IT Leaders – Six Steps to Winning a Seat at the Big Table


Some of you already have a seat at the Big Table – you report to the CEO and you’re part of the core executive committee.

But most don’t. Only 46% of IT Leaders(1) report to the CEO. Even fewer are members of the core executive committee.

If you’d like a seat at the big table, you can follow these six steps.


Six Steps to Winning a Seat at the Big Table

Step 1 – Accept

Accept that unless something changes, your current role won’t get you there. For whatever reason, the CEO doesn’t see the scope and impact of your role warranting a seat at the big table.

The onus is on you to initiate a change. The change needs to increase the scope and impact of your role.


Step 2 – Offer a New Insight

But how do you increase your scope and impact? Your boss and the CEO see you as head of IT. Surely, they think, that’s what you should do.

They need a new insight, a new way of seeing how you can contribute to the business.

Here’s the insight –

For strategies to succeed, the company must have execution capability – the underlying ability to execute a strategy.


Execution capability has four elements – processes, systems, people skills and partners.

Your role (systems) is one element of execution capability.

Strategies need all four elements of execution capability to be effective.

But there’s a problem with implementation.


The executive committee sets strategies centrally. Each department then submits an implementation plan. The executive committee reviews and approves each department’s plan. At the start of the year, the plans look good and should deliver the results.

And then implementation starts. Each department works on their own plan. Some move fast, some slow. Some are effective, others not. What started the year as a cohesive plan becomes fragmented and dysfunctional.

And the strategy suffers.

Your new role is to fix that problem.


Step 3 – Have a Program Ready

CEO’s know the importance of execution. They know a lack of execution is the biggest cause of strategy failure. And CEO’s are responsible for both strategy and execution.

You’ve offered a new insight. Now you’ll be asked ‘What do you propose?’


You need to be ready. You need to map out a program the company can follow. It must ensure execution capability.

You’ll need a simple framework for analyzing the business. If it’s too time-consuming or complex, people will lose interest.

The framework needs to consider all four elements of execution capability – processes, systems, people skills and partners.


Your program needs to generate lots of ideas, but then produce a practical plan of action.

You won’t fix every problem immediately. Priorities must be set. All departments need to participate in and agree on the priorities. And each department’s work needs to be part of a single plan.

Your program needs a set of KPI’s. You’ll need to track and report results.


Step 4 – Lead the Program


You may need to take a small step first to convince the CEO and your boss. Propose a high-level analysis of execution capability. Show you can lead a simple analysis that gives real insight into the state of execution capability.

Once you’ve convinced your boss and the CEO about the overall program, you need to lead it.

You’ll need project management skills, something you probably already have. You’ll need to manage mixed reactions to your program – not everyone will share your enthusiasm. Your ability to finesse your way through will show you are ready for more responsibility, more influence in the company.

When you have success, celebrate it. And share the glory. There’ll be lots of people who contributed. Make them look good, and others will want to help you.

When success doesn’t happen, show you can diagnose root causes. And offer a sensible plan to fix the problems. Others may have caused the problem. Try not to ‘throw them under the bus’. They’ll appreciate it and help you more next time.


Step 5 – Make it an Ongoing Program

Your first priority is to ensure the company has execution capability for the current strategies.

But it doesn’t have to stop there.

Your program should provide the foundation for continuous improvement. It should be run every year to ensure execution capability for new or revised strategies. And other business change will occur during the year which requires execution capability to adapt.

Over time, the CEO will rely on you for all aspects of execution capability, not just IT.


Step 6 – Enjoy

CEO’s know execution failure is the biggest cause of strategy failure. Show the CEO you can enable execution capability. You can’t guarantee the success of a strategy, but you can minimize the risk of failure and maximize the returns.

By delivering execution capability, you’ll dramatically increase the scope and impact of your role.

Enjoy your new status.

And be ready for a seat at the big table.

To download this article, click here.


Paul Henderson

Coordinated Capability Pty Ltd

Author of

‘The Chief Capability Officer – Delivering the Capability to Execute’

‘Outcome Your Customers – Creating Amazing Growth and Customer Stickiness’ to be published in Sept 2017




  • From the Society for Information Management (SIM) 2017 Trends and Analysis report, as reported by Peter High in his Nov 21, 2016 article ‘CIO’s Top Three Concerns for 2017: Alignment, Security, Skill Shortage’