The first thing to understand about leadership is that effective leaders don’t get anything done. They build organizations that get things done.

The second thing to understand is that effective leaders must master eight capabilities – eight tasks, which are (1) setting direction; (2) making decisions; (3) staffing; (4) delegating; (5) motivating; (6) managing team dynamics; (7) engineering the organizational culture; and (8) communicating.

Third: Each of the eight tasks takes time – something that’s in short supply for most business executives on a typical day at the office.

Fourth? The caliber of leadership in an organization determines, more than any other single factor, the organization’s success.

One more: Many of those in leadership positions don’t particularly enjoy practicing the leadership craft. Given a choice between leading people and just telling them what to do and hoping for the best, hoping, for a certain class of executive, has a lot of appeal.

All of which helps explain, to a significant extent, the excitement many business executives seem to be feeling about artificial intelligence right now. Staff a business with AIs instead of human beings and the need to review resumes and interview applicants goes away, as does motivating the employees they’ve hired, managing team dynamics, and engineering culture.

As for communicating, that changes from listening, informing, persuading, and facilitating to the weirdly conceived “prompt engineering” … apparently, AIs aren’t I enough that they can understand what’s needed from them without translation services provided by actual humans.

It’s enough to make you wonder why you should rely on Google Translate and its competitors.

There’s one more aspect of AI’s appeal as a replacement Homo sapiens that needs attention: From the perspective of running a business, many aspects of staffing are, if we’re going to be honest with one another, annoying. Humans, but not automata, disagree with management about what constitutes fair compensation. Treat humans poorly and they become grumpy and don’t give their work their best effort. Treat them worse and they’ll complain about their managers to HR, and there’s a whole process for that.

Then there’s benefits. Health insurance isn’t just expensive. It also requires a whole department just to administer it. Not to mention the complexities associated with tracking PTO.

We’ve all read the polls, surveys, and person-in-the-street interviews reporting employee concerns about AIs taking jobs away from we mere mortals.

What I haven’t seen is frank acknowledgement that, all things considered, the executives responsible for determining how the work of the business should get done can’t get rid of those pesky human employees (PHEs) fast enough.

Here’s what else I haven’t seen: Advice to our fellow PHEs that we need to frame the conversation about PHE replacement, not as hand-wringing worry and guilt, but as a matter of competitive advantage and disadvantage. That is, PHEs are competing with AIs for each job in the organization. They (You? We?) need strategies for making ourselves more desirable than the AIs that are positioned to replace us.

One possibility, to get things started, is rooted in the difference, celebrated in There’s No Such Thing as an IT Project, between processes and practices. Briefly, processes result in organizations “designed by geniuses to be run by idiots.” With process, the intelligence of experts is codified in the step-by-step process specification. With a practice, in contrast, success comes from the expertise of its practitioners.

Project management is a practice. An assembly line is a process. And right now, much of the opportunity for AI to supplant PHEs in the organization is in the process domain, where AIs probably will prove superior.

But process isn’t the only way to get work done in the business, and the role of AI in business practices will be quite different. Just as personal computers and smartphones have already resulted in “computer-enhanced humanity,” AI-based “Computer-even-more-enhanced humanity” can yield business practices that supplant rigidly specified business processes, resulting in quantum leaps in business flexibility and adaptability.

Bob’s last word: Viewed from the potential computer-enhanced humanity has for replacing inflexible processes with adaptable business practices, replacing human beings with AIs becomes a choice, not an inevitability. But PHEs can’t rely on business leaders to figure this out on their own.

It will be up to the PHEs of the world to make the pitch, and make it convincingly.

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Now on CIO risk-taking 101: “Playing it safe isn’t safe.” But then, neither is reckless risk-taking.

Between real innovation and lots of marketing, the IT world is awash with newer, better solutions—for a specific business need or part of the organization.  This is a great time for software entrepreneurs and people with specific itches that need scratching.  Your business colleagues are finding amazing, innovative solutions they believe they can easily implement on their own. Whether it’s a SaaS tool, a mobile app, or an Excel plug-in, IT’s friends in the business think they can pull together a solution without involving the IT organization. We have arrived in the Golden Age of Shadow IT.

This column has talked about Shadow IT (aka “rogue IT,” aka “DIY IT,” many times before , and this particular blog post probably won’t be the last. What we Professionals need to do is change our way of thinking about this, and embrace the change, starting here, with a shiny new title. From here on in, “CIO” stands for Chief Integration Officer.

Well, what in the ham sandwich does this mean?  It means that our job has always been to focus the organization we lead on the hardest IT problems. And integration, my friends, is, of all IT’s responsibilities, front and center as the hardest. It’s harder than Operations (let me know if I need to address this in a future post). It’s harder than coding new functionality. And it’s harder than configuring COTS solutions (commercial, off-the-shelf solutions) to support how the business works.

What makes integration so hard is that, as someone once said, software is just an opinion. Integration means reconciling differences of these opinions – as hard to do with software as with human beings who disagree about political points of view.

I don’t mean to pooh-pooh all of the other priorities that you are also juggling. Security gives us all night terrors, legacy systems might stop “keeping the joint running” (sorry), and user support or hardware takes up a lot of time.

But integration matters more. To understand why, explore what happens when you don’t have it: “swivel-chairing” becomes the norm for creating a unified view of business data; manual re-keying becomes the norm for data synchronization; and when a business manager asks a question of two different databases they get conflicting answers.

Meanwhile, vendors are churning out useful solutions to vexing business problems, and at a pace internal IT can’t hope to match. Which is why addressing the need for integration by trying to stomp out DIY IT is like King Canute ordering the tide to stay away – a hopeless strategy. It’s why IT must master the fine art of Integration Engineering to meet these challenges. And it’s why CIOs must become Chief Integration Officers.

This change in perspective shouldn’t trigger our territorial instincts. That vendors are providing great solutions to vexing problems, and business users can deploy them without impinging on IT’s bandwidth, means everyone benefits. We’re merely changing our focus to where we’re needed the most—ensuring there is a clean, safe, complete architecture that meets the organization’s goals – especially its integration goals.

Over the years at the company I work for, we have found that the more we build integration into how we work with our clients’ teams, the more our clients trust us to deliver what they need the most, building friends along the way. We are seen as allies, slaying dragons together, as dragon-slaying entails managing the complex, multidimensional challenges of data models, asynchronous system event timing, creating a common operating picture, and creating fused information products that propel data-driven decisions.   Embracing integrations as a principal competency of our work helps eliminate the classic “Business vs. IT” nonsense that drives all parties crazy.

If you’re a CIO, this column is meant to convince you that your job title is changing. If you work in IT’s trenches it’s meant to help you prepare for what’s coming.

The next few columns will be about some of the practical considerations, and more importantly, how to have conversations about these considerations.

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Bob watch: Currently appearing in’s CIO Survival Guide: Managing CEO expectations is this year’s Priority No. 1.