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The Whores of IT: Budget Cuts Force Us to Walk Streets, Roam Coffee Shop, Actually Talk to Customers to “Serve” Them

The budget axe here just came down and now all of IT has been asked to actually provide “service” to “customers.” WTF? I didn’t get into this business to listen to lusers complain about their problems:  RTFM, my friend, RTFM. What do they think we do, anyway? I just had help a faculty “member” “back up” his “hard drive.”  I feel so dirty.

Today I sat at my desk, door open, and read a magazine

It was awesome. I try to do a little professional reading every day but usually I sneak it in because it always feels as if I’m not really “working” when I’m reading. But it is important to keep on top of trends, to hear about what others are doing, to make connections, etc. So today I decided it was time to come out of the closet. Whoever walked by invariably stopped in to chat, which they don’t do if I’m at the computer. Quite nice. Sitting there, reading, as the emails poured in….unopened, unread, unanswered. Ah, good times.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning….

Louis Gerstner in “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance” argues that you need a crisis to create true cultural change. I attended a NITLE seminar on cloud computing and two CIOs discussed their move to Google Apps–email specifically. In both cases, their current email systems were collapsing and everyone was unhappy. So, the move to Google went quickly and smoothly.  I wonder what our crisis will be? Economy, anyone?

Choose Your Own Budget Cut: the Univ. of AZ way

The University of Arizona has announced a really clever way to cut money, generate new ideas, and promote transparency in decision making: they’re soliciting white paper proposals as part of their “Transformation Information and Communication” plan. So far, 75 teams of faculty and staff have submitted proposals. You can read them all online. In particular, their CIO submitted one on “Transforming Technology Support” and the comments alone show the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding 1) central and/or/vs decentral IT and 2) public comments generally.

Abilene Paradox, or, All My Exes Live in Texas

I’ve seen dysfunctional organizations where the lower level staff knew, more or less, 80% of the cause for the organization’s dysfunction and knew, more or less, 100% of the solution to those causes. But for some reason that information never got shared appropriately. So as the CTO, I now live in fear that I’m replicating the same environment: that as much as I try to solicit input and feedback, at the end of the day folks aren’t speaking up and/or I’m not listening and that all our changes will be lousy as a result. I found out that one form … Continue Reading

What he said

This presentation by Adrian Sannier (UTO at ASU) will cost you about 72 minutes of your life. But it’s worth it if you’re interested in what the future holds for us IT’ers in higher ed. I’m considering showing it to all the IT staff at our next staff meeting and to the dreaded advisory group too. I think Sannier’s right on the money with where we should be going and what we should be doing. The question is: how much do we let our culture and internal politics affect these ideas, our plans, and doing … Continue Reading

Somewhere, a creepy little girl is saying “You’re all going to die”

that was the comforting conclusion I provided at our directors’ meeting today…. What to do when you feel overwhelmed by the immediate at the expense of the important? What to do when you feel there’s not enough strategery or as if people are creating fires just to be able to react and avoid el photo grande? At times like this, I suggested, recall what benefits, what satisfaction you personally derive from your job. Sometimes, in the balance between personal/professional and organizational development you should lean more towards what makes you happy. Then, at least, you’re happy. Even if … Continue Reading

OOPS! I’m sorry, you do not have root access to your culture

So, you have your organizational operating principles and system (OOPS): some cultural system which enables some mysterious blend of strategies, tactics, personal advancement, informal networks, formal hierarchies, self-interest, etc. In higher ed, you probably have at least three OOPSies in place: one each for faculty, students, and staff. For illustrative purposes only, let’s consider what those OOPS are likely to be, in the form of actual operating systems:

  • the staff would be Microsoft Windows
  • the faculty would be a delicious battle between a) Mac OS X, b) Fedora/Ubuntu/Debian, and c) Windows 95
  • the students would be “Huh?” and “FACEBOOK, FACEBOOK, FACEBOOK! … Continue Reading

Operating Systems for Organizations

Coming up on my 6-month anniversary as the new CTO, so I’m in a reflective mood. Today I want to round up some of the pithy sayings shared here to provide a sort of “wisdom of the elders” foundation for whatever comes next…

guiding principles:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu.

–quoted by both Steele403 and G-lo as responses to blog posts

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast – Ford Motor Company

–quoted by Steele403 in a blog commentary

Assuming the above two quotes are basic operating principles for organizations, we should then … Continue Reading

5 Things I’ve Learned or Stolen

In the 6.15 CIO, William Cohen notes 5 things he’s learned from working with Peter Drucker. Three of them resonate with me and are provided below. Then I added two more which I did not steal from William Cohen. Can you guess which are mine?

  1. Nothing gets done without leadership. Or, conversely, with leadership, stuff gets done.
  2. Good leaders are creative, particularly when resources are scarce.
  3. Sometimes, a few of us are smarter than all of us.
  4. Everyone is different: manage your staff around their strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant.
  5. Most of the time, fear influences behavior more than desire. People act more … Continue Reading

We’ve Traced the Call, and It’s Coming from Inside the House

According to my internal staff interviews, folks within my organization want to be more agile, innovative, and proactive, and to improve communication. According to my external interviews, staff and faculty want us to be more responsive, to support more tools across different platforms, and to provide more ongoing guidance and advice. So, the good news is that external and internal assessments and goals are somewhat in sync. The bad news is that I’m not sure our current staff can change to the degree necessary. I mean, if they think agility is important, why aren’t they more agile now? What’s … Continue Reading

Staff Turnover, Or, Are They Dropping Like Flies or Like Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship?

It seems as if every day another staff member quits. At first, I told myself (and the President’s Cabinet) that this was healthy. A healthy organization should have a steady turnover, and it seems like 8-10% is a regularly accepted rate for a healthy organization. Now, though, with two new resignations, 14% of my staff are OUTTA here, Jack.

Because I’m new, I’m actually not worried. I figure this is an opportunity to get fresh blood. Hell, it’s not MY fault they quit, not yet. But what are the danger signs to a CTO regarding staff turnover?

Continue Reading

Two things I want to check out and possibly inflict on my staff

1. The book When You Say Yes but Mean No: How Silencing Conflict Wrecks Relationships and Companies… and What You Can Do About I by Leslie Perlow. I’m hoping some of the exercises might help us all feel more comfortable speaking up. HAHAHAHAHAH. No, seriously. We could use all the help we can get.

2. Kaizen –is this just old 80’s management talk or is it actually helpful or is it both?

The Honeymoon Game

At Friday’s all staff meeting I handed out index cards and asked everyone to complete three sentences:

  1. When I think about our organization, the word that comes to mind is:
  2. I wish I worked for an organization that was:
  3. I want us to be more:

The exercise reminded me of that 70’s game show The Honeymoon Game. And, yes, I realize that this dates me horribly. I’m a very old mean lady. Just FYI.

Here are the answers:

  1. helpful; campus technology problem solvers; monolithic; sluggish; support; technology (two people wrote this); work; jack of all trades/master of none/emergency room; mistrusted; technology driven; technical; incoherent; computers; dysfunctionally … Continue Reading