?  Can you manage the project through the architecture? Through to contract close out?   

None of this relies on telling stories.  These is deep technical expertise.  Storytelling shouldn’t be ignored.  One of my all-time favourite authors, Larry Prusak, is a huge believer in storytelling as a means for engagement and building up a common picture of knowledge.  A sort of inherited reference point for change.  As important as storytelling is, it is becoming a fad and a distraction for executives.  By focusing on storytelling they are ignoring the real complexity hidden in projects.

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