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Lessons learned on the journey to the CIO office

Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson | July 20, 2015
Boeing CIO Ted Colbert discusses how balance and harmony led him to the C-suite at the aerospace and defense giant.

The harmony that comes from that silo-breaking (and the results that come from it) help Colbert better position his IT shop throughout the company. Without it, you're just a service provider, he said. No one expects the cable guy to help you innovate in the rest of your house -- it just doesn't work that way. But blurring the lines, he said, brings real value.

And those approaches are making a difference. Colbert recalled a recent off-site experience with a business leader at Boeing. Literally the week before, they had what Colbert called an "impactful" outage. But the executive didn't mention it--not once. They talked about what they were seeing, how they could take better approaches to challenges the company faced. When you have that level of partnership, Colbert said, everything changes. It becomes all about going over the hill together.

Obviously, building strong, enduring relationships with all the leaders across a company as large and complex as Boeing would present a challenge for any IT executive. But by maximizing his organization's talent and promoting those strengths through his interactions on the executive level, Colbert has created an effective strategy for going over that hill--and taking it.

And in the process, Colbert has brought more clarity to the value he and his organization provides to the company as it embarks on its second century. "Showing up, being a subject-matter expert, and having a point of view is my expectation now," he told us. "It's not about being asked to go figure something out--it's about being there, and pressing the leaders on what's coming and how we need to leverage it.

"You change the conversation by leading the conversation," he continued, "and not allowing it to lead you."


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