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Engines under repair; presently traveling under impulse power

Or at least, that’s what it feels like. Getting geared up for the new Star Trek movie; it’s my Obi Wan of movies–my only hope. Work? What? Oh, yeah. Work is fine. Today someone asked me if we should have a confidentiality notice in all our emails. You know, that thing that says something about how this is confidential and if you received this email by mistake you need to, I dunno, repent or something. The economy’s going to hell; tuition’s on the rise while admissions on the down low, and folks are worried about a confidentiality notice? Why don’t … Continue Reading

Day 2, Year 2: Like yesterday, but with cake

My staff surprised me with a cake today! This was nice. I Reflected Grandly…. here’s what I said:

What I did well:

  • made some good hires
  • get us all wiki’ing ‘n stuff
  • reconvened all the various technology planning groups
  • clarified project priorities
  • got my budget passed which included a very large request to go completely wireless in all dorms
  • built some good relationships on campus and with some vendors
  • got us off to a good start with our strategic plan

What needs improvement:

  • I underestimated our difficulty executing complicated projects. I need to micromanage this or manage it more closely (depending on your attitude and expectations).
  • The community here wants me … Continue Reading

A conversation I had on campus

Person: How was the Apple thing?

Me: It was great, a nice change of pace. It reminded me how we need to focus on what’s important and not just give all our attention to what’s immediate.

Person: But what’s immediate is so screwed up!

Me: But it’s always screwed up. That’s not to say we won’t fix what’s broken, but it’s never going to be perfect. If we focus on the immediate at the expense of the important then nothing will be fundamentally changed or improved.

Person: But your team has some big problems!

Me: Look, our website hasn’t crashed in months, our mail has … Continue Reading

Some Intel Intel

John Johnson, CIO at Intel, presented at the Apple Summit on his reorg and the performance of his team over the past 4 years. Here’s what he did from 2005 to 2009:

  • staff went from 7500 to 5700
  • 5.2 staff per manager grew to 10 staff per manager
  • 1600 enterprise apps decreased by 850
  • 150 data centers decreased to 75
  • IT projects went from over 80 weeks TTM (time to market/money) to less than 26 weeks
  • IT spending as a percent of revenue went from over 4% to about 3%

You can see his annual reports at http://www.intel.com/it/apr.htm

On My Way To Apple, and For This Conference I Swear I Won’t Stay Up All Night Watching Netflix On Demand (or Hulu)

Tomorrow I hit the Apple Summit. Should be fun and informative IF the following occurs:

  • I get enough sleep
  • I manage to control the unfortunate lisp my new braces have caused (I don’t want to talk about it)
  • I don’t feel obliged to spend all my “downtime” with email
  • I manage to loosen the shackles of the Immediate to reflect on the Important

Team Bonding Has Nothing to Do with Bondage

Just FYI.

But tonight as a team bonding event we’re going to one of the largest conveyer belt sushi restaurants in the country. I’m not sure why people want to eat food off a conveyor belt, but I’m game. All I can think of is the scene with Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory. When I’m done, they’re going to have to roll me out of there.

Other good team bonding events I’ve particpated in have been beach trips & BBQs, bumper boats–that was really fun, jet skis, golf–both mini and “real”, and bowling. The events have been most successful when … Continue Reading

Of Cows and Virtual Fences

Slashdot linked to a story about “virtual fences,” or radio devices on cows which will allow you to issue commands remotely. What’s most interesting is the researchers note you don’t need to put a radio device on all cows, just the “leader” cows. Apparently, cows follow cows like lambs to the slaughter… They estimate that only 3% of all cows are “leader” cows. Just a little Monday aMOOsement….

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

Leadership Lessons from My Dog

I received a link to this nice article “Leadership lessons from my daughter.” It was thoughtful of the author to share how being a parent has helped make him a better leader. Although I have no children, I do have a dog, and so I thought I would share the lessons my dog has taught me.

  1. Yelling can create a powerful and immediate reaction and can achieve positive results, if used sparingly. Otherwise, it’s not yelling–you just seem to talk loudly a lot.
  2. Formal authority totally works! I’m the pack leader and my dog knows it. I feed her and … 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

Need More Cowbell: applying 80’s technology to 60’s work processes

Technology has allowed us to communicate more quickly. It hasn’t improved the content of our communications nor has it changed the somewhat linear nature of our communication in the workplace. That is, we don’t present budget proposals as multimedia sensory experiences nor do we incorporate other experiences into everyday meetings, though we could. Instead, we essentially work the same way our parents did, just with more speed and intrusion. So it’s more stressful. Isn’t that nice? I want to begin my next staff meeting in a dark room. Then I want to hear some bass, with maybe a flicker … Continue Reading

Tammy! on our organizational goals

Today I met with the directors in a 3-hour goal setting meeting. At the end of the 3 hours, we had a bunch of goals only quasi-related to our teams, our strategies, our to-do lists, etc. A lot of our goals had to do with reorganization. I asked everyone who had a reorg/restructure plan to indicate what problem s/he thinks this reorg will solve. That way, when we present our plans to the broader staff, we’re presenting a set of problems with proposed solution. It will be easier to get feedback if folks know the problems we are trying to … Continue Reading

Ethics, or, yeah, we are reading your email

Yesterday’s “spam-a-lot” (see below) episode led to a system administrator looking into the complainant’s email box to check on the spam filters. While looking in said email box, the sys admin saw an email from yours truly, read it, and noted I was referencing a “how-to” URL on our website which, unfortunately, was giving out wrong instructions. He mentioned this to another staff member who then asked me what she should do. I noted to her, after taking a deep breath and glancing at the SAGE Code of Ethics I put on my white board in honor of the … Continue Reading

Top 10 Smackdown

I’m all about smackdowns at the moment. Here’s the latest. Today I finished our reaccreditation self-study. That means I wrote a long report analyzing the effectiveness of our organization for a committee which will never read it. I’m pretty certain about that.

In the IT self-study I provide evidence supporting what I see as our top 10 issues. They are:

1. Strategic planning

Continue Reading

Friday Night Leadership Smackdown: the final frontier

badass-yoda.jpg VS tinkerbell.png

Why give people computers?

We’re moving toward an allowance system for cellphone and pdas. So, we won’t buy them for people anymore, we’ll just give you money towards whatever plan you’re currently on or would like. At least, this is my intention; my proposal hasn’t been approved officially yet. What I like about this plan is that people won’t have to carry two devices; one for work and one for home, and they can just use their personal device for work and receive compensation toward that.

So, let’s extend the idea to workplace computers. Why provide them? Why not give everyone … Continue Reading

Managing vs Leading

At today’s directors’ meeting, we discussed the differences between managing and leading. We were inspired by this quote from Warren Bennis:

“Leaders are people who do the right things. Managers are people who do things right. We are underled and overmanaged.”

Leaders direct, align, motivate, strategize, engage, coach, empower, communicate, and reward. Managers plan, organize, coordinate, control, monitor, allocate, communicate, and reward.

Here are two signs that you may be managing more than leading:

  1. you focus on the immediate at the expense of the important
  2. you think “working harder” is an actual strategy

Here are antidotes to the above:

  1. understand that … Continue Reading

What if Doodle 4 Google really does tells us something about our future leaders?

Check out the Doodle 4 Google project. Kids made doodles of the Google logo to address the theme “what if?” and you can vote on the finalists. Reviewing them en masse in about 5 seconds, I would say that apparently, kids want us to save the rainforest and create peace. Bastards!!!!

However, at least one youth has a future in IT. Here’s her caption to her doodle (and her doodle looks it was done by the spawn of Salvador Dali and the evil kid Sid from “Toy Story”):

“What if our reliance on machinery to … Continue Reading

Friday Night Leadership Smackdown: the next generation

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Bandwidth: it’s pretty much essential

When I arrived on campus, I noticed how few people carried laptops. I seemed to be the only person at meetings with a laptop, and this included IT meetings. Then I realized we didn’t have ubiquitous wireless. And then I realized that our bandwidth is saturated, even with our packet shaping tricks. And then I realized that until we increase our bandwidth, all of my visions for ubiquitous wireless, 802.11n pilots, VOIP, virtual computing labs, videoconferencing, etc. are doomed to fail.

Without the basics in place, you can’t really afford to be strategic. Or, I guess I have a strategy, it’s … Continue Reading

Friday Night Leadership Smackdown

bsg1.jpg VS picard

Tomorrow I Address the Cabinet

for the first time… in addition to giving them some updates about my activities and our future projects, I will also be providing:

First impressions

  • communication isn’t consistent or effective, both internally and externally
  • significant community frustration regarding relatively “easy to fix” problems, e.g. problems for which the solution is known (though resources may be scarce)
  • internal to my team, we have lots of management, little leadership

and I will ask The Big Question: What do you want IT to be? Pick one:

  1. A commodity? We support the business and have automated business processes.
  2. A … Continue Reading

Golf Noob

I’m going to a CTO/CIO summit in early June and was asked if I wanted to join in the pre-summit golf game. Now I feel I finally fit my power suit. Hell with the environmental issues, I’ve just called the local pro and asked for lessons. I believe at least one of my readers lives on a golf course. Sorry I didn’t take you up on your offer before when I lived in the same state as you….

However, I was thinking, why is golf the CIO/CTO game? Shouldn’t it be a mega-round of Halo, preferably with us each sitting … Continue Reading

Starting to Sink

Email enters inbox always.

Petty problems appear permanently.

Customers complain constantly.

Strategy suffocates under the scraps,

weighed by the weary world.

Snatch the pebble, little grasshopper!

I can’t let the petty stuff get in the way of el photo grande. Must remove trees to see forest. Wait, where are the trees?

Hey, You Sunk My Battleship!, or a bowling ball and a feather fall at exactly the same rate

I had a horrible “aha” moment on the flight back from Minneapolis, where I was attending CNI. One of the reasons I decided to leave a large R1 university to come to a small liberal arts college was because I thought it would be easier to transform this organization. If a large R1 university is an aircraft carrier which takes hours to turn around, then surely a small liberal arts college is like a Coast Guard lifeboat–agile and fast.

But then I realized I was wrong.

Yes, the R1 is an aircraft carrier on the open sea. But the … Continue Reading

Oops, we outsourced innovation!

Everyone’s overwhelmed keeping up with the routine. We’re all managing email, upgrading file servers, customizing widgets for departmental apps, re-imaging and troubleshooting desktops, blah blah blah. When we hear about something new or cool or exciting, it’s hard to find the time to pilot it, let alone making the infrastructure shifts that are sometimes necessary to accommodate it. Infrastructure shifts? Like changing identity management systems, or file systems, web servers, etc. These are big projects which, when done successfully, are completely invisible to the end user yet result, eventually, in a much better, more responsive, more stable, more attractive … Continue Reading

New Cool Thing

A while back I mentioned the Kindle and then everyone commented on why the Kindle would not be the next new cool thing. So, today, I was thinking some more about this and decided it would be cool to give all my staff cell phones and then track their whereabouts using GPS and map this data onto their productivity so I would know who to fire first and would also get the bead on our informal network so I can see who’s stepping outside the chain of command. I found this … Continue Reading

The Medium is the Message, or: Talk is Cheap (Show me the money)

As noted earlier, I’ve been interviewing colleagues and my staff to get a sense of their goals as well as their fears, concerns, and desires regarding technology. During these interviews, I sometimes get feedback that my predecessor’s style was not viewed as successful, and often people note how different I seem.

Then, this afternoon, I was reviewing some old files, and I came across my predecessor’s notes. There was a list of questions which was very similar to my questions as well as a spreadsheet indicating who had been interviewed and the results. Deja vu all over again! A … Continue Reading

Why I Want to Rule My Tiny World, part 2

In part 1 I wrote about why I wanted to be an IT leader; now I’ll note why I wanted to move from a large research university to a small liberal arts college. Essentially, my reasons boil down to wanting to have the greatest impact with the least amount of political cruft. I think that if I”m successful, I could help this college be more competitive, be more innovative, operate with greater efficiency, and attract desirable students, faculty, and staff. Because this is a relatively small institution, I hope that it will be easier to pilot new technologies, … Continue Reading

Why I Want to Rule My Tiny World

A couple of people have asked me why I took this job. I think there are two questions here: why did I leave a large research university to head IT at a small liberal arts college and why do I want an IT leadership position. I’ll answer the second one today and the other one another day: it’s not so much about the IT as it is about the leadership. I feel that we spend so much time at work, it should be one of the most important aspects of our lives: fulfilling, energizing, creative, engaging, etc. And I think … Continue Reading