Excerpted from Six-Word Lessons to Think Like a Modern-Day CIO.
In early 2013, I was just returning to my office at the Microsoft Redmond campus, when my phone rang. It was Kevin Turner’s administrative assistant. At the time, about half the employees at Microsoft reported up to Kevin, and it was not normal to get time with him.
I heard, “Jim, can you come to Kevin’s office right now?”
I answered, “Of course,” like I could have answered differently, but then I added, “Can you tell me why?”
A pause inspired a thrill of panic in me, “He will tell you when you get here.” I won’t try to explain all that went through my head on the way over to Kevin’s office.
I soon discovered that our CIO, Tony Scott, had decided to leave the company to take care of a family situation. Kevin told me that he wanted me to play the interim CIO while they conducted a search for the best person for the job.
Suddenly, my peers worked for me. Kind of. Temporarily. Scarily. Fortunately, I didn’t want the job. My next career goal was to go back into the product groups. So, I pulled my peers together and asked their permission to play the role. I said we couldn’t afford to lose the momentum we’d started. The company couldn’t afford for us to pause while they found us a new leader. We determined to accelerate our progress, so we could better set up our new leader when that someone was found. We drove a new mantra, “Create tomorrow, deliver today,” recognizing it had to be both simultaneously. I got to evangelize a new narrative to the organization, starting with many beliefs that had to change.
Seven months later, after exhausting other options and seeing our material progress, I was asked to take on the official CIO title without the word “interim.” I was too invested to say no, and could now start making bigger changes, giving the team permission to break some more old norms.
Jim DuBois is the former CIO of Microsoft and a highly sought speaker and advisor to the world's largest companies. He is the author of Six-Word Lessons to Think Like a Modern-Day CIO.