How do you get hard things done?
We are so often conditioned to look at the negative end of accomplishment. As human beings we tend to look at all the reasons something can’t be done versus listing all the reasons how it can be done.
My discussion with Don Wiegner in many ways you have heard the message before, but this time around you are hearing it from someone who has just spent two years doing what others thought was impossible. He discusses how to accomplish insurmountable goals and do it in a way that brings people together under a common purpose. Have you had a defining moment in your career where your back was against the wall and you had to get the job done? Possibly you and your group were recruited into the scrum and you needed to find a way through.
Sometimes this recruitment is planned and sometimes, depending on the maturity of your company, you are thrown in. A boss of mine years ago said that he relished in problems because it gave him a chance to shine in front of customers. Now if your challenge is keeping email systems ‘up’ then this is not the challenge you want, however I am sure you know what I mean. Problems help to squeeze the juice and marrow out of life and give us the grit and friction needed in order to grow.
- Don is now the CIO of Mariner Finance
- He earned this CIO position due to his success at Corporate Executive Board (CEB) where he was the Head of Global Enterprise Technology Services with 4000 employees.
Donald’s team at CEB migrated from 10 data centers into 6 in less than one year over 3 continents. Everyone told him that he could not do this. His team migrated 3000 servers and 170 Customer Facing applications with Zero downtime and Zero customer impact. There were 200 people involved in the project (IT and Business), 30 IT and 3 consultants.
What were the obstacles? It ended well but what was actually going on under the hood? This is what I found interesting.
- There was huge uncertainty within his internal group about taking on this endeavor.
- He gave them a choice of going heavy with consultants but in the end went lighter on consultants which reduced costs.
- Vendors did not want him to be as aggressive as he was.
- He asked, “How” and he asked his team to ask themselves how can you achieve this insurmountable goal?
Don commented to me that, “It is really gratifying to see team members with anxiety about accomplishing a project and overcoming this fear.”
Don’s discusses some of his secrets to delivering hard projects
- Focus on Team enablement which means when you find soft spots in skills, hire for the skill via a consultant, or train for the skill internally. He developed velocity by training for the skill which the internal staff loved.
- Reward for reasonable risk and innovative ideas. This was supported within the company.
- Challenge conventional thinking. There is never only one correct answer.
- You must overcome ‘doom and gloom’ and ‘overly rosy’ thinking. Both polarity extremes won’t work.
The importance of an honest ‘self-assessment” in order to identify issues percolating below the surface. Don said, you must “remember that you can’t do It yourself”. He gives further guidance:
- Lay out a path given skills and maturity of your staff.
- Build a team that wants to be there.
- Find people to ‘propel’ you forward and not just to make an incremental step.
- Find people what can ‘leapfrog’ you forward. He really emphasized this since it was one of the critical components he needed in the process.
- Build an ‘A’ team
Don was able to make leapfrog steps versus incremental steps. This is what makes him a CIO Bullfrog leader.
- Staff Development – Why is it so crucial? [4:12]
- “…now the team members are far more confident technically, capable, and looking for the next challenge for us to overcome” [6:30]
- Do you take advantage of the advice your company creates for its clients, or did you bring this philosophy to the table? [7:01]
- How can a CIO learn critical thinking and staff development mid-career? [9:04]
- “You are recruiting to fill skills gaps of the apparent needs, but you really need to look at those team members or individuals who are really going to leapfrog you forward. They’re giving you a boost that you wouldn’t normally get organically” [11:05]
- What is the easiest mistake to fall into? [12:06]
- Does the 80/20 rule apply or is that a fallacy? [14:26]
- “If team members don’t have the proper strengths to achieve the goals or sustain the ongoing demands for where you’re going towards, much like an engine you’re gonna have to replace a part” [15:58]
- How does a CIO build a team to cater to the changing needs of the Board/CEO? [16:45]
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