Who Should Constitute Team CIO?

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I choose to call this post Team CIO. A CIO is only as effective as his team, as is the case with any other team leader. Nothing peculiar that distinguishes a CIO here. Most of the fundamentals that constitute a good team apply to Team CIO as well. The CIO decides on who constitutes the team, and once done, the team then pretty much decides the fate of the CIO. The CIO starts mirroring and showcasing his team competencies in all that he says and all that gets delivered. 

Initially, the CIOs personality pretty much colors the Team CIO perception to the reminder parts of the enterprise. In as quick as a four month window, most of the CIOs personality pretty much reflects the team's competencies rather than the CIOs personal ability to rise and shine. Great leaders lead great teams and hence their greatness.

A good pit stop check is to observe the kind of conversion one has post six months of breaking-in a new team. So, which of the following two conversation types do you engage into with your peers and stakeholders as a CIO?

Conversation Type 1: Transactional, Operation Detail: Low/No Business Impact

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Conversation Type 2: Technology lead enterprise strategy - organization building; High Business Impact

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A CIO typically gets categorized into each of these two boxes based on the effectiveness of this team. Teams that take away operational issues effectively, enable the CIOs to focus on strategies that generate more exciting work for Team CIO. CIO, as a business leader, talks of technology disruptions needed to take the enterprise to the next level.

Let's now look at Team CIO and what kind of people should ideally make up a team. I will depart from the usual on the team construction and hence I will not be talking about having an infrastructure team, a BA team, an application team etc. 

The focus here is more on the selection of people based on their learning abilities. A key dimension to recruitment of knowledge workers is to understand their ability to learn and team play. 

The content that follows in the rest of the blog is typically what most of the management books and HR consultants teach on learning styles of people, hence there is nothing original in what I present below, but a reflection of my views and belief and learning assimilated by virtue of being in multiple leadership sessions, working with some fantastic leaders during my formative years in corporate life and some learning by virtue of walking on that path.

There are typically 4 learning styles:

1. Concrete Experience (CE)

People in this category primarily learn from their past experiences. This tribe is generally very humane, sensitive to people and feelings and relate to people well.

2. Reflective Observation (RO)

People in this category of are constantly learning from reflection. They view issues from different perspectives and observe intently to search for deep meaning. Search for depth is an essential attribute. This tribe is always looking for meaning of things.

3. Abstract Conceptualization (AC)

People in this category are essentially thinkers. They learn by virtue of the fact that they think. Systematic planning and logical analysis of ideas are key attributes this tribe possess. Any action these people undertake is always a result of intellectual understanding of the situation.

4. Active Experimentation (AE)

People in this category essentially learn by doing things. Ability to get things done and taking risks are some of the key attributes of this tribe. This tribe influences their eco-system through actions. The enterprise sees these people as who do things differently and as action oriented.

People generally have two of the above four learning styles manifesting very strongly in their personality. As shown below, a combination of these dominant learning styles typically define the strengths, weakness and severe pitfalls if extreme traits of each of these working styles are engaged for purpose at hand.

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A well rounded team is a good mix of these complementary learning styles. But this is just one aspect of a knowledge worker and there are more key aspects apart from just learning style. The purpose of this post was to share with you on the subject of learning styles and strike up a conversation with you to get your thoughts on the same. Please do comment and contribute to my learning.


Nagaraj G N Is an independent technology consultant. ...

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This post has received 2 Comments

An insightful post indeed, Nagaraj.

My contention is that while being appreciative of the different learning styles, it is seen in most cases that the leader ends up favoring or leaning towards one or at most two learning styles. I find that this stems from the learning style of the leader himself.

Also, many a time, people with four different learning styles get compartmentalized into different functions of the IT team viz. Concrete Experience (CE) for Operations and Project Management, Reflective Observation (RO) for strategising, Abstract Conceptualization (AC) for policy making and framework building and Active Experimentation (AE) for new ventures, POCs, innovation etc.

While this is playing to their strengths, it can highly limit a healthy growth of their all-round outlook. Eventually, in the larger picture of succession planning, this becomes detrimental.

That said, this is still a very important tool to understand motivation within team members and to answer questions around “I have the best team. Now what??”

Navin Quadros