I’m a day late on this one, and I will in fat roll the last two days into just this one post. Some of my thoughts have been formulating over a while anyway. Plus, due to some technical issues, I am having trouble effectively composing posts from anywhere but our meeting room. So it just hasn’t been easy.
One thing that has really impressed me, as my team has been working on our presentation to the “executive council” (played by our faculty) and while talking to other attendees, is that so many of the attendees have made these kinds of presentations already. They have already been on the radar of their upper tiers of their organizations. In a way, this means that this really isn’t all that hard of a task and that arguably attendees are far closer to being high-level leadership positions than perhaps I had anticipated. I figured everyone would be high level directors, but the director of, say, all customer or systems support for some major state university is pretty high up there. Even in terms of scope of work, what I do as CIO at Menlo College is not that far off from their work. The only difference I’ve generally felt about my role has been its scope. Not so much even by now, before the workshop has even ended. It’s really impressive.
As far as the workshop itself, a few things have jumped out at me. The first is that, while we did spend time talking to our executives as prep work so that we understood that level of leadership. So that we could separate really high level strategy from the “tactical” work we do. This was very useful, but we haven’t really returned to the strategic during the presentations as I would have expected. We’ve talked a lot about regulations, about what we need to worry about as leaders, and even how to manage relationships, but that’s really it.
Without an explicit, ongoing emphasis on strategy, it’s really easy for us to all get “into the weeds” and talk tactics and specific solutions during our conversations. We get out of the strategic. There are some important points here and there. Looking at governance from a high level (see my note below about emphasis on size of institution making these solutions less relevant to me, however). Examining IT security as part of a general campus risk security model is a powerful one. But those were not really the core emphasis of some of these presentations.
Also, and I’m borrowing from another attendee here, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about how to maintain innovation while handling all these other issues. Yes, we need to care about compliance and cyber-security, but what about our responsibility to foster creativity and the ability for faculty to be free to be innovative?
Finally, there is the empahsis on large institutions. The faculty are all from fairly large ones, and I can understand a bias. But while it’s always diffficult for me to take ideas and apply them to an institution of our size, all the talk about deputy CIOs, relying on large staff with multiple layers, etc makes it tougher than I had thought. I’m getting stuff out but, in the case of governance, for instance, I was generally taking information from about 1/3 of any other institution’s solutions, with full knowledge that I hav no capacity to dfo the other 2/3s. That is truly frustrating, and more of an effort than I had anticipated.
On a more…personal interaction note, I really need to learn to shut up more. We all have great ideas, and they will conflict at times. It’s not quite an issue of “put 7 leaders together on a team and it’s chaos,” but if some don’t step back, it is a lot of discussing and less productivity at times. And I personally feel that I’ve been contributing less valuable content than others. In no way has my group made me feel like an outsider or have they ostracized me in any way. I do feel that my opinions are contrary to the general flow perhaps more often than not, but that itself doesn’t mean I should step back. But for the sake of getting things done, I need to sit back more and just listen. Of course, this is a lot easier when the overall work of the team is really excellent.
The jury is still out on whether this will be a good educational experience. I’m learning more through direct conversations with the faculty than the curriculum, it seems, We’ll see.