small change: your CTO, or you

small change
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







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