We have started a series called Leading in Crisis. Today we caught up with the CIO of Serta Simmons Bedding, Roxanne Seymour. She guides us through the highs and lows executive leadership amid COVID-19. Is your company focused on security right now? If not, they should be. We talk about everything from hackers, attackers, and bad actors to communication and team morale.
[00:01 - 02:10] Opening Segment
Did you see anything like this coming when you thought about starting 2020?
- IT professionals look for disasters and cyber security breaches and anticipate unexpected downtime, but we never saw anything like this coming
[02:11 - 16:47] How a CIO Leads Through Crisis
- Tell us a little bit about your role before and after COVID-19, what has shifted for you?
- The pandemic started to impact the business in February 2020
- We begin to move into disaster recovery mode
- We begin to pull the trigger on our contingency plans
- We shifted the entire organization to work from home
- What usually takes months to change we are changing in days and hours
- We needed extra layers of security for multifactor authentication
- Have you ever led during a crisis like this before? Did any of those principles transfer to the crisis we are in right now?
- Most IT professionals do experience some level of IT disruption in their career
- We applied some of the principles from previous disasters to this one
- You have to communicate first and foremost and then roll up your sleeves and do whatever needs to be done
- As an IT Executive what does it look like to communicate what is happening with the other executives? And what are some of the big goals you are talking about right now?
- We talk about capability and capacity from an infrastructure prospective
- Are all of the remote users up and working and productive?
- Will our network allow for this type of capacity?
- We are also focused on security. This is the time when hackers, attackers, and bad actors will come at you from a company or infrastructure perspective
- Fishing scams are a big part of what hackers will do to get and steal the information
- We need to have lots of information to all members of the organization. To do so I:
- Communicate with the IT organization daily
- Communicate with the Executive Team 3 times a week with network status, security posture, and new capabilities
- Did you size down the number of IT initiatives because of COVID?
- We are focused on two initiatives right now:
- Security – ensuring we keep productivity up
- New Capabilities - we have had to go direct to consumer due to the crisis
- Launching a new product line in a couple of days is unheard of
- When you go from months to days to get a new product out the door it takes a lot of IT interaction and support
- What have you been learning about your own leadership in this season?
- I am having to increase the frequency of my communication ten-fold
- As a leader we need to be real and raw
- We need to acknowledge what people are going through in order to help them and keep them focused.
- It is important to communicate frequently; in simple, clear, transparent and engaging ways.
- Are you doing long term planning in a time like this?
- We are doing both. We are looking to see what is out there for us as a business, but we also must keep the tactical and operational things going every day.
- When our plants close and open there is a lot of IT support needed to flex
- What would advise leaders to do at a time like this?
- Keep a clear head and remain calm
- Make decisions quickly and process your data points quickly
- The business climate is changing, and you must make IT decisions that could make or break the business
- You must be brave in your choices and communicate the risks of your decisions, but you must be sure that you make those decisions with a contingency plan.
- Favor reversable decisions over one-way options
- Make decisions that you can change on a dime
[16:48 - 19:07] Closing Segment
Any final thoughts?
- I have had to step up my communications in this season
- I send regular communications to the IT organization, I regularly blog now, and make sure that I keep things light with the IT nerd joke of the day
“You must be brave in your choices and communicate the risks of your decisions.” – Roxanne Seymour
“You have to be sure that you make those decisions with a contingency plan.” – Roxanne Seymour
“Favor reversable decisions over one-way options.” – Roxanne Seymour
Resources mentioned in the episode:
You can connect with Roxanne on Linkedin or visit her company’s website at www.sertasimmons.com
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