Goals, Priorities and The New CIO

Goals, Priorities and The New CIOThe New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

It as if we’re more hearing about businesses doing more with less.

In the world of IT, you definitely hear this.  Budgets are slashed or frozen.  Layoffs are happening.  The business is trying to bring their costs in-line with the reality of today.

This ‘doing more with less’ mentality seems to be helping. The latest reports on productivity shows an increase of 6.3% in the business sector.

So…we are more productive now. Great!

But are we productive doing the right things?  Are we getting the things done that need to be done?  Are we checking off the right boxes?

In order to get more done with less, The New CIO has to be able to help the organization and IT team set the right goals (what are the right goals?), set the priorities and let the team do their job..

This is easier said than done.   With the pressure on, will you deliver? If you stick to your priorities and ensure you’re working toward your goals, you should.  If you start being reactionary, you’re doomed.

Set your Goals

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal.   What a name.  Great idea. Every person and company should have one of these.  (Do you?)

Every organization needs to have goals.  Every IT group should have goals aligned with the organization. The CIO should have a set of goals that roll down to the IT leadership team and those goals should trickle down.

So…why is it when you ask the system administrator what their goals are for the year, their response is either: 1.) a shoulder shrug or 2.)  to keep the servers running.

While keeping the servers’ running is a valid goal, wouldn’t it be better to have a bigger goal for that system admin?

How about your Director of IT Operations?  What’s her goal? Is it to keep the lights on and servers running?  I hope not.  It’s not very big nor audacious.

With simplistic goals, you get simplistic results.

What happens when you have goals but no priorities?  Perhaps your team reaches their goals…but did they do it when you needed them to?


It’s not enough to set goals, you’ve also got to set priorities for your team. Without priorities, the organization could happily work toward their goals…but at what rate?  Which goals are more important than others?

Let’s look at an example:

Your DBA has 2 goals for the quarter: 1.) Migrate 10% of the SQL Server 2005 databases to MS Sql Server 2008 and 2.) Earn the Microsoft Certified Master certification for SQL Server 2008.  Which should be his priority?   The operational goal or the personal goal?  Setting a priority on those 2 goals will help that DBA determine in which order to attack these goals.

Whoever said “When everything is a priority, nothing is” was a genius (anyone have an attribution for that quote?) .  Without priorities, or even worse, when everything is the ‘top’ priority, the organization will spin its wheels and eventually run out of gas. Steve Roesler has a great article about this titled “Kill Change with too many Priorities” that’s worth the read and tackles the “too many priorities’ topic head on.

Pick your goals, set your priorities (and remember…there can be only 1 ‘top’ priority) and let your team go.

Proactive vs Reactive

Want to know what Goals & Priorities really do for you and your team?  They set down the correct path and guide you & your team in your daily activities.  Setting goals and priorities help to set up a proactive environment.  Your team knows what they should be doing and they know how to react when ’emergencies’ arise.

What happens when you don’t plan things out and set goals & priorities?  You become reactive.  Your team becomes reactive.   Being reactive is the death knell for the CIO and any organization. Take a minute and think of one company that meets the following criteria:

  • Industry leader
  • Innovative
  • Has great people
  • Is a great place to work
  • Is constantly reacting to competitors.

I can’t think of one. The first four are easy…lots of companies come to mind…but the last criteria takes them all out of the running. If you constantly react, you never really get a chance to get ahead of the competition.

Setting goals & priories pulls yourself, your team and the organization away from the reactionary mindset.

What can you (The New CIO) do?

Well…you could take the approach that some take: tell people to “do more with less” and stop ‘bellyaching” (real quote from a CIO!). Or…you could help your team set realistic goals and priorities and step back and let them do their job.  Don’t react to every little thing that comes along….reacting pushes the priorities and goals out the window, even for a moment.

At the end of the day, The New CIO must stay proactive by setting goals and priorities for the IT Organization.  Those goals and priorities must be built up by working closely with the rest of the leadership team to ensure the IT staff is aligned with the organization.

Without this alignment and prioritization, perhaps your team can be productive while delivering value to the organization.  Or…you can keep your team busy and productive while being terribly inefficient by reacting to every ’emergency’.

If you have to do more with less, and the latest reports say we are, at least make sure your team is working on the right stuff.  What is the right stuff? Only you, your team and your organization can decide that.

Join me next week for another article in The New CIO series.

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