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Tis a far better thing to qualify the “yes” than to expand the “no”

Yesterday a.m. I got a frantic call from a campus VIP. She was freaking because she had contacted two of my staff about arranging a videoconference with only 2 days’ notice and, according to her, they had said “No we can’t do that.” (As an aside, let me say that the reasons for the short notice were excellent–we had a high profile event that we couldn’t anticipate). She called me and I said “Yes, we can definitely do this, but I’m not sure how yet, let me call around and get back to you.”  We then called around and have … Continue Reading

Graphic Recording: the New Big Thing?

A staff member went to a workshop on graphic recording and now after every staff meeting he displays cheerfully an often grim visualization of the meeting discussion. It’s interesting to see a pictorial representation of a dialogue. I shared the picture he generated after our strategic planning / values discussion with the Dreaded Advisory Group. “Is that razor wire?” someone asked. “What’s Stupidville?” asked someone else.  See here for more info.

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

Today is the 1st day of my 2nd year

I was planning to blog about some of my accomplishments and failures over the past year. However, I don’t really have time because an employee in a different dept. accidentally forwarded a sensitive email to a student who has no business receiving such a mail. I’ve been asked to 1. write a statement assuring Everyone that such an event will never happen again and 2. contact the student and ask for the mail to be deleted. So, I’m now contacting The Powers That Be explaining why I’ll instead be doing 3. none of the above.

oh, joy.

IT Naming Conventions

I just heard that a place I used to work has renamed itself so that the acronym goes from “asist” to “tit.” Provocative choice. But this may just be a rumor. Here, our acronym is TS, having voted on our name change last spring. I like to say, no BS, it’s TS! Or, for our new service announcements, we have TSA’s. I used to want to be called “Network Operations” but NO isn’t in the spirit of customer service. In IT, we get to name servers and to re-brand software packages too, though the creative spirit dies a … Continue Reading

Last week: lose big. This week: lose BIGGER!

Last week’s announced service improvements did not go as planned. No ETA on those, but I am assured folks are Working On It. This weekend, we announced a big bandwidth upgrade. This too failed to go off as planned. And I am assured folks are Working On It.

In both cases, the changes were promoted by us. The timeline was determined by us. Given that we were the drivers, there’s really no excuse for announcing a change unless we were 95% sure the service would work as promised. Particularly in the case of the network upgrade. Better to announce what we … Continue Reading

Can I get a campus-wide email list?–> rec’d today

I received this request today:

“Hi ___.  I’m writing on behalf of ____, who would like to have a campus-wide distribution list so that our office can send evite invitations and other messages outside of traditional emails to all faculty, staff, and students….Please let us know what options are available when you get a chance.”

Obviously, the sender is well intentioned and a nice person. And, obviously completely unaware of the insanity of this request for a variety of reasons. I was tempted to just pass this along to our email staff and sit back to hear the laughter. … Continue Reading

At conference to plan the consortium to help us collaborate, communicate, and leverage stuff which is more important than ever given our troubled economic situation

Really. So I’m in Tucson. Tucson is very nice, by the way. I’m at a conference which is the result of a proposal to discuss whether or not to build a consortium. At this point in the planning process, I expected that attendees would be deciding whether or not we’d build the consortium, not how we are going to build the consortium. It’s as if the prospect of just bailing on the whole thing never entered anyone’s minds. I thought of speaking up, but I don’t want to be the lone naysayer, not in this room of big wigs. Now … Continue Reading

CRM = Constantly Receiving Mail

It’s the end of the semester and everyone’s anxious to dash off his/her final community-wide email before leaving for happier, work-free climes. So, of course, our CRM system dies today. It’s been behaving sporadically all semester and this week it’s finally broken me down. It’s bad enough that campus staff hate it because the interface is too complicated (and when you only use it once a semester, it’s almost not worth learning how to use it) but it’s worse that we don’t seem to be able figure out what’s wrong and to correct it.  And, let’s face it, the output … Continue Reading

I Made a Mistake

I made a bad call yesterday and as a result a staff member got a harsh email from my boss. I replied and said it was all my fault: that I had made the call and that I had erred. I apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. My boss immediately emailed me back and thanked me. While perhaps I’m just trying to make myself feel better, I do feel that in some ways it was a useful incident. My staff saw a real example of how to deal with a mistake, saw that I’ll take the heat, and saw … Continue Reading

It’s the Year of the Rat! or, how to step around the chain of command

A staff member recently came to me with a list of complaints, sack of woe slung over his shoulder, etc. I am not his boss; I am his boss’s boss. He was seeking me out specifically because he was frustrated with his current supervisor’s lack of attention. We had a healthy though turbulent conversation, and it would have gone smoother if he’d abided by these simple guidelines:

  • acknowledge that you’re stepping outside “the chain.” Indicate why you’re doing so. You don’t have to provide a lengthy explanation, you just need to show some awareness of what you’re doing and why.
  • wait till … Continue Reading

What I Learned Today

Today I learned (or re-learned) the fact that sometimes it’s just a lot easier to call someone. We send emails, we schedule meetings, and we trade a lot of electronic info when a 5 minute phone call would resolve everything more easily. Email can be nice for it’s “official record” aspect, but talking can be so much simpler. Even better than a phone call? Walking down the hall, out the door, over to the office, for a quick chat. For this scary impromptu “meeting-like” event to succeed, though, it truly has to be a 5 minute Q/A. Anything longer can … Continue Reading

One Hit, One Miss, and Some Confusing Sounds

Hit: A member of the President’s Cabinet complained to me about the number of meetings here. I suggested that instead of scheduling a meeting in the next “free” slot on her calendar she limit herself to no more than 12 hours of meetings a week. This leaves room for sanity and some time for emergency or last minute VIP meetings. She will have to get used to telling people things like, “I can meet with you in three weeks.” My experience is that people can wait–no one’s ever complained to me or my boss about my lack of availability. She … 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

Leverage My Synergy, part two

After my crack-up, I decided to seek help. And nothing can help you more when you’re down than a couple of URLs and some nifty new software. So here you go: stuff I found that might help you in the battle against corporate-style communication…

Leverage My Synergy: I dare you

Our support division wants to purchase a new help desk ticketing system. Today, these systems are called “service desk management systems” and they come with lots of fancy tools and they all swear they comply with ITIL, or the IT Infrastructure Library, a masterful compilation of best practices whittled down to its essence, which apparently requires 30 volumes (though rumor has it the latest version has only 5 volumes and that you really only need two of them).

Midway through the vendor demos, staff began asking why we want to get a new system, anyway. So today our support … Continue Reading

Like Moths to the Flame, Faculty Flock to Use F-Word in IT Email

Okay, I actually had to write an email today to a group of faculty asking them to stop using obscenities in their mail. I’m not joking. Here’s an excerpt:

“While I too believe in free speech, I would appreciate it if people would not use obscenities in their communications with me or with the staff who work in Information Services. I just don’t think obscenities help foster a supportive work environment, at least not generally, and our staff is diverse enough that mail sent to a generic address like “HelpDesk” cannot be presumed to be read by a single population whose … Continue Reading

From the faculty, with love

Received at our help desk today, from a faculty member:

Subject: spam

Dear everybody in the whole mother fucking world of cyberspace or, put more politely,

to whom it may concern:

I have a PhD already and I didn’t mind attending class toward that end.

I do not … 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?

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

Another day, another outage

Today a car ran into something or other and took out the network for a large chunk of the state. I’m pleased to say that we handled this outage better than our last one: the emergency website went up, though not as quickly as I would have liked, and then we took it down as soon as we could. Campus communications went pretty well too. But there are always lessons learned. Here are ours:

  • remember time zones! what may seem like an early morning outage to you was a peak day outage to others. You need to get your … Continue Reading

I Lost It with My Staff Today

We’ve been having some major database problems for the past two days. I only heard about the problems when my boss called me to warn me she was going to forward an angry email about how much our CRM software sucked. Our CRM software does suck, but I could tell from the problems the complainant alluded to that this wasn’t actually a CRM problem. I ask around and hear, “Yeah, we’re working on it.” I look at our Help Desk outage/disruption site: no mention. So, folks are trying to get their work done and the systems are failing and there’s … Continue Reading