The pros and cons of a Machiavellian approach to enterprise IT

When I recently heard a Gartner analyst was trying to apply the lessons of Machiavelli for IT leaders, I knew we had to learn more.
In the most recent issue of CIO Canada we had Kathleen Sibley, a frequent contributor, to discuss the insights of Tina Nunno and her exegisis of Machiavelli's famous work The Prince and how it could help deal with the day-to-day challenges of chief information officers and IT managers. This was the kind of thing, however, that needed a reality check of sorts. That's why Kathleen chose to interview an actual IT leader for some reaction.
Samantha Liscio is the CIO for Ontario's Ministry of Finance's Central Agency cluster and I've enjoyed getting to know her through various CIOCAN events and as part of the steering committee for our CIO Exchange event later this year. The responses below appeared as a sidebar to Kathleen's feature story — too short for an online article but well worth reprinting here. Enjoy and let me know if you disagree with any of her comments.

On always be thinking of war:

“If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” says Liscio. “If you think everything is a war, it predisposes you to do things a certain way. There are challenges and opportunities, and I think you have to be committed to finding equal numbers of each.”

On using trusted advisors to obtain input and feedback:

“There are big implications to that,” says Liscio. “With everyone and their mother having their own blog, etc., that influences policy development. If there is one voice saying something, are you obligated to respond the same way as if it were 10,000 people [saying the same thing]? If you have an open door policy, you have to be able to balance off what you’re hearing. I try to be as open as possible in the messaging and build avenues for feedback but filter that feedback [to understand] if this is just one voice or a common problem we need to deal with.”

On inspiring fear vs love:

“I think there has to be a degree of respect,” says Liscio. “You have to be able to demonstrate competency … especially when it comes to articulating what you do, whether that’s the CIO to the business or the staff person talking about a particular initiative.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Shane Schick
Shane Schick
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