3 min read

Secret CIO: You're Wrong, And Don't Confuse Me With Data

Some people make up their minds, then look for supporting facts
After a useless executive committee meeting, I was in my office going through a pile of equally worthless paper. I heard a soft knock and looked up to see Dave Pellione, the object of Kratmeyer's ire just an hour before. I suppose the head of international operations was reminiscing on his latest visit to our Spanish subsidiary because he was very effective in placing his banderillas into Dave. The poor guy was as bewildered as to what was happening as any bull about to be slaughtered.

"Hi, Herb," Dave said. "I wonder if I could spend a few minutes going over what happened this morning? I still don't get why Mr. Kratmeyer was so uptight about my presentation and what I did to make him so antagonistic. I mean, I wasn't trying to put anything over on anyone, and he acted like I was some kind of scheming incompetent."

I motioned toward my small conference table and we sat down. Dave used to work in our group and, now that he is in HR, still occasionally comes to me to discuss problems. I suppose it's because I made some effort to support his move to Human Resources. He makes too big a deal of it. I helped him, but I also was pursuing my own agenda of furthering cross-pollination in the company. The more IT people in non-IT departments, and vice versa, the more likely we will use technology effectively in the company.

We talked a while, or, rather, I listened. He wanted to know whether his content or style was faulty, whether he had offended Kratmeyer at some point, or whether he just wasn't cut out to do anything that required executive-level interaction. When Dave was done, I began.

"Dave, technically there are some improvements I could suggest in how you presented the proposed training plan, and I'll do it in detail later if you want. Basically, you need to get to the point faster and avoid jargon at all costs. But that wasn't the problem today. Kratmeyer isn't going to support anyone setting training standards for his managers. He runs things as a fiefdom and has no intention of ever giving up any part of his power to a staff person.

"While you can't change his management style, I think you may get less rattled during your next presentation if you remember that most audiences can probably be divided into two types of people. The first type is the analytic. You're used to dealing with them. They're the people who listen to facts and then make up their minds. Good scientists and good systems designers are analytics.

"Then there are people who make up their minds about a subject and mentally filter facts to support their preconceived decisions. They actually think they're being objective so it never helps to accuse them of being biased. Their decisions may be based on emotion or self-interest, but they believe strongly that they're being fair and rational. The only way to win over Kratmeyer--if that's possible--is to go to him and understand his objections so that you can remove them. The trick will be to avoid compromising your principles while doing so."

Dave thought for a while and then somberly nodded. He thanked me and shook my hand, as always, before leaving. I wish I could have given him a solution, but perhaps what he heard will be of some use to him.

Herbert W. Lovelace shares his experiences as CIO of a multibillion-dollar international company (changing most names, including his own, to protect the guilty). Send him E-mail at [email protected].