Nickolai Walker: [00:00:08] Welcome back, everyone, to the studio. I am your host, Nikolai Walker. I am joined today in studio with Casey Kleindienst, who is the director of Supply Chain Management. So, Casey, I want to fire off the first question for you today: Would you agree that a CTO is merely or really just an entrepreneur who loves technology? I mean, CTOs have to be able to show the vision, show the sacrifices that will be made to get to that vision and then translate that to actual activities. Would you agree?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:00:40] Well, that’s a tall order. Yeah. That requires a lot of skill.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:00:44] That would satisfy me that if I was the CEO and that was the person you’re describing was the CTO that had that vision.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:01:02] That’s who I want. I want someone that can make my business better. That means they understand the business and they are speaking, you know, bringing that software and that business requirement together. That’s the package. It’s just I suppose it’s, you know, developing a little thicker skin and realizing ultimately that if you deliver the truth, then it’s the best that the stakeholder can can expect.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:01:44] What a brilliant tie back to the truth.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:01:48] It’s the truth. A friend of mine once said it’s the transferring of enthusiasm.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:01:55] Yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, what causes agreement is conviction. You know, sales, the reason sales were successful, because they have the conviction of what they’re selling, the conviction, because that’s what translates and the price disappears. The cost disappears.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:02:22] The way you’re characterizing it right now is part of the problem, because that’s where you go to in your head, is you as the founder will think, well, what am I paying these guys to do?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:02:33] Yes. Yes. And so in telling the story of the value to the business is the conviction that this is really good for our business and you want this regardless of how long it takes.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:02:49] But then you can’t have an attitude where your shop, you know, is just one big rubber room. And you guys just kick back and, you know, you go play ping pong when you want to.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:03:08] But I think just as I’m riffing with you on this, I think the root of the evil in what we’re trying to uncover here is the fear of saying, I don’t know. The truth, the truth is, hey, CEO, I actually I don’t know what it’s going to take.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:03:29] So any length of time is OK?
Etienne de Bruin: [00:03:34] No, any length of time is not OK. But I just think that how comfortable are C Suite executives with saying, I don’t know, I feel like that is the forbidden answer.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:03:49] Oh, nobody’s comfortable with “I don’t know.” As soon as you get into any kind of leadership decision role, people come to you and they want to ask questions because you’re a decision maker.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:03] So if the CEO says to you, “how long is this going to take?” Is “I don’t know” an acceptable answer?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:04:15] No, hell no.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:16] But it’s the truth.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:04:17] Well, no. It’s not the truth. It’s a starting point. But you do actually have some estimate of how long it’s going to take. Otherwise, you would say an estimate is the truth. It’s what you estimate it to be. You can’t be a blank, slate. You don’t get off on that.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:42] I mean, this is this is where this is where the CTO could be perceived as a…
Nickolai Walker: [00:04:47] Is the word you’re looking for, “Jackass?”
(astronaut voice): [00:04:48] One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:56] At that point, you’re saying it’s under the auspices of hard truth because we don’t know anything.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:05:06] But you’re saying at that point, being a C suite leader, Leadership asks you then to still, you have to put your neck out on something.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:05:18] Well listen, this is strategic, you know. Think of the difficulty in strategic planning. This is what the CEO has to do. The CEO has got to look five years out, see something that doesn’t exist, convince an organization of what it’s going to be, and then move them in that direction and hit that mark five years later. So that’s his role. So how can he look at a CTO and say that, you know, that the CTO can’t forecast and can’t see out there? He has to. You’ve got to be able to to vision a planning horizon that covers anything you want to do. You’ve got to be able to see that far. Otherwise you don’t hold the job because that’s a requirement.
Nickolai Walker: [00:06:21] So if I understand you correctly, Casey, the “I don’t know” is not truthful. So does it move then to fear of commitment and risk aversion?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:06:31] No, it’s just saying this is the estimate. This is the forecast. Everybody operates that way. And then when they find out that they’re wrong or they navigate incorrectly, then they take corrective action. When they monitor, you know, the CEO is looking five years out and he says, I’m going to take the organization in these markets with these products that don’t exist. But he sees it. And and then moving forward, he doesn’t wait five years to see he hit the target or not. He sets up milestones along the way and goes, where are we? You know, the targets fixed. But he’s going off a different direction and he catches in Q2 of the first year. When six months goes by then, you know, they see where they are and they’re starting to drift away from, you know, maybe he needs to go A to B. And so they make a correction. This is basic management responsibility.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:07:31] So, you have to know.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:07:35] I have an intrinsic fear that people listening to this podcast are going to be like, Etienne, these are things you should know. What is your problem?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:07:45] No! Who knows this stuff? You got to be in it to know. If you’ve never done it, you’ve never, you know, jumped off the cliff then you got to jump off the cliff at least once and then you know what it’s like to land.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:08:10] But you’ve been around the block a few times. This is what you’re made for.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:08:21] You’ve got the vision and you have an obligation to tell your programmers how much time you’re going to give them to get the job done. Because, you know, I don’t want this taken 18 months, you understand? Tell me now, because I’m going to get someone else. I am going to get 18 people.
Nickolai Walker: [00:08:50] Yes, sir!
Etienne de Bruin: [00:08:59] Now, that’s interesting Casey. I’m just sort of aware of the challenge in communicating and meeting business goals through implementing technology and corralling the people that do that and then facing facing unknown obstacles or surprise obstacles along the way and then communicating that and then mitigating for that delay and then having that be a daily conversation that sounds like a broken record and demoralizes everybody.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:09:31] Well, as long as you you don’t lose control of the helm, it’s OK.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:09:38] I don’t know that daily conversations are healthy. You know, I think periodic conversations are OK, but keep something on a three by five card. So please write “manage expectations.” That’s imperative. It’s a command. Manage everyone’s expectations. So if you know this is farther than they want, then you’ve got to manage their expectations and make sure that you never part with somebody and that you guys aren’t aligned on what’s going on. Because like I said, I could always take bad news if I’m told what’s going on. Then I can deal with that. It’s when I don’t know and someone else does and they didn’t bother letting me know and they went off and didn’t achieve the goal. Well, that’s not how I want to work.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:10:44] So on the on the three by five card, is that an app or is that a little piece of paper?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:10:51] Well I shifted away from the three by five post its and I have a little app on my window.
Etienne de Bruin: [00:11:03] Hang on. You said to write on there “manage expectations” and then what do I write? Is that just all I write? Can you help me, just so that I can make sure we aren’t making the wrong assumptions, what is the act of managing expectations? Literally what am I doing?
Casey Kleindienst: [00:11:23] That means that you’re going to communicate in such a way to the other party on what’s going to happen. To the best of your knowledge.
Casey Kleindienst: [00:11:36] So again, it’s this alignment between between what you know, because you’re closer to it, and what the other person doesn’t know. If you leave that other person with some expectation of what’s going to happen and it ain’t going to happen, he doesn’t want to find out later on down the road.
Nickolai Walker: [00:12:09] Thanks again, everybody, for joining us here in the studio, and thank you to our guest, Casey Kleindienst, who’s the director of Supply Chain Management. He also is currently a professor at Cal State Fullerton and a little bit of fun facts for you. He was also Etienne’s boss. You can go check out his Linkedin to get more information about him. As always, we do ask, if you are enjoying what you’re listening to, please subscribe to the podcast here in iTunes. Also, go check out 7CTOs.com and we will be back next week with another interview with Casey.