CIO Leadership

When Transformation Isn't Enough: How CIOs Really Lead.

Transformation is a deep word being lost in translation. So what does it really mean to transform IT? It must be comprehensive, including eight key areas of development.

Joe Woodruff


October 26, 2023

Photo credit:
Ryoji Iwata

I sat in the barber chair. An old Earth, Wind and Fire song came on. Our high school basketball team used to play it during early morning practices. I mentioned that to the guy cutting my hair. I said, “It sounds so mellow now.”

He laughed and agreed with me.

You have probably experienced this. You ride in an elevator, and a favorite rock and roll song is now background music.

The word transformation has become elevator music to our ears.

Transform has such great meaning - a dramatic change in form or appearance or character. You have seen it in people, in caterpillars, in neighborhoods, and in technology.

And yet. Everywhere you look, there is a transformation this or that; especially in our world of digital transformation.

I fear we have lost the richness of the word,and worse, that we accept any change or innovation as transformation. It isn’t.

Now, I’m reading more and more articles on transforming your IT department. I know a thing or two about that. And if you saw my post on Tuesday, you see how we help companies to transform - not just add a little or change a bit or progress here and there.

Mary Pratt with wrote a good article recently discussing what other companies are doing to transform IT. The ideas in the article, though, combine into only one of the eight dynamics of transformation that I posted this past Tuesday.

When Transformation Isn’t Enough

We must create environment before living things.

The problem with current understanding of transformation is limiting the measure of transformation to IT activity.

According to the above-article, only 8% of companies are moving toward Total Enterprise Reinvention and 86% of leaders are “transforming parts of their business rather than the whole.”

If you innovate and start without addressing the environment in which innovations and starts will live, they will die out, and you will neither experience revolution nor evolution, let alone transformation.

You will have led the next great thing, but you will not have become the next great thing.

What Does A Transformation Environment Look Like

I posted on Tuesday the eight dynamics of IT Transformation:

Comprehensive Assessment

Design of Future

Change Dynamics

Forums and Functions

Mobilized Talent

System Implementation

Team Development

Executive Coaching and Training

Most of the article cited above mentioned issues that fall into system implementation - customer centricity, cloud effectiveness, innovation teams, agile, product-based approaches - none of which are wrong, just incomplete.

Doomed - if the other seven dynamics are not addressed.

How do CIOs really lead transformation - by bringing alongside them the team and alliances who can drive all eight dynamics, not just activities within one arena.

Do you know how to conduct scientific and intuitive assessments?

Are you able to collaborate with business leaders to pull together one design of the future?

You can make changes, but can you lead organizational change?

Are you the most compelling communicator and clarifier?

How aggressive are you on finding, mobilizing, developing and retaining talent?

What is intentional team development looking like?

You can mentor, manage and direct - how competent are you on coaching and training peers as well as managers?

You implement systems all the time - but are you implementing the best systems at the right time?

You are not alone. These are the questions we are all asking. I know, because I work with so many CIOs, most of whom are not in the 8%.

I’m happy to help. I have a team of experts in all eight of those transformation dynamics.

As I sat in the barber chair, I recalled those early morning basketball practices. Eventually, one of the players died in his first year of college while driving at an excessive speed. The coach would be terminated for having inappropriate materials at school. Others are to me, and I to them, a fuzzy memory.

Historically, we were just another team. I earned a name on a plaque that is no longer displayed.

This is not going to be true of you. This is not going to be true of your team. Not if you build towards a movement rather than a moment, to full transformation, not just partial change.

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