Friday, October 2, 2015

Recognizing and Handling Personal Safety Issues - CIO View

Recent events remind us that we all can be vulnerable in our schools and universities.  While external people are often the sources of violence in our environments, violence in the workplace, triggered by disgruntled and angry employees or former employees, current or former students, is a real issue.  Perhaps we can share insights so we all can better protect ourselves.

I've worked with people who were struggling with personal problems and stress.  In a few and rare situations, a couple folks moved beyond the usual anger and frustration that you can see in tense and stressful working environments.  These are "red flag" cases.  I'm not a psychologist or mental health professional, so I can only speak from personal observations.  Maybe if we all share observations, we can get smarter about how to handle situations and prevent harm to those around us.

What I've observed:
  • Some people can get angry and frustrated easily, but generally, this is an emotional maturity issue that just requires mentoring.  When you talk through a situation with that individual, they hear what you are saying and they are able to see how their anger hurts themselves. 
  • A few people seem to enter onto a path where they are unable to act in their own best interest. Their anger or reasoning of situations leads them to make decisions that are just not beneficial to themselves.  An individual may have angry outbursts in a management meeting or in office hours, and when you approach that person to discuss the situation, the individual justifies the angry outburst and does not reflect on the situation.  And the individual may continue to demonstrate the same behavior, even though you've warned the person about the negative consequences from their behavior.  The individual may over-react to any perceived criticism.   Some people seem to just completely lose the ability to recognize that their actions and responses are working against them.  A defensive and hostile attitude is demonstrated.  The individual is consistently belligerent when behavior is discussed.  
  • One behavior that commonly emerges is ignoring or breaking rules and policies.  It may start small, like not parking in an assigned parking space or not following department procedures for reporting being out of the office.  For a student, it may be not following basic instructions.  Increasingly, the person does not feel the need to comply with basic rules, and when confronted, is unable to comply with rules in a way that is in the individual's best interest.
  • Another typical behavior is isolation.  The individual will separate and not join groups for lunch or campus events.  The individual will not engage or will avoid typical office conversation, even simple stuff like "Did you watch the football game Sunday?".   You may note someone becoming invisible in the department. 
  • One therapist I spoke with suggested that some people need to build up anger, almost to build up a head of steam, to make themselves feel important and to have a real presence.  They feel dis-empowered and invisible.  Demonstrating an angry outburst puts them at the center of all attention.  It gives them a sense of power, because they now control the conversation and the attention.
  • A behavior labeled as grandiosity, a state of being delusional about one's importance, may be displayed.  The individual may appear overly boisterous about his job title, role, or decision-making authority.  Another behavior that can be inappropriately displayed is moral righteousness; the individual believes he or she is are totally right and others are not following the rules.  
When we find these situations on our campuses, we probably try to act specifically:  avoid confrontation, do not question, minimize the situation, and report it to Human Resources or Dean of Students.  You may have a campus behavioral concerns committee, and that group should also be informed.  My personal experience is that when you see someone not able to act in their own best interest, and demonstrating outbursts timed to attract attention and get control of a space, you must confront the behavior immediately and consistently.  You should characterize this as "red flag" behavior.  Lack of confrontation further empowers the individual and over time, the situation worsens.  It does not get better on its own.

In summary, the red flag characteristics:

  • Unexplained, ongoing anger that may appear as a quiet, seething edginess or loud, emotional outbursts.
  • Inability to recognize and act upon a positive path that is in the individual's own best interest.
  • Belligerence or silence when behavior is discussed. 
  • Over-reaction to criticism.
  • Overly defensive or hostile attitude, especially when confronted about unacceptable behavior.
  • Deflects responsibility for unacceptable behavior to other rationales, moral righteousness, or actions from other people.  Accusatory behavior with co-workers. 
  • Breaking rules, even just a series of small rules, and an unwillingness to discuss or correct the behavior.
  • Changing work schedules without approval, disappearing, or working random hours. 
  • Frequently breaking appointments.
  • Isolation from co-workers and the campus community.
  • Repetitively appearing anxious or confused.
  • Behavior displayed as grandiosity.
If you encounter these behaviors, you must start keeping a journal noting the dates, times, attendees or witnesses, and a full description of the disruptive behavior or angry outburst.  Pay attention to the journal for patterns of similar incidents or increasing anger.  Monitor and retain technology messages and note any messages of concern in the journal. 

One challenge is that Human Resources or police (if contacted) will ask you if you or others have been threatened.  For most of us this is harder to answer than we might think, especially outside of a specific event.  I've been in situations where I definitely felt threatened, even though no specific threat was articulated.  I've tried to use words such as intimidation and belligerence.  Sometimes the behavior might be described as harassment.

But it is important to remember that a threat may be non-verbal.  Did the individual stand up?  Stand over you?  Invade your sense of personal space?  Slam a door?  Punch a wall?  These actions can all make you feel threatened, even if no specific verbal threat was issued.  Since we work in technical fields, be aware of threats that may come to us via technical resources (email, social media sites, etc.).  These may contain veiled references to violence.  Campus public safety or police units should be informed of any threat, verbal or non-verbal.  While your one event may not be significant, policing agencies may have a accumulated file of events that they cannot describe or share with you.  Each report matters.

Human Resources often wants to provide cooling off periods or time to mentor the employee.  I believe it is important to recognize the behaviors quickly, confront the behavior promptly, and to report it to Human Resources immediately.   We may need to insist on immediate involvement from Human Resources. We all need to be comfortable communicating the degree that we felt threatened by the situation, and whether we perceive the behavior as escalating over time.    Use your journal to keep other units informed.  Push for attention to the issue.

Some reading that may be useful:

Resources for Preventing Workplace Violence and Bullying

Book:  The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (Thanks, Craig Blaha, for the recommendation).

I hope you have tactics and strategies that work at your institution that you can share. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Value of Perseverance

We find inspirational connections from many sources.  This week, the riding performance of Andrew Talansky in the Tour de France 2014 was inspirational.  The New York Times covered the story:  Refusing to Quit, American Is Surrounded by Cheers After a Lonely Finish.

Andrew Talansky suffered injuries and setbacks as he and his teammates on Team Garmin-Sharp tried to achieve a podium showing in the Tour de France race.  This wasn't to be, as health issues finally forced Talansky to abandon the race, but only after struggling through and finishing the full 115 miles of Stage 11.

Talansky finished the stage, alone and well behind the peloton.  He finished without any hope of glory or reward at the end, and with considerable doubt that he'd be able to race later stages (in fact, he wasn't and abandoned).  Finishing did not mean his team would be able to win anything; there was no personal or group reward for entering the "pain cave" of an injured cyclist and finishing the stage.

Talansky persevered and endured to gain the experience of a successful struggle.  He finished even as he realized that there was no way to fix the situation.  He finished "just so they know I'm the kind of person who isn't going to give up when something goes wrong." (ESPN)

Talansky got the best advice that anyone could ever receive when struggling and trying make the decision about quitting.  He paused and reviewed his options with Robbie Hunter, the team director.  Hunter told him, "This is a choice only you can make, but take a moment to make sure you make the one you're going to be happy with, make it not out of a place of emotion or anger or fear, but make it out of what you can do, what's possible."  What great advice, and to Talansky's credit, he could hear the advice.

I've never experienced any physical challenge in the category of the Tour de France, but I've experience career and project challenges and hurdles that left me worn out and discouraged.  I've found myself in situations where I questioned my ability to continue, and questioned why I should continue when there was no reward for finishing.  I've considered quitting a project or job because the struggle was wearing me out, emotionally and physically, and I could see no benefit, for me or anyone on the team, on the horizon.  I've worked with teams to develop systems that we knew would never be implemented or used.  I've worked places where our work was not appreciated.

The advice to "do what's possible," coming from within yourself, and not act out of emotion or anger, resonated with me.  We can focus on what we can learn from the struggle.   We can find and appreciate our own individual personal strength. Perhaps the struggle gives us new technical skills or experiences.  Perhaps we can learn a different way we can contribute to a team and see our value and contribution in a new light.  We certainly can develop resilience that helps buffer us from the whims, decision caprice, and rough spots that we are certain to hit in our IT profession.

When I work with new college grads, professional perseverance is something they often need to develop.  All projects in college were designed to be completely done in 15 weeks; projects are rarely worked on after the end of a class.  A student can turn in a project for a C grade, walk away, and never think about that project again.  The professor knew the project path and expected solution when the course started, and the students had to discover the path through the course.  There is a person to go to and find directions. Students are rarely, if ever, given a partially or even totally completed work from someone else and told to fix it and make it work as fast as possible.

When these college grads come to work, they need to transition to projects that might last a year or two, instead of 15 weeks.  All their work needs to achieve an A grade; we cannot give our clients anything less than what they asked for, with high quality.  Work assignments will be given that involve modifying work created by someone else, and the pressure of trying to understand what the other person did, and fitting the current change into something and making it all work without being very pretty in terms of personal creativity standards, is a challenge. We often start projects without a clear understanding of how to get to the high-quality end point.  This all creates a pretty frustrating environment, and new grads may experience the emotion, anger, and fear of failure that drives them to quit.

Learning how to professionally persevere and endure is a valuable skill. Learning how to "do what's possible" for the personal experience of successful struggle is important, if a person is going to find career-long resilience.  We cannot quit every time we have to struggle.  We have financial pressures and families who count on us.  Employers want to hire staff members who will find the strength to persevere.  The personal growth and satisfaction from finding inner strength can contribute to career satisfaction over time.

Talansky continued to race to demonstrate resilience, dedication, and perseverance, to himself and to his team.  It wasn't about the race stage, or even this race, but instead about a career of bicycle racing.  That inspires us to think about our own personal struggles.  It isn't about this project, this year's goals, this particular job - but about our personal ability to respond to life and work challenges over a long career.  Doing what's possible today, in this moment, is a great approach to developing the strength and resilience to continue and succeed with whatever life and a career put in our path.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Brain Dots: Connections for Acting in Change Leadership Roles

Our Educause CIO group had an interesting exchange on change leadership. Khalil Yazdi, CIO in Residence at Internet2 NET+ Services, offered thought-provoking comments.  Excerpts of his statements that jumped out to me were:

Change management is not something you have to or even can do on your own. 

The problems we face individually are near identical (regardless of size or type of institution, ineffective and out-of-date legacy is a mind-numbing, budget busting experience for everyone and actually more acute the larger you are). 

Historically, that (i.e. "change management initiatives") was an exercise that was largely bounded within the institution and while we had much we could learn from one another, at home we were quite on our own.

Of necessity, change management is now a communal task, demanding that we find ways that allows us to speak with amplified (shared) voice to both internal and external constituencies because without it, we will simply not be heard.  

I had to think about this for a while, as it changed my perspective for how I was considering change management.  I had to step back and ask "so what is keeping me (and my organization) from participating in collective change management?"  One the big obstacles is the cost of participation in those communal efforts.

My thought process started with consideration for places where I think change management works for our campus.  Actually, as I reflected on that, I think we do that pretty well in our ERP environment with our ERP community (Banner).  Not great, to be sure, but acceptable and adequate.  One reason is that the community has broad campus representation, not just IT representation.

But then my brain-dots flowed to "what is change management?".  And the next brain-dot was that there is an internal perspective and there is an external perspective.  

Things happen outside our institution that affect and impact what we do; the news on 3/7/14, for example, about Google Classroom may require we think about that option for learning management.  Other things, like Heartbleed, require that we take a set of technical actions.  In neither case was there an opportunity for us to change the course of action by having a communal voice.   

In other settings, where we have elected to be part of a community, we have had greater success in having a communal voice that leads to a technical direction or implementation.  Our relationship in Apereo is one such avenue for us.  We have significant benefits working with that community providing uPortal, uMobile, and CAS initiatives.  Another positive community is the REN-ISAC, which gives us specific security directions and to which we can raise our own voice.  For the community to be successful in change management, we have to be part of the community in advance of, and in anticipation of, change.

Internally, change management is less about a vendor or product direction, and more about getting our internal community on board a change train.  I suspect my success as a CIO as evaluated by my campus constituents is more about measuring my success on the internal change train.  It is about presentation and management skills: delivery, communication, advocacy, negotiation, listening, reacting.  Also, the pace of the action needs to match the pace of change:

 "The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades – John P. Kotter"

So to demonstrate change leadership, each special change diamond needs careful review:
  • Is there a community to which we belong that can help with an action response?  
  • Which path is more cost effective:  communal response or individual response?
  • Which path matches the pace of response to the pace of change in the most effective manner?
  • Is this a change initiative that requires broad campus participation or narrow IT participation?
If I reflect on those questions, I may be able to lead through change pathways most effectively.  Are there other points to the diamond?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Connections: Readings this Week

Putting together the articles and news that caught my eye this week:

Educational news had a couple of interesting stories.

Harvey Mudd College links MOOC development to the university mission. Great perspective for what we should be doing with new delivery modalities:  The Evolving MOOC (EDUCAUSE Review) |

And on the down side, an innovative look at student data collection found too many challenges to continue, despite funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:  A Student-Data Collector Drops Out (New York Times)

The full economic impact of student debt should be getting more national attention.  A fix is needed, both for the affected individuals and the economy in general:   Paying Off Student Loans Puts a Dent In Wallets, and the Economy (NPR).

In the category of openness:
Companies Back Initiative to Support OpenSSL and Other Open-Source Projects (Bits, New York Times). 
Demonstrating strong leadership, the Linux Foundation has organized the Core Infrastructure Initiative to support open-source projects, and gathered financial support ($100,000 a year each) from Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NetApp, Rackspace, Qualcomm and VMWare.  The support of quality, secure open-source technology is fundamental to much of our technology delivery.

We have to balance the positive and the negative.  The news about FCC directions against Net Neutrality is very distressing; I'm trying to imagine the impact on delivery of open educational resources.  The open comment period is exploding, as described in the lobbying article in the New York Times:   Lobbying Efforts Intensify After F.C.C. Tries 3rd Time on Net Neutrality

Still thinking about work space. 
Let's add to the books-to-read list.  I noted the mention of Frederick Taylor, the efficiency expert, and I wondered how that leads to cubed office spaces:  The Office Space We Love to Hate (Cubed  A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval, Doubleday, reviewed in the New York Times).

Frederick Taylor pops up again in this interesting read about the corporate buzzwords that describe our work.  Taylor evidently brought a vocabulary to descriptions used:
"talk about workers in books and boardrooms were accordingly mechanistic, emphasizing accuracy, precision, incentives, and maximized production."  The short slide-quiz a few paragraphs into the article is fun.   The Origins of Office-Speak  (The Atlantic)

How about furniture as a cultural revolution?  This article demonstrates how Herman Miller furniture evoked a time and place in the TV show Mad Men:  The Secret Weapon of Mad Men? Herman Miller.

In the category of "Look at this fun tech stuff," we have fresh stories.
With Farm Robotics, the Cows Decide When It's Milking Time (New York Times).
I love how the cows decided that they wanted to be milked more often than the tradition of twice a day.

How about a an app that comes with an attachment that lets you turn your iPhone into an otoscope?  Health Care Apps Offer Patients an Active Role (New York Times)

So much to read and think about, so little time!

As usual, I like to walk away and let my thoughts develop.  After hiking for a couple hours, I've pulled together a picture.  What I see here are how we create environments that lead to creative endeavors.  The endeavors lead to innovative projects.  Projects that flow with nature succeed.  Other projects hit obstacles related to privacy and security.  But in the end, we want to share, and we want our sharing to be free and open.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Space as a Resource

I started blogging about eight resources that are needed to create an agile organization.  One of those resources is space, in this case physical space.  Space is a resource to manage, and I wonder how CIOs and other IT leaders learn how to manage space as a resource.

Why do I want to manage space?  First, there's the basic space management issue:  a workspace for each employee.  I remember early in my career, taking a contract analyst position, and the company pulling out the department refrigerator and setting up a table with a computer for my workspace, without even bothering to dust.  This was not a positive experience!  And the time 5 analysts were crammed into a room designed for two; in order to move, one person had to pull his chair in under the desk so the other person could back his chair away from the desk.  These situations do not convey a sense of value to the employee.  We need to do better.

Once we've handled the basics, we need to consider what kind of space contributes the best work environment.  We want to manage workspace to emphasize values. Values to consider are privacy, productivity, security, collaboration, and agility. We've tried offices, cubes with tall partitions, cubes with short partitions, and open hotel space.  

Staff members with highly detailed development tasks want all the quiet and distraction reduction that we can possibly provide.  Front line network and telecom trouble-shooters, who are in and out of the office and want to talk about what is happening, are satisfied with the hotelling concept.

We need more collaborative workspace today than we needed in the past.  We are working together on more projects, and having a room that seats 8 to 12 participants, with a large computer projection system and whiteboards, is very popular.

Some recent articles talk about current ideas in space management.

First, there's an article in Harvard Business Review:  Employees Perform Better When They Can Control Their Space.   Higher levels of satisfaction, innovation, and job performance were associated with employees having choices about when, where, and how to work.  That seems to be key, even with the cubicle culture.  What I would like to do, if I had more space to control, is create a variety of spaces and allow employees to move among those spaces, finding the workspace that best fit the task that the employee was currently working on.

The New Yorker published material about the downside of open offices:  The Open Office Trap.
Interruptions in open office spaces can be detrimental to productivity (that's not surprising, really).  But a surprising finding from a 2005 study shows the impact again of control:  "... the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction."  Another interesting perspective was that with exposure to many inputs and distractive noises at once, senses become overloaded and we have to work harder to achieve results.  Could this be a reason why we feel so overworked at times?

Finally, The Diane Rehm Show on NPR had a program on designing modern work spaces.  This discussion proposed that perhaps our open office spaces are sacrificing focus for free-flow of ideas.

While I've focused on office and employee workspaces here, I also need to manage datacenter space, whether on premise or in the cloud.  As a leader, I need to identify spaces to house the systems and servers, with adequate space to support quick shifts in direction or new services for the university.   These spaces also require strong environmental and security controls, involving another ken ledge base.   One resource is, a professional association that encompasses aspects of design. 

As a CIO, I am left wondering how I can manage space to create the environment that supports an agile organization.  How can I successfully work with those responsibility for facilities to create the spaces we need?  What is the path for new IT leaders to learn about space management as a resource issue?  That is an interesting question to ponder.   Successful management of space is critical to creating a successful and agile IT organization. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Building the Nimble Team - Retaining Talent

Over the years, we noticed a pattern where really talented, early career hires achieved success in the first 1 to 3 years, and then failed to thrive. It happened probably with less than 10% of hires in that category, but those staff members represented new skills, fresh perspective, and diversity of thinking.   It was not what we wanted to see; we want to retain new hires.  We have been thinking about this challenge and working to improve.

We generally notice the issue with the first technical or project transition. The individual will not successfully navigate to the next project or the next technical knowledge base. This is critical, because a technical career will require the ability to change directions many times over the life of the career. I noticed this blog presenting more of the perspective of the person who didn't succeed. There are perspectives specific to the Microsoft situation, but there are some general pieces I'd like to note.

The author, Ellen Chisa, is very frank about her experience.  She describes that she "put a lot of pressure" on herself to do well. She wanted to be excellent. The problem I see, from my very ancient perspective, is that this excellence demand totally existed in her own head. She didn't take in any information from other people about what excellent was, or even if excellence was something that management wanted to bestow on other people. A big red flag statement to me: "It's strange to feel like you're failing even when you're promoted." So the organization values you, gives you a promotion, but you cannot take in and absorb that success.

Note that she describes a "plummet" that starts when "it was time to move on to something else." She had to learn new things but "For some reason, that didn't happen."  This is the situation we've encountered as managers in our own organization.   As leaders, we need to learn to recognize it early and help people make transitions.

There are actions we should recognize.  A person who expresses fear that they are not succeeding, and does so periodically, even though the supervisor feels that the person is successful and the team respects the person's contributions. A person who becomes emotionally undone at their first failure should be a red-flag. A person who has been successful in their job, but with a change - a technology upgrade, a new project - is suddenly having problems. A person who has trouble starting on a new task. There are different types of initiative. You may see someone who can demonstrate initiative and self-start with something that they are familiar with, but become totally frozen when it is something new.

If you observe those changes, there are definite things we can do.  For one, we can emphasize values along with success and recognize those values in failure.  For example, one value is learning.  We can celebrate what we learned from failed projects.  Thomas Edison once said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." If we want to encourage staff members to experiment and learn, leaders need to identify what we learned. Discovering what path not to take is very important to long term success. When an employee starts expressing concerns about failing, start emphasizing conversations about what has been learned so far in the effort and how the organization will benefit from that learning.

When an employee expresses the "feeling of failing" even when the employee is meeting all standards of success, we have more personal discussions.  I've found it useful to discuss the unique contributions the individual made to the organization, and how those contributions link to bigger goals and initiatives. This isn't one conversation, in my experience, but a way of working with that individual over time.  It helps to thank the employee for his or her contribution in very specific messages.

The book Leading Geeks has other suggestions. Author Paul Glen describes characteristics of information technology work.  He suggests that failure is normal, ambiguity rules, and figuring out what to do can be harder than doing it.  Those early in their career can struggle with these ideas.  After spending time in the classroom, I have some sense of why.  In class, students are often given a defined project to complete in 15 weeks.  If they follow the defined path, they will complete the project successfully, some with more success than others.  Then they come to work and we cannot tell them where to start or what done looks like on many projects.  We have to discover the path and conclusion in a way that we do not in a classroom setting.  There has to be some comfort in just diving in, and finding out two weeks later that there was a better starting point.  If we find a staff member showing signs of inability to start, it helps to pull up a chair and dive in together.

Leaders building nimble organizations need to identify people having these difficulties as early as possible so everything can be done to help and retain that employee.  I think important responses are to talk about all values, including learning and contribution, not just the value of completion success. Also, monitor inexperienced employees as they go through their first transition, whether it is a new technology, a major upgrade, a new project, or a new team assignment.  Talk about their responses to change.  When an employee is demonstrating what looks like a lack of initiative, pull up a chair and question details while getting hands on the keyboard or some similar engaged activity.  Have sincere conversations about contributions and values.  I've found these actions to help.  Please share any ideas you have.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anchor or Wings?

Is your strategic plan an anchor or a set of wings?  This is a very important question for CIOs to consider if they are trying to be nimble, agile, and responsive to organizational change.

An anchor drags you down, locks you in place, and keeps you from drifting away.  This may be a good thing if your IT team feels overrun by requests, coming from all directions.  After all, our organizations cannot be all things to all people at a moment's notice.  A strategic plan that has broad organizational support can sift out the high priority projects.  A strategic plan provides focus.

But strategic plans are often another dot on a trend line of known items. If you created a five year IT strategic plan in 2009 and are just finishing that plan, your original plan probably did not address the impact of:
  • iPads, introduced in April, 2010
  • Server virtualization (major players introduced products in 2009-2010)
  • Educational model changes like flipped classrooms and MOOCs
That kind of long term planning had its place in the past, but it does not work in today's high speed change environment.  Our educational environments, and specifically our supporting IT organizations, are not in a position to reject game-changers like iPads or flipped classrooms.  Instead, we need to embrace change.

Black swan events, those unpredictable events that change our world, happen. If you hold firm to the multi-year strategic plan in order to control demands on your organization and provide resource alignment, you can become out of touch with technology directions, and miss opportunities to be nimble.
In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb describes black swan events as having three principal characteristics:
  1. The events are truly unpredictable.
  1. Massive impact occurs from these events.
  1. In hindsight, we use trends, narratives, and history to make the randomness of events appear more predictable.
Taleb describes the "triplet of opacity" (p. 8):
  • "the illusion of understanding, or how everyone thinks he knows what is going on in a world that is more complicated (or random) than they realize;
  • the retrospective distortion, or how we can assess matters only after the fact....;
  • the overvaluation of factual information and the handicap of authoritative and learned people..."
We may get pulled into thinking that if we truly follow and better track the trends, and we plan more effectively, our IT organizations can feel less yanked around, less like a flag blowing in a strong wind. We can become enamored and protective of the plan, and closed to the idea of making changes along the way.

But perhaps instead, we should embrace that strong change wind and stop seeking an anchor.  Sailors constantly adjust their sails to changing wind directions and conditions.  Or let's think about the balance of forces needed for flight:  drag, gravity, thrust, and lift.  We just cannot be nimble if we only think about drag and gravity with our strategic plans.  We need to build in the balancing forces of thrust and lift.  We need to make sure that using a strategic plan as a project gate-keeper does not stop us from embracing exciting change.  In a recent NYT article Management Be Nimble, Adam Bryant identified six organizational drivers that are commonly described in cultures emphasizing innovation.  The first item was to create a "simple plan":  "One of a leader’s most important roles is to boil down an organization’s many priorities and strategies into a simple plan, so that employees can remember it, internalize it and act on it. With clear goals and metrics, everyone can pull in the same direction, knowing how their work contributes to those goals."  

Perhaps, then, it is our ability to lead through synthesizing ideas and breaking down complex plans. Those actions give us the thrust and lift needed to be nimble.  We need to be willing to change plans and directions, and do so quickly.  On our campus, we are experimenting with an evergreen three-year technology plan.  We will always be in year one of a three year plan; we will have the flexibility each year to visit our issues.  We see this working more like New Media Consortium's Horizon Report.  We will have to work to build ongoing technology connectedness, making sure projects come to completion, but we need to make sure we balance with action and lift - those things that provide a quick change in direction.