IT Services All Hands Reflection

This time last week I was finalizing my slides for the IT Services All Hands meeting. I was trying to figure out how to cram six months of observations and forward facing action into 60 minutes and still leave some time for Q&A. I was also wrestling with the level of transparency to provide into the (typically) more opaque stuff within an organization — things like budgets, constraints, staffing levels, and the stuff that usually stays in the back office. I’ve believed that for a very long time that open is truly like an opacity slider that moves from transparent to opaque and that there is a time and a place to be very thoughtful about how aggressively you move that slider.

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I decided to move the slider as close to transparent as I could without creating any problems. In other words, I believe I shared the realities of the organization as I see them. And that is an important point to focus on, “as I see them.” What makes that important is that I am seeing ITS with very fresh eyes and from a different vantage point than the members of the team. I see my day to day struggles first hand, but most of the time, not theirs. I know the strain and stress many are under, but I feel it differently. I can show empathy, but there is the reality that I probably have a different view on things. Having these kinds of conversations pulls our perspectives closer together.

By being as honest and open as I could I was trying to create a shared sense of understanding of where we are as an organization. My feeling is if we all understand where we are we can better shape how we talk about our environment. Knowing that we are dealing with financial pressures helps us all better contextualize why it is not the right time to make that hire, make that investment, or take on that project. Knowing reality together allows us to see the organization through a similar set of lenses.

I also wanted to share just how transformative our work is to UChicago right now. Within the next five years we will have completely replaced our primary ERP environments, will have made massive improvements to our network infrastructure, and completely reinvented our service management and delivery approaches. And those aren’t pipe dream promises. We have already moved to WorkDay for HCM, are in the second phase of PeopleSoft Student, and working our way into a new Financial system. The network team is at the start of an incredible initiative to overhaul the campus network to make it faster, more reliable, and advance our stance in cyber research infrastructure. Tie that together with our complete reimplementation of ServiceNow and the ongoing work to redesign our customer service approaches and we are in the middle of something extraordinarily exciting.

A part of the conversation that went too quickly, but is of great importance is how we manage our teams and use our Values as part of the decision making process. I hope I was able to reinforce how our Values truly do matter and how we are living those at work every day. I shared a model for advancing staff empowerment that deserves a longer post in and of itself, but the slide that I used is below. My goals are to improve on boarding, reduce time to productivity, provide staff with a framework for success, greatly increase engagement, and radically reduce turnover. I believe all of those are tied together in a systematic process that starts even before a new staff member is hired. There will be much more coming in the next couple of months with regard to this work.

Empowerment Process

There was actually so much more that we covered. All in all, I really enjoyed the time we spent together. There were some really hard questions that I tried to answer. Some I was able to with depth, while there were others that we had to agree that there is more work to be done to get to an acceptable answer. I left feeling energized by the level of engagement and even more committed to delivering on the promises that I’m making to this team and that we are making to our University.

The after hours get together at the Pub wasn’t too shabby either.

7 thoughts on “IT Services All Hands Reflection

  1. I enjoyed your comments during the meeting and the additional information adds credence to the vision. I’ve seen the greatest successes when the vision starts at the top and is shared (down)consistently. Then all (should) understand and are working and moving in the same direction. My short time here has observed everyone moving in different directions, with different purposes and perspectives.
    You excite me. I hope for your success!
    And I will certainly do my (small) part in helping you achieve it.

    This university should be a leading edge not a hodgepodge of broken almost …

    • Here’s to marching toward some common goals! Thank you for the comment and vote of confidence. I think we can push UChicago IT into the light and make a real difference. We are already doing so much amazing stuff. I think our next step is telling the stories of that work. I believe we are on our way.

      • There will always be resistance to change. However if we push forward we can shape this university into the future.

  2. Glad to see your focus on professional development continues..investment in your people is critical to building an environment they care about and want to stay in.

    -The Baron

    • Thanks, Baron. I’m humbled by the comment from Strong Island. I hope things are moving forward in a positive way. I’d love for you to see what we are up to and to share the amazing work you’ve lead at Stony Brook! Maybe a spring trip?

      • Spring might be tough, going to EduCause Leadership Institute next week and then DrupalCon in May, anyone from your team attending?

        But Chicago in the summer sounds interesting

        –The Baron

      • Think about Summer then! Love to hear that you are heading to the Educause LI. That is fantastic!

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