Breaking the Rules

By Jeff Chasney, Guest Contributor | September 01, 2005

Many of us are reluctant to break rules and take the big risk. We have all done many of the same things. It only takes a small amount of time after one company has done something for everybody to jump on the bandwagon. We achieve excellence by getting there faster and less expensively.

IT is not of strategic importance to your company, it is a commodity. Still, it can be an accelerator. It is the piece that will allow you to get there faster than everyone else. Every now and then though you might break the rules and find that it pays off.

Our job is to figure out what we should be implementing. It canÃ.‚¬™t be done if you donÃ.‚¬™t know the technology. When was the last time that you walked through code? Systems development is where we have the greatest ability to get there faster. We should never be at the mercy of our developers. I believe itÃ.‚¬™s our responsibility as a management team to understand all the pieces.

Bringing in the donuts

Doing whatever it takes sometimes means coming in on a Saturday. Somebody has to bring in the coffee and donuts, and sometimes it is my day. Other times IÃ.‚¬™ll sit down with developers to review their code or with a technician to pick apart a PC. At the end of the day there shouldnÃ.‚¬™t be anything within your department that is beneath you. And, you canÃ.‚¬™t fit all of it into a 40- or 50-hour work week.

The CIO position is just like being a quarterback. YouÃ.‚¬™re the person that the cameras are most frequently focused on, but at the end of the day, the quarterback is only one position on the team. CIOs happen to have a key role in trying to motivate the team and push it in the right direction. TheyÃ.‚¬™re depending on us for that.

I take one percent of my salary and give it back to my people. Sometimes IÃ.‚¬™ve walked around with hundred dollar bills, and IÃ.‚¬™ll hand those out to team members that I think have done a fantastic job. Sometimes itÃ.‚¬™s a night out at the bar on me. I do it because they are making me successful.

Getting out in the field

How well do you know your people Ã.‚¬" not just the office staff, but those in the stores? You canÃ.‚¬™t sit back in an ivory tower and assume that youÃ.‚¬™re building the right things. You learn so much by going out in the stores.

When I think about great CEOs, a consistent factor is that they work 70 plus hours a week. I believe the same is necessary in our industry. ThatÃ.‚¬™s what it takes to get the job done, to motivate people, and to understand the technology and stay current. You canÃ.‚¬™t do it in less than 70 hours and still get out in the field.

Are you willing to do what it takes to get the job done? When a new language comes out, I take the time to go through one of the books. I donÃ.‚¬™t need to be an expert, but I need to know what IÃ.‚¬™m expecting my team to do.

When I take a look at what I do and what my team does and compare us to others, I take a look at the amount of passion that we have. I read a book and recently one of the things that it asked: Ã.‚¬Å"How passionate and willing are you to take yourself and your company from good to great? Is good, good enough for you or do you want to be great?Ã.‚¬ When everything is a commodity, our passion is what can set us apart.

Jeff Chasney is executive vice president and CIO at CKE Restaurants. This column was adapted from his keynote address at the 2005 MURTEC Conference.

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