The first 90 days of a CIO – Pitfalls to be avoided

In the previous posts (see last post) I had told you what you should do in the first 90 days in the CIO’s job.

Now, let me also tell you that you should watch out for a few pitfalls that you can blunder into.

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1. Know it all: Coming in with the feeling that you know everything and giving that impression to the others.

It is easy to slip into this error. You have done this before and have seen it all. What can possibly be a challenge for you? I will set everything right here. The problem here is that you assume that this organisation is very similar to your old organisation and will behave in a similar manner. This may not be the case at all.  If you automatically react to situations in a way that has worked well for you in your previous organisation, you may be in for a surprise. Organisational culture may be different, people are, of course, different, processes are different.

This attitude may also turn off your manager (especially) and also your peers and users.

This attitude also means that you start making plans before you get inputs from all the stakeholders and before you have understood the correct situation. Even though you should make broad plans as you start you need to be ready to modify this based on inputs received from the stakeholders.

2 .Nothing is right here: Insinuating that everything is bad in the organisation and that you are here to put things right.

Many new CIOs fall into this trap. Early on you only see the organisation superficially and some of the things that may be going wrong at the surface may give you the impression that things are wrong deep-down. This may not necessarily be so. Before you judge what is right and what is wrong you will need to study the situation and come to proper conclusions. This is why I have emphasised the point that you can start detailed planning only after the 90 day knowledge gathering phase.

Remember that giving vent to this feeling publicly will certainly upset your manager, especially if she has been the manager for some time. Any faults within the system will also reflect on the manager.

What I have learned is that no organisation is absolutely good or absolutely bad. Yes, there will be certain things that are going wrong and need to be corrected. But “everything” cannot be wrong.

3. S/he was no good: Bad mouthing previous job-holder

Never fall into this trap. There is no easier way to lose the respect of your manager and your peers than bad-mouthing your predecessor. You may find that some of the previous job-holder’s peers may talk badly of this person, but you should be careful not to stoke that fire. For one thing you may be being unfair to that person. You do not know about him/her and his/her working style or performance. Secondly nobody likes a bad-mouther.

4. Where’s the money? Where’s the time? Setting expectations that are not supported by budget and time availability

Many of us fall into this trap. We talk to our stakeholders, we talk to our managers and then put together a grandiose plan that promises to deliver everything other than heaven. When you make plans and communicate this to the organisation, make sure that you can actually deliver. Many a time you will have to stick to a budget approved for the previous job-holder. And most of the money here will be to keep the lights going. Where are you going to get the money for any new things? It is important that you discuss with your manager (and maybe even the finance head) to ensure that whatever you are promising can be backed by the required budgets.

The same goes for promising to deliver projects without adequately planning for time and resources. “We will deliver an organisational MIS in six months.” Yeah!

They say: Underpromise and overdeliver

5. The “second project” syndrome.

This is a trap that affects most of us. You remember some of the things that feel that you could have done better in your previous job. And most of the time your reasoning will be that the things went wrong because you were not “rigorous” enough. You did not stick to processes fully. You did not insist that a project report should be sent every day! You did not talk to your stakeholders often enough.

The result of this reasoning is that you tend to overbalance to the other side in your new job and become too rigorous. You have too many meetings. You ask for and send too many reports. This will drive your team, your manager and your peers crazy.

Watch carefully for the above pitfalls. Many a new CIO has fallen into one of these and been dragged under.

Some of the internet articles I mentioned in the first part of my article:

The First 90 Days in a New CIO Position by Steve Gallagher

My first 90 days as a CIO by David Gee

What do you think?

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