18 August 2010

CIO’s in exile and the art of the possible

A familiar sight. People discussing the state of affairs in their organization and what they would do if they were the board of directors.

They often have promising ideas but what they don't have is the power to execute. I call them boards in exile. A characteristic of many governments in exile is that they reside in a foreign country. Boards of exile also live in foreign countries, in a metaphorical sense. They live in fictitious worlds and have a tendency to assume that things are as they would have organized their environment. And are therefore often surprised and disappointed when things turn out differently. Apparently it's easier to be in denial than accept that somebody else with other ideas is running the show. Reality check: what world do you live in – the world you'd like to live in or the real world?!

The 'in exile' suffix can be applied to many roles. Take the CIO. I know plenty of architects who live for 90% of their time amongst perfectly consistent information systems. The only time their idyllic world is disrupted is when they take the lift down from the top floor to the company restaurant on the ground floor and overhear what with people who live in the real world are saying. What they hear is obviously an aberration because it isn't in the enterprise architecture. Typical CIO's in exile, who can't grasp the reality of organizations in which it just ain't fair who's got the power and that they just want pragmatic solutions to real world problems. No less and certainly no more. Even if we think they should be investing in the longer term, it's their money so it's their call. The only thing you can and should do is explain the pro's and contra's of the options.

The bottom line is of course that we should all be aware of and accept the imperfect, unequal and downright unfair nature of the world and be more like politicians and exercise the art of the possible. 

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