The success of a transformation program depends to a large extent on the leadership at the head of the enterprise.

Information technology directors are playing a more important role here than ever. As transformation leaders, they often encourage and train the entire leadership team on the most critical, technical, and often most costly solutions to guide the organization’s future.

Our book Beyond digital
reveals how great leaders transform their organizations and shape the future while under the pressure of constant change. It is based on interviews with executives of some of the world’s largest organizations, such as Microsoft and Hitachi.

The ways leaders work are evolving. Traditionally, healthy competition between teammates has led to innovation, but today cooperation is the key to continuous transformation and innovation in the digital age.

We found that top leaders understand that transformations require the leadership team to really “lead” in response to the organization’s needs, and they turn the focus of this group to manage the agenda through changes in roles, people, reach, and how they work together.

Why is this crucial in the new era of labor? Because the upcoming transformations will be more challenging than the ones you went through before. The successful organizations we have studied are clear about what they are transforming towards and directing implementation to this destination with great clarity on how to perform well. These leadership teams exist throughout the organization, and CIOs that have a team they can count on to drive change in this way will thrive in today’s age of continuous digital transformation.

To bring their team together and support a business in constant transformation, CIOs must strive to diversify the capabilities of their teams, help them balance their day-to-day work with transformation for the future, and focus on collaboration.

Diversify the capabilities of your teams

CIOs need to develop teams with a variety of skills – and each organization will need unique talent that is linked to the priorities of transformation – and the differentiating skills it builds. Organizations tend to try to be “great at everything,” but that’s unrealistic – your team needs clarity on where the best talent is required based on the clear results the organization promises to customers.

Technology leaders need operational business skills to collaborate successfully within their business and to drive technology-based business results. Increasingly, they also need to diversify their understanding of customers, their knowledge of different markets and their ability to lead through influence. Therefore, the team behind the CIO must have a deliberate combination of diverse experience and expertise.

Consider transforming Hitachi from a company offering products in many industries – including the consumer business – to a world leader in social innovation. For this transformation to be successful, the company had to significantly change the organization’s capabilities. Senior Vice President and Chief Strategic Officer Mamoru Morita noted that the top leaders in his company were fifty or sixty years old, had been employees of Hitachi all their lives and thought the same way. As part of its path to transformation, Hitachi has made concerted efforts to attract a variety of talent, including deliberately selecting leaders with restructuring experience and an external perspective. Ultimately, this has led to a more effective leadership team that can meet and anticipate the diverse needs of customers, businesses and markets.

Gone are the days of working in focused silos and waiting for someone else to integrate production. Today’s business teams need to reflect the interconnected world we live in – where success requires cooperation.

Balance daily actions with transformation for the future

Information technology directors are under enormous pressure today. They need to implement current programs while accelerating the integration of transformative technological capabilities. To manage this tension, CIOs need to balance performance and transformation. They need to weigh the incentives and build focused teams to help manage the future. To do this, CIOs need to create targeted management forums and time to work on transformation, and ultimately change the way they conduct normal business reviews, giving time for forward-looking topics and daily agendas.

IN Beyond digital, one CEO said they spend all their time responding to other people’s problems instead of putting energy into the work needed to move the company forward. The CIO and their team are responsible for the ongoing transformation throughout the organization. To succeed, they need to balance urgent needs with a broad vision and ensure that the team works for a common goal.

Support and stimulation of team cooperation

Teamwork is easier said than done, especially since team members may perceive each other as competing in a traditional work environment. It is imperative that CIOs rely on cooperation. The CIO needs their organization to work smoothly with the rest of the company to achieve both short-term and long-term goals.

In some cases, CIOs will choose to integrate their teams into other businesses or functions or, as we saw in our study, create results-oriented teams that attract different talents to clear, strategic results that customers are interested in. In other cases, the resources may be “borrowed”. Either way, CIOs need to look at all the models that can build the best possible results for the company.

To improve overall collaboration, CIOs need to focus on establishing purpose and trust and promoting authentic feedback. With these clear expectations for behavior and transparency, CIOs are laying the groundwork for success.

Satya Nadela, Microsoft’s chief executive, attributes the company’s success to the team’s ability to work together and set the ego and agenda aside. Nadela notes that purposeful alignment makes everyone committed to each other’s success throughout the company and is necessary for “everything monumental” to happen.

The continuous transformation is monumental. To create a CIO team that can meet this demand, they need to build a team around these three principles. When CIOs create a cohesive, diverse team, they can balance the governance of the present while helping their organizations shape the future.

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