small change: your organisation’s behaviour & you

CiaranLinkedIn

small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead and  follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.
You can see the full blog index here as it builds.
Blog 39 small change: your organisation’s behaviour & you
IMG-3723

Your organisation’s behaviour consists of those actions it takes and avoids, consciously or unconsciously, to implement its strategy to achieve its purpose,

Conscious actions include the implementation of business plans including sales and marketing plans and target operating models.

Target operating models identify market needs, “strategic” resources and processes to implement those resources to meet the market needs.

Unconcious and avoidance behaviour includes all those actions which are not taken in respect of the implementation of the organisation’s strategy.

These can be positive or negative: focusing on one market segment involves positively avoiding others whereas refusing to listen to customer feedback and complaints is negative avoidance.

Behaviour is a plural noun and, although the word “behaviours” has become common in business and in psychology I believe that for the purposes of behaviour change the plural noun is better. This is not a semantic point.

As mentioned several times in this book already, the language of business is deeply connected with behaviour.

Terms such as “employee engagement”, ‘hires”, and “direct reports” are all examples of business attempting to dehumanise, categorise and distance itself from feelings.

It’s easier to talk in abstract terms about a list of “behaviours” like bullying, passive aggression and “buck-passing” that can be “ticked” rather than engaged within the messy and grey area of behaviour which is complex, usually rooted in formative years’ experiences, and defies neat lists.

Evidence of this exists in the financial services sector in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crash in 2008 which was caused by the unethical behaviour of those with power across the globe in that sector.

When the dust settled the word “conduct” became ubiquitous in the financial services sector. Conduct is defined as behaviour over time and, rightly, regulators wanted to attempt to regulate conduct as it had led to the Crash.

In the UK the Financial Conduct Authority was set up in 2013. There’s a clue in its name as to its purpose, although many might argue that its strategy and behaviour failed to address the issues fully since the annual Banking Standards Board reports note that there has been little change in behaviour since the Crash.

 

The behaviour that has the biggest impact on outcomes is decision-making behaviour and this can be observed in action on main and operating boards (OPsCos) and Executive Committees (ExCos).

There is nothing complicated about ensuring good decision-making behaviour:

  • have at least one Devil’s Advocate with permission to challenge everything
  • ensure that ALL the function heads are involved in the decision
  • track your decisions and outcomes, candidly review them and learn from them

Here is a list of seven deadly behaviour sins I have observed on boards:

  • Bullying: there’s always one thug or, at least, a trainee thug on a board
  • Passive aggression: lots of this
  • Silence: a sure sign of systemic fear
  • Micro-management: a sign of trust problems
  • Martyrdom: in Ireland, we say “there’s a fierce smell of burning martyr in the room”
  • Hubris: this is deadly and can kill an organisation
  • Informality: leads to poor corporate governance

Which if these do you observe in your board? What can you do about it?

The key is to change yourself first, just small changes:

  • If you’re a bully, bully less by trying to understand why you bully
  • If you are passive-aggressive risk occasional confrontation; note that you don’t die
  • If you  usually remain silent try speaking up once a month and see what happens
  • If you micro-manage, agree a “soft” contract with a colleague to reduce your micro-managing behaviour by 10% in exchange for they changing their behaviour by 10%
  • If you’re a martyr: treat yourself to a period of doing nothing
  • If you suffer from hubris: stop it!
  •  If your meetings are too informal read the FRC Governance Code 2018 and Guidance

That’s it.

Sorted.

Joke. Not sorted. Behaviour change is very hard.

But small changes in behaviour in aggregate can have a big impact on outcomes.

Try it.

Ciarán Fenton

 

 

 

 

small change: your organisation’s strategy & you

CiaranLinkedIn

small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.
You can see the full blog index here as it builds.
Blog 38 small change: your organisation’s strategy & you
your orgs strategy and you
Your organisations’ strategy is a statement of how it intends to achieve its purpose.
It’s no less than that. But definitely no more. Despite its overuse in management-speak, it means only “how” you achieve your “why”. That’s it.
Never in the history of business has one word suffered so much abuse from so many.
The most offensive and overused form is “strategic” especially when it is linked with the breathtakingly woolly word “stuff”:
  • “My team does all the crap. I concentrate on the strategic stuff”
  • “I’m appointing a COO so that I can concentrate on the strategic stuff”
  • ‘Frankly, he/she is rubbish at the strategic stuff. Will never make CEO”

The reason that’s there’s so much management guff about strategy is to conceal how difficult it is. It’s difficult because it has to be simple to succeed. And simple strategies are awesomely difficult to conceive and implement.

One of the best examples of a simple strategy  was Ryanair’s start-up strategy:

  • to irritate as many customers a possible so that all they expected was a cheap and safe flight

This strategy looks obvious with hindsight. But remember there was a time when, mirabile dictu, British Airways was “the world’s greatest airline” and only “posh people” flew in planes.

They expected five-star treatment and paid five-star prices. Michael O’Leary – and others – decided that air travel could be democratised. And with the help of enabling technology – the internet – they did. BA almost collapsed.

When I work with main and operating boards I am frequently gobsmacked – a technical term in board facilitation – by directors using the word “strategy” instead of “plan” as in:

  • “we’ve done loads of work on our strategy and produced a 30-slide deck”.

When I say to them that they must be able to summarise their shared – and it must be shared – strategy in one line and that their 30-slide deck maybe their plan, not their strategy they always look discombobulated.

It’s impossible to have a shared strategy without a shared purpose. Many boards lack a shared purpose. Ergo their strategies are weak.

In 1996 Michael Porter, regarded as the leading strategy guru, wrote a long article: “What Is Strategy?”.

It should be prescribed reading for all main and operating board members, even if they read only his key three principles that strategy:

  • “…is the creation of a unique and valuable position…serving [needs]…
  • “…requires you to make trade-offs in competing – to choose what not to do [his italics]
  • “…involves creating “fit” among a company’s activities…”

He refers to serving “few needs of many customers…broad needs of few customers…and broad needs of many customers”.  That’s enough to make heads hurt on boards.

But it’s the rigour that goes into creating a high-quality conversation around the board table, where no one voice dominates, that enables better decisions on strategy.

Frequently, your CEO – usually the strongest voice in the room – will dominate conversations on strategy. Other board members, often with great ideas, will hold back afraid of challenging the CEO.

Some of the best strategy conversations are held in pubs after the strategy board meetings are over when it’s too late.

How many times have you witnessed a “crap strategy” driven through by a “weak and tin-eared CEO” who listens to no one only to find that he/she was plain wrong?

Even “strong” leaders, like former Prime Minister Tony Blair, make serious errors in strategy by not following good governance in decision-making as pointed out in The Chilcot Report into the Iraq invasion in which he was criticised for what became known as his “sofa-style” decision-making.

Ideally, directors should be made to sit an exam on Porter’s article and to sign a solemn pledge never to use the term  “strategic stuff”.

In small change terms your main and operating board might consider:

  • acknowledging that everyone should and must be allowed to contribute to strategy formulation so that it’s shared
  • that it’s impossible to agree on your strategy without having a shared purpose
  • that a strategy is not a plan. That comes after you agree on your shared strategy

Can each member of your board articulate exactly the same purpose and strategy?

If not, why not?

Ciarán Fenton

 

 

 

small change: blog index

CiaranLinkedIn
small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.
Here is the blog index as it builds:

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

Blog 33 small change: your COO, or you

Blog 34 small change: your CMO, or you

Blog 35 small change: your CTO, or you

Blog 36 small change: your HRD, or you

Blog 37 small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

Blog 38 small change: your organisation’s strategy & you

Blog 39 small change: your organisation’s behaviour & you

Blog 40 small change: your organisation’s PSB & you

Blog 41 small change: your board evaluations & you

Blog 42 small change: “conduct” after mandatory board evaluations

Blog 43 small change: behaviour after voluntary board evaluations

Blog 44 small change: agree “soft contracts” with each other after board evaluations

Blog 45 small change: “least likely to say” is a great board game

Blog 46: small change: your board evaluation should be unwritten, gruelling but cathartic

Blog 47: small change: all boards – listed, private, family, even golf clubs and especially law firms – should apply the FRC Code. ‘Tis a work of “art”…

Blog 48: small change: a decision-making grid for boards

Blog 49: small change: a crisis is the best EQ Test for your board

Blog 50: small change: Parent-Adult-Child behaviour on your board

Ciaran Fenton

small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

CiaranLinkedIn
small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

Blog 33 small change: your COO, or you

Blog 34 small change: your CMO, or you

Blog 35 small change: your CTO, or you

Blog 36 small change: your HRD, or you

Blog 37 small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success

Blog 37 small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

your orgs purpose & you

Your organisation’s purpose is about why it does what it does.

Its purpose matters to you because your purpose and its purpose are interdependent because, whether you like it or not, you depend on each other.

And since your organisation is merely a joint venture of career micro-businesses just like yours, its purpose is a function of the strongest individuals in it as set out in Blogs 28-36 above.

If you want to test this hypothesis just observe how the purpose of your organisation changes when its CEO is replaced.

In recent years the word purpose has become ubiquitous because the fundamentals of capitalism are under scrutiny by society and the traditional purpose of business is being challenged. But its ubiquity has led to some dilution in its meaning.

The word purpose is a noun meaning, according to the dictionary, “why you do something or why something exists”.

It’s not a proper noun i.e. it is not written with a capital letter. So you and your organisation can use the word any way you like:

  • our purpose is to maximise returns to shareholders
  • our purpose is to be the best no-frills airline in the world
  • our purpose is to make widgets profitably and benefit society

The problem with all fads in business is that language is the first casualty. Management-speak is designed to distance us from the painful truths within the concepts we use.

So instead of taking the time to say “our purpose goes beyond making money – we also care about the impact we are having on society” the new management-speak demands that we use the term “purpose-led (or driven)” – neither to be found in the dictionary – as if the word purpose has, and always has had only one meaning. This is tosh.

Unhelpfully and lazily the press has picked up this bad habit. For example:

Purpose-Driven Companies Evolve Faster Than Others (Forbes, Sep 21, 2018)

 

This is not a matter of semantics. Long after the term purpose-led fades, as surely it will – as did “down-sizing” and its partner “right-sizing” – the purpose of the business purpose movement will remain as important as ever and the work it is doing will continue delivering great service to society and to business.

But its hijacking of the word is not helping its cause because it tries to simplify and own a deeply personal and subjective concept. That’s the danger.

Purpose is personal. Not generic.

Does your organisation have a shared purpose? By shared I mean a statement that everyone agrees?

Often when I work with operating boards and ask them what is the purpose of their organisation they say  “to make money for our shareholders”.

I say to them that making money is like breathing. It’s a given. You can’t be in business unless you make money and you can lose money forever but run out of cash only once.

And people who are not shareholders and even some who are, don’t jump out of bed in the morning to make money for shareholders. They yearn for a personal purpose echoed by the purpose of the organisation for which they work.

What’s your purpose? How is your organisation helping you achieve it? How are you helping your organisation frame its purpose?

Purpose matters.

 

Ciarán Fenton 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

small change: your GC, or you

CiaranLinkedIn
small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success

 

Blog 32  small change: your GC, or you

your GC or you

Your GC (or you) is your General Counsel who usually attends your main board’s meetings and always do so if they double as Company Secretary.

Your GC is a solicitor – an Officer of the Court – and, in the UK, is regulated by The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which requires under STaRS Principle 3 that your GC acts “independently”.

In my view – and there are many who disagree with me (see social media):

  • The purpose of your GC is to enable better decisions and outcomes via your main board through excellent legal counsel and process
  • Your GC should report to your main board via your Chair, not to your CEO and never to your CFO
  • Your GC’s status as an Officer of the Court should be noted in their employment contracts i.e. they are “different” to other employees
  • Your GC should waive all bonuses and LTIPs (Long Term Incentive Plans) as these constitute a potential conflict. They could be paid more basic pay to compensate.
  • Your GC should tell, not ask, your board what legal counsel and process it needs to achieve its strategy and how much that costs, say $10 for 10 “things”
  • If your main board says it only has $7 for Legal, then your GC should only deliver 7 things for $7 and NEVER do the “diving catch” for the other three things and never, but never, agree “do more for less” as if they had been doing less for more all along
  • If your GC leads a team then they must ignore their legal training which eschews “feelings” since you can’t lead without high EQ which demands a deep connection with your feelings
  • Your GC should never be bullied by anyone in the organisation and if they are they should be able to call on the support of the law and their colleagues in the profession. Members of your main board should be positively petrified to bully your GC.
  • Your GC should use a strategic legal target operating model in its dealings with your main board
  • Your GC should work with private practice and “new law” to reframe their relationship with your main board
  • GCs should be mindful that they have a huge opportunity as enablers of ESG decision-making. ESG is not a fad. It’s here to stay.
  • If commercial lawyers – your GC and their private practice advisers – do not relaunch themselves and their model society will lose patience and do it for them.

What if a curious Martian, with no knowledge of legal services but immediate access to terabytes of data, landed on Earth and asked three questions:

  1. Why were all the lawyers – who are Officers of the Court – not able to prevent or reduce the scale the Global Financial Crash in 2008 and all the major major corporate scandals in recent years?
  2. Why do some Earthlings treat their lawyers so badly?
  3. Why do some Earthling lawyers treat their colleagues so badly?

The Martian will have scanned in a nano-second, inter-alia:

Over the last 15 years, I have worked with scores of lawyers in-house and out and spoken and written on matters relating to lawyers as leaders including the following available at https://www.ciaranfenton.com/downloads-tools 

  • Modern Legal Practice Quarterly: GC role and purpose: a revolution, not evolution, is needed by business and society
  • The Law Society of Ireland Annual In-House Conference 2019, Dublin:  Building relationships at a time of “change & upheaval”
  • IACCM Conference 2019, Madrid: Boardroom decision-making under stress: the impact on hard and soft contracts
  • Managing Partners Forum speech 2019: The Future of the Partnership Model
  • Pamphlet: The GC/CEO Relationship Post Global Financial Crash: Flourish or Flounder? (PDF) also on Amazon

I believe that society increasingly feels that lawyers have disconnected their purpose from a focus on “the rule of law”.

Have you?

Ciarán Fenton

small change: your HRD, or you

CiaranLinkedIn
small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

Blog 33 small change: your COO, or you

Blog 34 small change: your CMO, or you

Blog 35 small change: your CTO, or you

Blog 36 small change: your HRD, or you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success

Blog 36 small change: your HRD, or you

your HRD

Your HRD (or you) is your Human Resources Director, sometimes called Chief People Officer and sometimes a Chief of Staff performs the role.

Your HRD is often the Cinderella of your operating board because:

  • they are frequently forgotten (unless they have a CEO with high EQ)
  • ignored
  • given loads of dirty work to sort out
  • under-resourced
  • they are often the victim of the failure of your CEO to acknowledge that they, not you or your HRD, are responsible for  creating an environment in which the people in your organisation thrive
  • they are also the victim of the biggest and smelliest “elephant in the room” in business: human capital assets do not exist – if they did the accountants would have put them on their balance sheets; human resources do exist but only technically and no one, but no one, sees themselves as human resources – not even HRDs!. I know because I asked a group of them at a workshop to “up hands” if they loved being a human capital asset/ human resources. No hands went up. No surprise.
  • It’s all tosh. Proof if proof were needed is the number of HR conferences that still pose questions about and debate the role and purpose of HR. Only GCs and in-house counsel match HR in this annual futility. You will not see CFOs, CTOs, COOs, CMOs, CROs speak at conferences on the basis of their role and purpose because the basis of their role and purpose is clear.

So, in small change terms, your HRD should:

  • remind your CEO that he or she is responsible for creating an environment in which your people thrive. No one else. And definitely not you.
  • ask for your title to be changed to Chief of Staff
  • stop using the terms HR and Human Capital. Ban them.
  • ask Finance and Legal to take over all legal and accounting work in relation to people a.k.a. “transactional HR”
  • then spend your time helping your CEO and senior leaders be better leaders
  • ask for a room next to your CEO. Think: Leo McGarry in The West Wing
  • brief and debrief your CEO on every person they see
  • help them help people be what they can be
  • you will be happier
  • your CEO will earn their salary
  • your organisation will thrive

 

Do it today.

 

Ciarán Fenton

small change: your CTO, or you

CiaranLinkedIn
small change
by
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

Blog 33 small change: your COO, or you

Blog 34 small change: your CMO, or you

Blog 35 small change: your CTO, or you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success

Blog 35 small change: your CTO, or you

your CTO

Your CTO (or you) is the Chief Technology Officer on your operating board. Sometimes they are called the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Their role is to enable strategy using technology.

The main problem with CTOs is not CTOs but that they are often not allowed to do their jobs, are not included in key strategic decisions and are engaged too late on projects. The truth is that many CEOs and CFOs haven’t a clue what CTOs do or know.

I learned this truth through an embarrassing lesson when in 1995 I was appointed MD of a division of a large business. I was young, inexperienced and excited. It was a great role with global growth opportunities.

On my first day, I had a meeting with the Group CTO and told him what I wanted in technology terms to assist my strategy for world domination in the sector.

He looked at me witheringly and said; “Ciarán, congratulations on your appointment. I wish you well as MD but I am the Group CTO and in future please can you bring me a problem and not a solution?”. I blushed crimson.

I’ll never forget that lesson and often tell the story to clients on boards who struggle to respect, value and understand other functions leaders.

The other story I tell them is of the CTO I witnessed say “No” to a CEO on an operating board. The CEO was adamant that a major technology transformation would have to be achieved by a certain date for good business reasons but also because it would constitute a major PR coup. The CTO said “No, it won’t be ready by that date. I can tell you now”. The CEO was no “shrinking violet” and most of the operating board were afraid to challenge him. But the CTO did. I’ll never forget it.

That said, and in small change terms, CTOs could consider three things:

  • under-promise and over-deliver on your deadlines
  • don’t abuse your power because, just like a builder, once you’re “on-site” we’re stuck with you
  • if the strategy doesn’t stack to you, don’t be afraid put up your hand because you feel the strategy isn’t your bag  – it is and you may be right

Finally, it’s surprising to me the number of non-tech start-ups, growth businesses and even mature professional services businesses who do not have a CTO on their operating boards. That’s self-harm in corporate terms. Positive organisational neglect.  It just doesn’t make sense not to have a tech voice at the table.

Hug a CTO today!

 

Ciaran Fenton