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Method CIO December 16, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Technology.
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It is said that during the filming of Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman stayed up for several days to appear appropriately disheveled for a particular scene in the film.  When his costar, Lawrence Olivier, asked why, Hoffman explained that method actors were trained to actually experience the role they were playing.  Olivier replied, “Why don’t you try acting?”

While actors may choose to act or to use Stanislavski’s classic Method, I don’t think that CIOs have that luxury.  To be effective, a CIO needs to be a Method CIO: directly experiencing the systems, technologies, and platforms that they will subsequently select, acquire, deploy, and manage.  It is not enough to consider technology at arm’s length.  Technology must be experienced first-hand to be fully understood.

I have always embraced technology, long before I moved into a management role.  Even when I held technical positions, it became clear that reading about new things was not the same as using and exploring them.  The technology we use is too unpredictable, with side effects and unintended consequences that can only be discovered through first-hand use.

I can remember the first time I tinkered with a PC, or used email, or set up a network, or created a web page, or configured a RAID array, or used any of a hundred tools that have since become part of the technical fabric of our lives. My expectations of the technology were dramatically different from my actual experience.  The longer I used the tool, the more I discovered about it.  The lessons learned and the overall experience made it much easier for me to understand the system and be able to decide how and when to use it.

Even as I’ve shifted away from a direct technical role, I’ve stuck with my decision to directly experience as much technology as I can.  That’s why I blog, and use social media tools, and experiment with mobile devices.  It’s not that these tools hold a sudden fascination for me.  Instead, they are simply the next generation of potentially useful technologies that may or may not matter to me and my company.  I’m expected to be able to evaluate these tools for their personal, professional, and corporate potential.  I can’t do that effectively without directly using them until my curiosity is satisfied.

Obviously, no one has the time (or the wherewithal) to try everything that crosses their path.  We have to use some discretion to sort out the potentially valuable tools from those that may not be worth a look right now.  Even the list of potential tools can be long and unmanageable; that’s when we need to engage other like-minded folks to experience those tools and share their impressions.  Others who share the enthusiasm for the “Technical Method” can be a tremendous help in sorting through the ever-increasing amount of stuff that comes our way.

With all due respect for Sir Olivier, I think that Method CIOs develop a deeper understanding of the technology they manage.  Were Dustin Hoffman ever to turn his attention to IT management, I suspect he would agree.

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1. Kevin Mazur - December 16, 2009

Do you think it is important to try the technologies that your company and users use or is it better to embrace things outside of their current view?

2. Chuck Musciano - December 16, 2009


Seriously, the things they currently use should have been in your radar before you decided to deploy them. The things you are testing now should be the things you will deploy to them as their needs mature.

I like to make sure that I have experienced every tool we currently deploy to our users. I am not qualified to test them all, but I like to have a feel for what is in use and how well it may or may not work.

3. Peter Kretzman - December 16, 2009

Outstanding post, Chuck. I’m in full agreement with your thrust. I recently posted an article on “Staying tech-savvy as a CIO”, which is consistent with your thinking. http://www.peterkretzman.com/2009/11/09/keeping-a-semblance-of-staying-tech-savvy-as-a-cio/

Curiously, my sense is that relatively few CIOs do this at all, and the ones that do often go overboard. Keeping a balance is difficult yet key.

4. Blogs for December 2009 « A CIO's Voice - December 17, 2009

[…] Method CIO by Chuck Musciano […]

5. scottpriestley - December 17, 2009


Great post! I think your view of the individual being aligned with both the business and the technology is excellent. I wish our company worked with more CIO’s like yourself. Unfortunately, many of our clients have missed the needed integration in these roles and suffer from an either/or scenario – the functional MBA who has moved “up” into a CIO role from another operational area or a “technical genius” who has been promoted out of his or her “comfort zone”.

Thanks for this enlightening post – I’ll be sure to share it with our clients.

Best Regards,
Scott Priestley
Lionshare Software, Inc.
web: http://www.lionsharesoftware.com
blog: http://www.scottpriestley.com

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