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CIOs band together to lift Michigan's fortunes

Julia King | May 6, 2014
Three years ago, when David Behen signed on as the state of Michigan's CIO at the age of 42, he knew he didn't have all the knowledge or experience he would need to do the job. So he did what he says any good leader would do -- he asked for help.

The two also made sure to recruit a mix of leaders from organizations of all sizes in a variety of industries.

The formula seems to have worked: "My sense is people would not participate unless they got benefits," says Wiescinski, "and the fact that the cabinet keeps going on suggests to me that it's of real value."

Talent recruitment and retention is a perfect example, Pickett says. "The state of Michigan is doing a pretty good job of attracting technical talent with all of us working together to enhance that message," he says.

In fact, today's meeting of the Kitchen Cabinet is being held in a former General Motors facility now occupied by Hewlett-Packard, which not only bought and renovated the building, but also brought with it a large number of IT jobs when it moved its public-sector business to the Detroit area.

"With a common goal, the message from Quicken Loans, Penske, Ryder and Beaumont to attract talent is a similar-sounding message," Pickett notes. "The state of Michigan now has a big initiative to attract technical talent, and working together is what has caused the messaging to be consistent."

The guidance and information sharing also extend beyond the regular monthly meetings.

"The big value out of this are the personal relationships," says Rainey. "If you get into a bind professionally, you have a group of people you can reach out to, and a lot of them have experienced the same issues you have."

"You also get a broader perspective," he adds. "One of the risks of public-sector organizations is that they can get very insular. They tend to look at other organizations just like them. I belong to an organization for municipal CIOs, and it's a great organization, but we all have the same constraints and are in the same business. The Kitchen Cabinet puts me in an environment where the people are all different."

"Members are CIOs of the organizations that are the lifeblood of this region. To learn from them, work with them and build relationships with them is of immeasurable value," says cabinet founder Behen. "I can talk to any one of these well-known and well-regarded CIOs. It can be a personal or professional matter, and I know they'll pick up the phone."


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