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September 23, 2007

Why Winnie the Pooh is the very model of a modern major CIO*


*Chief Information Officer (I too was baffled until I had my crack research team turn their collective intelligence to the acronym space — but I digress).

Ade McCormack's September 19, 2007 Financial Times column explored whether Taoism has a place in modern capitalism.

He wondered, "What kind of CIO is needed to lead a Taoist IT [information technology] department?"

His answer follows.

    So what kind of CIO is needed to lead a Taoist IT department?

    For that we need to visit the Hundred Acre Wood and borrow the characters of the author AA Milne. I am of course referring to Winnie the Pooh and his friends Tigger, Piglet, Owl, and Eeyore.

    The Taoist-Pooh parallel is not a new concept, but I think it is worth bending to the world of IT and business.

    Let us meet the candidates. Winnie the Pooh appears to be generally content, non-judgmental, and focused on the here and now. Poohs tend to be very laid back, perhaps irritatingly so. Piglet is eager to please and wants to be liked and so is very obliging. Owl is confidence personified but is often incorrect in his assumptions. Tigger is very enthusiastic and has a very can-do attitude, despite the reality that in many cases he can’t-do. Eeyore is philosophical though something of a fatalist and a pessimist.

    At interview, Tiggers and Owls easily impress. Staff warm to their confidence and sagacity.

    Eeyores rarely get through the door. However they are often found in organisations. Such people may have arrived as Tiggers, but have failed to understand the political elements of their role and have, in effect, given up trying.

    Piglets are good candidates if you want compliant CIOs; they will do what you tell them. But in an IT-centric world, you need a CIO who does what needs to be done and does not get sidetracked by boardroom whims.

    This leads us to Pooh, who indeed embraces many of the Taoist characteristics. He is most likely to be driven by reality rather than his or his boss’s ego.

    He may not have the sense of urgency and enthusiasm some would like, but his living in the moment style is likely to lead to better operational delivery.

    He is also more likely to adapt to changing markets, as he is not focused on a rigid plan.

    Poohs represent a new breed of CIO. They work the way that suits them and so cannot be managed by traditional means. But that is fine because these are in many cases no longer relevant.

    The key skill of the CEO is to work out what motivates the CIO. They need to be aware that Taoist CIOs are unlikely to covet money, power or influence.

    However, even Winnie the Pooh has a “weakness”. Listen carefully during interviews and you will uncover their motivations.

    Being aware that next generation CIOs are a little different, it should come as no surprise during the salary negotiations when your candidate exclaims “Show me the honey”.

September 23, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink


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Given that the headline for the post had my spin off into Gilbert and Sullivan, does this indicate that I'm quite cultured or simply old?

Posted by: tatiana | Sep 25, 2007 4:13:43 AM

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