Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
6/12/2013
05:32 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Rules For Radical CIOs: Part 2

How do Saul Alinsky's rules for activists apply to tech executives? Let us keep counting the ways.

Rule 11: If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.

The best example of this rule is the global warming "debate." It's in quotes because 97% of active climate scientists agree that the earth is heating up. And yet, because a well-funded group of special interests has pushed the fringe 3% hard and deep, there are nearly no media mentions on the topic without a reference to the skeptics, a testament to Alinsky's chilling effect.

Pun aside, I haven't seen this rule really play out in the tech industry.

Rule 12: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

If there's a saving grace to the corporate world, it's that the squeaky wheel with a PowerPoint presentation actually gets the grease -- a chance to present to the 40 beeps who just joined the weekly conference call.

Caffeinate your presentation because I don't know of anyone who doesn't multitask during those calls, and by multitask, I mean completely tune out. Pepper your script with the names of people on the call. That wakes them up.

Ditch the usual slide that predicts more rain. And never propose any work. That's tantamount to asking for silence. Simply let the audience know how you're already building the ark.

Nine times out of 10, you'll get a canned pat on the back. Be prepared for that 10th case, though -- someone who gets it and asks you offline what they can do to help or, better yet, what you'd do if you were queen for a day.

If you're in a leadership position -- and who the hell isn't -- listen for the signs above and reach out to the presenter. Be the 10th case. Listen and care.

Rule 13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.

Want to know a secret about all of these columns I write? They start out as emails I write at 2:00 in the morning. I've been writing and deleting them for 20 years.

They're caustic and preachy, grammatical and emotional minefields. And they all have the same target: me.

So there's your Keyser Soze moment. I'm the leader who sometimes lacks the spine, the one who should join a convent, the one who occasionally lacks faith in my team, the one who struggles to get past the lip service about investing in them.

That's my process, the point of getting all my bile out, the point of being as truthful as possible. I want to hold myself accountable, to personalize everything intractable about life and leadership in IT, to form an opinion about the world and how to change it.

Statistician George E. P. Box wrote that "all models are wrong, but some are useful." I'd say the same of opinions.

Hopefully, by presenting my opinions to myself -- and now you -- and by applying what I learned from Alinsky, I'll get a little closer to the answer, or a little more courage to challenge Darth Vader.

In Retrospect

No doubt the 20-year-old me would have condemned the 40-year-old me. But that's OK. Banks aren't the problem. Scale is. Our tendency to demonize banks or oil companies or the government comes from a knee-jerk reaction to scale. Because no one likes to feel powerless.

We also tend to bundle the individual bad actors -- the slick greedsters, the alpha male baboons -- with the millions of good-hearted people who run those companies but live paycheck to paycheck, just trying to pay their mortgages and put their kids through school.

That's why, unlike most of Main Street, I was saddened when Bear Stearns, Lehman and Merrill went down. I had friends on that Death Star. Good people.

As an older Darth Vader, I struggle with whether I'd throw the Emperor off the platform. He and his minions are just as broken as Luke and his. And, oddly, in the same way.

That's why it's possible to apply Alinsky's rules to both sides.

Previous
3 of 3
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
DAVIDINIL
50%
50%
DAVIDINIL,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2013 | 1:58:45 PM
re: Rules For Radical CIOs: Part 2
Not a single person in the country is against better health and happiness for all. But at $16 trillion in debt, I would expect that I would be experiencing nirvana every day. But I am not and we all just read how Coverlet is not.
I am no economist, but $16 trillion seems like a lot of money. That debt will be paid back eventually with worthless inflated future dollars. If I understand the Tea partiers beef correctly, it is that they don't believe the government is up to the challenge of refining the system. And eventually the weight of the debt will blow it up whether we want it to or not.
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
2014 US Salary Survey: 10 Stats
InformationWeek surveyed 11,662 IT pros across 30 industries about their pay, benefits, job satisfaction, outsourcing, and more. Some of the results will surprise you.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 16, 2014.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.