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Uber CEO’s exit puts spotlight on importance of company culture

 

CIO role in engendering company culture

The CIO position is not just a tactical position anymore; it’s becoming more strategic with time, Gartner’s Ramsey said. Depending on the company, CIOs are also involved in developing key parts of the business and making sure they work, he said.

It, therefore, should come as no surprise that CIOs do have a role in driving the importance of company culture and shaping it, experts said. But they must have a plan in place, which is built around a set of guiding principles, and take responsibility for making sure the people underneath them follow the plan, Ramsey said.

Olding, a member of Gartner’s leadership, culture and people dynamics team, referred to Gartner’s ESCAPE model that enumerates six steps to change leadership — envision, share, compose, attract, permit and enable.

“The important step for CIOs who are helping create a culture in their organization is compose,” Olding said. “And that has to do with … looking at their current and future state of leadership — where are we today, where do we aspire to be tomorrow — and then to be able to break that down at the behavior level, because leadership behavior sets the context for how an organization will act.”

Nigel Fenwick, former Reebok (U.K.) CIO and principal analyst at Forrester Research, urged CIOs to demonstrate the culture by “doing” and not just “saying.” Many companies claim they have a customer-first culture, but many CIOs never go out to meet their customers, he said. He suggested CIOs go on sales calls to get to know their customers and hear about their biggest challenges. The CIO must then translate that behavior into metrics.

“How people are measured conveys what is important to senior management. If your team’s metrics don’t emphasize what you want to be important in your culture, change your team’s metrics,” Fenwick said in an email interview.

CIOs can then work with the CEO and chief human resources officer to steer companywide metrics by highlighting how adjustments to their IT teams’ metrics helped to shape and improve team culture, Fenwick added.

Uber is this week’s morality lesson on what can happen when leaders allow “toxic” behaviors to seep into an organization. But it can happen anywhere, when good behavior is not modeled and measured. CIOs can play a role in preventing toxicity from marring company culture, Olding said.

“If you’re in a leadership-team meeting with the CEO and COO and you see bad behavior, it’s incumbent upon [you] and everyone … to call each other out in a respectful way. Silence is passive agreement,” she said.

 

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