The CIO’s Invisible Threat


Most CIO’s are well aware of what causes sleepless nights and are actively focusing on solutions and risk mitigation strategies.  The three biggest worries are usually defined as: keeping the system up and running, cyber-security, and migration to digital platforms.  A failure of any one often results in a quick elevator ride to the ground floor, minus badge and keys.

It’s not what you know that hurts you, but what you don’t know.

 However, there is a significant threat to the CIO that often goes unnoticed until it is too late.  A threat that trips up even the most savvy CIO.  A threat that remains in plain sight.  A threat that is often taken for granted.

That invisible threat is “lack of aligned execution”.  Plans are developed, matched with bridge alignmentstrategic objectives, teams and budgets put in place.  But are you certain that what starts at the top really gets implemented, as agreed, four or five levels down, where the real work is done? And are you certain the contractors and outsourced staff are working on what was agreed at the top?

Current studies inside of large organizations has shown that between 30-40% of IT projects consuming manpower and money do not link directly to the IT strategy!  Where could you better put those people and that money to use?  Will one of those nonaligned projects come back to haunt you or the business? Risk multiplies when you don’t know what is going on inside our own company. And you can’t just assume!

In technology, more than anywhere else, we know that an assumption is not good data.  Good data is facts with metrics and tracking.

 “In God we trust; all others must bring data.”  ~W. Edwards Deming

 Alignment for Execution

 A CIO who can answer these questions quickly and easily, with facts, will sleep better at night.

  • Do I have line-of-sight from strategic objectives to specific project deliverables?
  • Can I easily get frequent updates on project milestones and delivery schedules?
  • Do I know, in advance, that projects are falling behind?
  • Do we have ROI metrics in place for all major projects?
  • Can I quickly communicate with an entire project team, or do I have to go through people and channels?
  • Do people feel accountable for deliverables or activities?
  • Am I certain the project being funded are designed to “move the needle”?
  • Is there a single person accountable for each project who takes full accountability, or is it “distributed accountability”?
  • Do we have frequent and regular strategy execution governance meetings?
  • Do people leading projects know and understand what the other projects are and how they all fit together?
  • Are teams staff with cross-functional experts or the same names and faces?
  • How many weeks pass before you know a project is in trouble or behind schedule?
  • Is my team managing behaviours as well as tasks? Bad behaviour creates more risk than technical mistakes.

And the most important question of all:

Do I have a robust IT strategy alignment and execution process in place?

 According to one CIO, “Getting my leadership and technology teams aligned around our strategy was the most important step in ensuring we delivered for the business.  Once there is alignment among people and objectives, the technology execution is relatively straightforward.”

From the early days of the Kaplan and Norton Balanced Scorecard (one of the first “Line-of-sight” strategy alignment processes) the tools and methodologies for alignment and execution have progressed considerably.  In a recent book by 30+ year business veteran, John R Childress, FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution, a robust yet simple Line-of-Sight Roadmap and Governance process is described that can help instill the discipline, alignment and accountability required to deliver IT strategies.

And also a good night’s sleep.

John R Childress

Business Advisor and Author

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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