June 12, 2012

A Protagonist at the Harvard Business School

The faculty at the Harvard Business School wrote a case study about the November 13, 2002 CareGroup Network outage  and use the case to teach healthcare leadership in the MBA and Executive Education programs.

I'm often invited to sit in the back of the room as the "protagonist" in the case while the students discuss my performance during the crisis.

It's always enlightening to listen to teams evaluate what I could have done better - seeking help faster, enhancing infrastructure sooner, developing more detailed disaster recovery policies etc.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with 60 healthcare leaders at an HBS Summer Course recounting my feelings, anxieties, blind spots, and hopes during the early hours of the crisis.

They initially evaluated my performance with letter grades that varied between A- to C-.

Then, they turned to ask more difficult questions - What would they do in a similar crisis?  How could IT be better prepared for disaster?

They debated the balance between control and freedom, predictability and innovation, bureaucracy and agility.

After the class we had a great discussion about the era in which we live - organizations are increasingly matrixed and complex.  Accountability is clear but authority is not.  As CIOs we are responsible for ever increasing regulatory and compliance demands but we often lack the top down control of the global organization needed to enforce policies.

In 2002, the issue was infrastructure - lack of redundancy and hardware updates.

In 2012, the issues for CIOs are much more complex - mandates to control behavior throughout the organization (such as mobile device encryption) but challenging organizational dynamics to implement constraints on personal choice.  Infrastructure is no longer a pain point - the Cloud makes it all so simple…

The class speculated that survival as a CIO is very difficult in 2012.   Either the demands/expectation of the job have to change or the resources/authority needs to be increased.  

Given the evolution of challenges from 2002 to 2012, it will be very interesting to watch the next 10 years.   Who knows uncharted waters exist for 2022!

A great discussion with the class.

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