Cutting to the Core (Values)

Years ago, and I mean years ago, I sat through a professional development session at my work. Now these things were not nearly as exciting as they are today, but at least we didn't have to suffer through 'death by Powerpoint'.

In between all the "I wish I had a pencil to poke my eye out" presentations, there was one presentation that stuck with me for years. I don't remember anything about the speaker or the rest of the presentation, but the following bit of the session has stuck with me to this day.


How to Fail

Image: Wikipedia Commons
Seeking opportunities where failure may occur seems counterintuitive to a successful career.

But it isn't.

If you are innovative, failure will occur.

If you are an IT leader, Innovation is now part of your job description.

If you don't encounter failure, you aren't stretching enough.

You don't have a big enough vision.

It's not whether or not you fail, it's HOW you fail that counts.

Thomas Edison was a master at failure. Take a lesson from him.

Use your favorite search engine and type "Thomas Edison quotes".  You can't help but be inspired.

Was he an easy person to get along with? Was he a workaholic who had sometime unscrupulous business practices?

No, and yes.


If you think Stephen King is scary, try reading Gartner's predictions

Every year, Gartner research releases a series of predictions for the IT industry.  The summary report is free, you don't have to be a subscriber, but registration is required. You can access it here.

I've been following these reports for a number of years, and while they aren't 100% accurate, they have been a great source of fodder for scenario planning.

This year's crop is exciting, and a bit scary.

If you believe them, it will throw you way out of your comfort zone as a CIO.

I'll be unpacking the impact of each of these items in future postings as I have time to evaluate the impact.

In the meantime, here's the list.


My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

When I was small, most of my friends had career aspirations much different than mine.

Many of them wanted to be doctors, lawyers, mechanics, police officers, firemen and a whole litany of other things.

Not me.

When I grew up, I wanted to be a cowboy. This was a passion fueled by too many Saturday matinees and Louis L'Amour novels, and who can forget the great Willie Nelson song?

Image: stevenschlozman.net

I loved the image of freedom and self sufficiency.

I liked the rough edges, the simple solutions to simple problems, being a loner.

Drift in, fix the town's problems, and ride off into the sunset. (Which is probably why I did so well as a consultant.)

The trouble is... I'm now a CIO leading a team of bright, creative people.

The cowboy image doesn't work for me anymore.


How to add more work to your team.

Image: Popular Science Archives
Do you remember the promise of the flying car?

When I was a kid, my father had a bookshelf with dozens of old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.  It was before the Internet, iPods, game consoles and Social Media, so rainy day activities (for me)  tended to consist of pouring through the back issues, imagining how much better the world was going to be through the wonders of science.  They had sent a man into space after all, so why wouldn't science and technology create the utopic world where machines did all the work while we flew from place to place in our cars?

Bounce ahead thirty years.... It's now the nineties.  For some reason flying cars didn't arrive, but the promises of the time-saving wonder of technology didn't go away. We had survived disco and big-hair bands, but we were also well into adopting personal computers and the connecting them all together via the Internet.  The personal computer connected to the Internet was the revolutionary technology that would save us oodles of time.

Bounce ahead to today... There is more technology available to more people in more places than ever before.  Everything bit of technology we buy carries the promise of more productivity.

So we race to get the latest technology, in order to be more productive.  We buy it for our teams, so they can be more productive.

So why are we so busy?

Why is it when you announce a new project your team may smile and nod, but inside are launching intercontinental mind missiles at you?  Didn't you buy them all those productivity tools?

The problem is not the technology.


You need to be blogging Here's some help.

If you are an IT leader, you should seriously consider blogging.

It probably won't make you rich or successful, but it will certainly allow you to develop your skills in communicating, in processing what you really believe about things, and as I've found, get connected with a whole lot of interesting people.

As an IT leader, you know from one of my previous posts that Communication is one of the 10 Critical Survival skills you need to develop.  (That post is here.)

"But I can't write!" you say.  If you interviewed my high school English teacher, you would know that in my case, I had a valid argument about being a bad writer. But blogging has helped me find a voice.

It can help you find your voice too.

And there's help.

I just finished Bryan Allain's (@KillerTribes) brand new book designed to be the blogging coach you can't afford, in a format you really can afford.  His book 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo is a quick read (I cheated and read it in 2 days) and is filled with practical tips and off the wall humor. I will never hear the phrase 'element of surprise' again without thinking of my grandparents.

Check out the website: http://31daystomojo.com or pick it up as a PDF for your eReader from Amazon here.

Enjoy. For the price of a Grande,Moccachino,Half-Sweet,Decaf (or 3 Timmies Double Doubles) you could be on your way to blogging excellence.


Your team messed up. Now what?

Sometimes, exuberance overtakes ability.

The tyranny of the deadline creates myopia.

Competing priorities and new "surprise" projects throw off the timeline.

Things are forgotten, or rushed.

In order to meet the delivery date, less important things like orientation and training sessions, user documentation, and communication to the stakeholders were pushed aside, with every good intention to "get to them when you have time."

The big parts of the system were delivered.  Your team is tired, but at least you got the 'most important things' out.

In the eyes of the end user, none of this matters.

They didn't get what you told them you were delivering. Don't underestimate the undercurrent of mistrust created by the situation. Just because people are not coming directly to you, it doesn't mean the lack of trust not there.

They have been let down. Their trust in you has been compromised.  In their eyes, your team has failed.

What do you do?


Meetings are the Best/Worst thing

Sometimes you hear a story and you really want it to be true.

Even if there is no evidence to support it.

The thing is... the story is so good, you can use the principle without needing the facts.

This is one of those.

I can't verify whether or not this is true... but let me share what I've heard.

The President of a local University is a busy person.  Everyone wants a piece of his time.

If you call to schedule a meeting with him, the most you will get is 15 minutes.

If you can't do your business in 15 minutes or less, don't make the appointment.

Apparently the meeting ends on time, every time. No exceptions.

This may sound rude.  I call it efficient.


Be a Service, not Servant organization

There's a lot of confusion out there.

By "there", I mean where you are... and I am...

... and the confusion is about service - what it is and what it isn't.

The reason this is relevant to IT leadership is that we are (or should be) working to transform our department or division into a full functioning service organization.

We tell people that our core mission in life is to 'help them be successful in their jobs, and leverage technology to do things they could never do before'.

But sometimes our customers get confused.

They confuse "service" with "servant".


Pursuing Service with Passion

What's the most important thing the IT department does?

What's the first thing on your list?

And the next? ...and the next?

What if I told you it has nothing to do with technology?

How many things did you cross off your list?


If you don't like the F-Bomb...

Every summer, it seems like half our campus is under construction.

There is a flurry of activity during the months the students are away and by this time of year with just over a week left before classes, emotions are well... a little on the anxious side.

In the genteel, professional world of the IT department... there are certain words that are not heard very often.

Words that rhyme with "truck shoe" and "clucking".

But you sure hear them at the construction site.

Image: MS Office Imagebank
And since IT is usually the last department in the site before occupancy, it is easy to suggest that we are the hold up.  After all, who can't do three weeks worth of equipment installation work in one week?

And since we are perceived to be holding things up, sometimes the F-bomb gets launched in our direction.

If you take it personally, you are sunk.


'Equal' does not equal 'The Same' - Why some people deserve to go to the front of the IT help line.

Children can have a heightened awareness of fairness.

Image: 123RF.com
For example, when my older kids were much younger and I would pour them each a glass of juice, they would immediately smash their glasses together - not to celebrate a toast, but rather to check to see if the other one got more juice in their cup.

Nobody taught them this. It came quite naturally.

'Fairness is more important than anything' was the rule of the day.

Most people grow out of this.

Those that don't end up in various roles, but I have noticed that many of them end up in IT support.