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the life and times of Allan Chen

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learn to project, but don’t expect to defy physics

A colleague passed along some interesting tips for doing good presentations.  These were originally written by Cory Doctorow.  No 10 states:

“Visualize your voice. Imagine your voice is a laser and try to project it strongly to the opposite wall”

I try to do this and I think I am pretty good at projecting my voice and filling a room.  However, some evaluations I got from a recent presentation remind me that while I can project all I want, I’m not going to defy physics.

Sound diminishes by the increase in distance squared.  That is, if someone is 2 feet away, the volume of my voice reaching them is 4 times (2^2) lower than someone 1 foot away.  You figure that some presentation rooms are 20, 30, even 40′ deep at a small conference, and one’s voice can get awfully quiet to those in the back of the room.

The specific comment was about how there was a fan in the room creating constant noise (and the fan was part of an HVAC system far, far larger than my own, lung-based air-exchange system) drowned out my voice.  How there was a preference that I use the microphone available (and even pass that mic around to others).

I had felt I did a pretty good job projecting and I could hear most others quite well.

This is a short post.  It’s just a remark on my own “revelation” that no matter how much I try to hit that back wall with my voice, how booming I think I am, and how clear I think my voice is that particular day (because sometimes we are a bit hoarse, after all), I cannot defy physics.

So I need to get over it and use the mic…

a bigger step than I realized

It’s been slightly less than 3 months that I’ve been CIO at Menlo College.  While in many, many ways it’s not a conventional CIO position, I am still consistently surprised at how different my work is now compared to before.  I would presume that most people in CIO positions are working in relatively large organizations, where each direct report is a manager unto him or herself.  Here, I have a team of 7 (2 are 50%) including myself so I’m still very hands-on.  In many ways one would think that my job would not be much different from being Assistant Dean for Law Technology at the Santa Clara University Law School.  I am still doing strategic planning, still communicating with schools in the area for collaboration, and still working with a small team to be highly productive, rather than a large organization. You’d think the jobs would be similar.

You would be very, very wrong…

The difference between that job – arguably the CIO of the law school – and this one is significant.  First, the scope.  There is nothing in between being a Director of IT for a unit and CIO for an entire institution that prepares you for the scope of responsibilities.  I can’t imagine one, anyway.  I suppose that a CIO could throw all responsibilities at a direct report to give that sense, but even someone really bad at delegation wouldn’t give everything to one person.  You’d delegate to 3-4 trusted folks.  In which case none of those 3-4 have to deal with the scope.  But at the end of the day, a CIO of a small college like Menlo or a big one like, say, Princeton is still where the buck stops.  When it comes down to it, a CIO has to be at least aware of everything going on.

Even beyond scope, I’m now doing certain activities that I never engaged in before.  Negotiating the price of a SAN – sure, done that.  Negotiating the price of our ERP, then asking for installments to handle our cash flow environment, with a shorter contract under the stipulation that we’d get the same pricing next year?  Totally different.  And having to keep in mind cash flow all the time?  Puts a spin on everything.  Then the phones go down or the wireless network won’t hand out IPs anymore and it’s back in the trenches.  It really has caught me off guard, which is saying a lot because I tried really hard to be ready for anything.

The financials is the big part.  It’s not as simple as “you pay a lot for licensing and hardware refreshes, then use up whatever else is left wisely.”  I have both more and less leeway to use some techniques I found useful in the past.  For instance, I would cycle lean and “heavy” years at the law school.  One year we’d spend a lot on servers and storage – maybe $125,000.  The next year we’d spend $20,000, if not a bit less.  This helped me get that big budget approved, and gave the school a lot of flexibility in the lean years to allow other departments to do stuff.

I can’t do that now.  I am the one budget, so I can’t really give myself leeway by having heavy and lean years.  And while this is a very cooperative environment, the bottom line is that few departments have one-time projects that can be funded through decreased IT needs for that one year then absorbed into operations and budget from then on, while IT’s budget goes up again.  So I have to spend about the same amount year over year on everything.  I can move dollars around and perhaps yes, I can spend a bit more on something this year and less on it next year.  But my budget is not part of a larger overall budget in the same way it was at the law school.

I am also much more sensitive to cash flow.  Because I was abstracted at least one more layer away from the school’s direct finances and the decreased spending in one month by, say, the career center would offset increased spending that same month by Law Tech, I could spend more or less from month to month.  It didn’t matter as much if I had all of my licenses due in the same month.  Here, because my budget is fairly large, if I don’t spread things out I inhibit my own ability to spend.  Almost like our budget is so big that we hold ourselves back in terms of our flexibility.

There are a dozen if not maybe 30 other ways that have shown me, repeatedly, how big of a divide there is between before and now.  But the gulf has proven to be quite large indeed…

having a personal, long-range strategic plan

This is my last night in Memphis, where the 2012 SIGUCCS Conference concluded earlier today.  It’s been a really fascinating conference, and an especially satisfying experience since I am this year’s treasurer.  It’s been 18 months of planning and the work of a lot of people that led to a great and productive event.

One theme came up repeatedly.  More than simply sharing knowledge, a great number of the line staff – directly interacting with students, faculty and staff – and first tier managers demonstrated what I can only describe as an “intense thirst” for professional development guidance.  The emphasis has always been on networking and sharing information.  It has always been about building a community facing similar challenges and coming together to find meaningful solutions.  But there was a twist this year, and it was distinct and pronounced.

One session in particular, by Lucas Friedrichsen from Oregon State and Mo Nishiyama (@synthcat) from Oregon Health and Science University, sparked a number of thoughts.  Lucas and Mo, fundamentally, were discussing the challenges of remaining productive at one’s work, maintaining a healthy work/life balance, yet still obtaining and making use of the professional development opportunities needed to keep advancing in one’s career.  At the core was, I think, the same topic I’d been seeing elsewhere – these are professionals that have done good work, have built up their portfolios/resumes/skills, and are wanting new challenges (whether that means a new job or a new set of responsibilities is different from person to person, but it’s still about growth).  During the discussion and through the twitter backchannel the idea of a “personal strategic plan” occurred to me.

Most likely, there is a strategic plan for your institution.  Usually, the “official,” public one is something along the lines of “we strive to be awesome, using many of the awesome traits we possess, and will also care about the environment.”  In other words, fairly generic.  At Menlo College, where we are drafting our next strategic plan, we have begun with an internal document that is much more specific.  The section for the Office of Information Technology is broken into 7 sections, each of which has at least 10 specific goals, and every goal has a timeline.  This is the kind of document that is actually useful and that translates into tactics.  Every time we consider a technology or other solution, it must fit in with this plan.  If it does conflict, then we will ask why and whether we should redesign our goals (because sometimes something out of band can in fact be a good idea and we should keep an  open mind).

Why shouldn’t one have a personal one, as well?  A strategic plan about how to get to various points in one’s career on a certain timeline.  This would give us a sense of timing, a context for decision-making, and, most importantly, a path that one can keep an eye on and stay relatively close to over time.  This path would then give us milestones for achieving specific goals.

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enterprise: 1 to beam up. hopefully

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced between Santa Clara and now Menlo is trying to remain focused on pursuing enterprise-quality services while facing the realities of the higher ed environment and its financial limitations.  I think it’s easy to go one of two ways.  Get a bit negative about our prospects to continue to deliver quality services to students with static or, more likely, shrinking budgets try to do “more with less.”   Or look harder at operations, find places where efficiency can be improved, and perhaps even cut out some services to deliver 8 great products that keep the school moving rather than 10 okay and eventually less-than-okay services.

Note – these are perceptions and perspectives that arise from trying to implement and maintain top-notch services and support in the higher ed space.  These are most likely not actual policy, on a day-to-day, week-by-week basis.  I am not saying that there are managers in place at other schools that have “given up” on meeting these types of ambitious goals.  I believe that everyone wants to deliver.  I mean merely that, when facing this challenge, you don’t always look at the sunny side of things.  In the time I was at Santa Clara, where we introduced and/or reorganized a lot of services and in the first few weeks at Menlo, I find myself going back and forth, and I am in some ways surprised by how intense the back and forth has been.

The other day, during a planning meeting for an event, a group of high level staff at Menlo spent 2 minutes discussing a particular item.  2 minutes doesn’t sound like much.  But when the topic is who is going to pay for a balloon arch…2 minutes is eternity.  This is the financial context of Menlo College.  My point is not that it’s “bad” or “oh my gosh, see how tough it is for me??”  But if it was eye-opening to me to see at what level financial decisions are made at a school the size of Menlo (687 students this year), then it’s important to help my 1 or 2 readers wrap their heads around it, too.

On the flip side, Menlo, its leadership and its board have been realistic supporters of IT.  All of the credit goes to my predecessor, Raechelle “Rae” Clemmons, who established the importance of a proper IT infrastructure at any institution, even one as small as Menlo.  In some ways, I think she effectively impressed upon these folks that perhaps it was even more important for Menlo to have a well-developed IT environment than at some other locations with (slightly) more funding.  There is almost no margin for error when budgets are this tight, when the “minimum request” is always the one that is actually approved.  So every dollar that is spent must go towards fundamental improvements to infrastructure and operations.

Almost paradoxically, even at such a small college, the closer we get to an “enterprise”-level environment (which usually means more money), the more efficient we can be, and the more money we can ultimately save. Just because we are small doesn’t mean we don’t benefit from these type of investments.

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changes

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write this particular post.  I have started and stopped it several times.

As of August 1, I’ll be the Chief Information Office at Menlo College.  It has been a serious up and down last 5 weeks – leaving Santa Clara Law has been and will be difficult, especially because I feel that Law Technology is on the brink of some great work.  And the uncertainty that comes with any job change is very present.

My goal for a long time and from the day I started at Santa Clara was to move up to an executive-level position at another college, then move onto bigger and bigger schools from there.  The environment is a great one, too, with great people and a president that wants a partner to guide the school over the next 4-5 years (or so).  For a small school, the degree of trust the president wants to be able to put in me (I, of course, have to earn it) is critically important.  The staff also seem to really want to focus on getting stuff done, improving business processes, looking at systems that improve efficiency, etc.

I am really excited to move onto this part of my career.  And I hope that this blog will continue to have positive entries…

reversing the magnets

The post title is about friends becoming…more than friends (can you name the movie?), but this is NOT about that.  It is about the nature of a (professional) relationship changing due to a realization of significance.

I recently accepted a position to be CIO at Menlo College in Atherton, CA.  A post about that is in progress but discussions with people motivate me to write this one first.

I have always trusted, respected, and in many parts of my job admired my manager.  She is a professional above reproach who still invests herself personally in her projects.  She treats everyone fairly.  Most importantly, she has been a mentor to me (as much as a manager can ever be a true mentor).  She has helped me along from a  young, inexperienced (never been a manager before) but presumably filled-with-potential subordinate to someone that has, I think, proven to be an adaptable, strong-willed leader of a group that needed change and realignment.  This is no small task for me to have accomplished, and I could not have done it without her support and guidance.

However…when I applied for this new job, even though I respected my manager so much, the concept of trusting one’s direct supervisor to the extent of using her as a direct reference OR notifying her of your intent to apply for another job was foreign to me.  It’s still a bit weird, to be honest, but the concept literally did not compute or exist or…anything.

It’s very difficult to explain in writing, to be honest.  But I can offer my thought process as an example of how I honestly did not even conceive of this idea before.  To me, my instinct is that she is my manager, and therefore I don’t do anything until offer is in hand.  As a manager she will take my efforts as a sign of not being committed to my job, lack of loyalty, etc.  But perhaps that is too simplistic of a view.  In some cases, the layers above that basic reporting structure should be considered.  That step – taking time to consider the relationship as unique and distinct from a generic manager-subordinate one – just never happened.  It never entered into my thought process.

Looking back (a whopping 2 weeks ago) and having spoken to a few people at very high level executive positions at the school and university, I now realize that in some cases, such a relationship is possible.  One has to be careful, and I’m not sure I’ll ever have such a relationship again.  But I do feel that it is possible, and I will, in the future, consider these extra layers as I look forward in my career.

hm.

why not to cut your travel/conference budget

The subject line might make this seem like a really obvious post.  Of course, regardless of financial pressures, one should try to keep as many budget line items as possible and therefore not sacrifice the travel/conference budget.  We never want to cut anything right?

However, both after the dot com bubble burst and then the beginning of the Great Recession, I’ve seen departments slash these budgets first.  The very first thing to go is travel and suddenly no one goes anywhere.  It’s just accepted as a luxury that cannot be afforded anymore without much discussion.

I argue that this should be one of the last things you cut.  That you should fight for this vigorously in a budget defense and even to the point where you sacrifice other services in order to maintain that allocation.  Of course, what you really should do is energetically and critically analyze your overall service portfolio, find things that can be cut and/or increase efficiency and keep that travel budget.  I would never advocate for abolishing any existing service without careful thought just for the sake of being able to attend a conference.  But I am certain that there is something that can be cut if you look closely enough.  And make hard decisions.

At the least, cutting travel budgets should be just as hard a decision as eliminating an existing (core?) service.  It shouldn’t be an automatic decision when budgets get tight.

This isn’t really about the need to network, meet in person, etc.  Truth be told, while I value the opportunities to meet with people, I am fully aware that we can create and maintain very strong professional relationships – and exchanges of information – without meeting in person.  We can take it as far as the occasional video conference to really get things together and understood properly. You don’t have to meet in person.

This is about professional development, and connection to the community that helps foster that development.  And accomplishing the former via the latter is only viable if you maintain a presence and set of relationships that grow from consistent attendance at certain conferences.  You attend often enough to get invested, and you go again and again, and become more and more involved.  This becomes an investment from your department in you, and you in your development.

I put forth my “path” to core committee involvement for the 2012 SIGUCCS Conference.  This is held annually and brings about 300-325 (topped out at 450 but 2008 wiped the slate clean, almost) people in higher education IT together.  These attendees range from executive to line level, from CIO’s to Help Desk Managers and even a few software developers.  SIGUCCS is part of the Association of Computing Machines, the main benefits of which are the requirement to write a formal, standards-compliant paper on one’s presentation topic (if you want to present, you have to write a 4 page paper.  Now that will make people decide if they are really willing to get involved or not even at the speaker level) and the inclusion of that paper in the ACM Digital Library.  I’ve done only 3 papers and they’re fairly old, but I’ve been cited a few times and yes, it’s on my resume/CV. (I’d link to the papers but you have to be a SIGUCCS or ACM member to view them).

Every time I have attended SIGUCCS, I have increased my network through in-person meetings and chats.  But I’ve also become more and more invested in the organization, and I think I have developed as a professional as a result.

I look at my path to where I am today vis-a-vis SIGUCCS.

I realize that you can add from year to year.  But notice that except for a small gap in 2007-2008, when I went through a rather significant career change, I moved from attendee at the Technical Conference to attendee and then involvement in the program for the Spring Management Symposium (so this is more aspiring leaders than line staff) to actual conference core planning committee for 2012 (and invited to repeat role in 2013).

I’m not saying that people around the country are saying “oh, Allan Chen?  Yeah, he’s that guy from SIGUCCS!”  But I can tell you that if you said “Brad Wheeler” I’d say “that visionary CIO from Indiana University that I read about in Educause all the time.”  SIGUCCS is not Educause, but then again it would take me a lot longer to gain this level of involvement with Educause (especially because Educause is so big that organization of conferences is generally through its own existing mechanisms – not volunteers.  I’d have to be writing articles and whatnot to reach any level of notoriety).

I am invested in SIGUCCS.  The people whom I meet at SIGUCCS Conference – even those whose budgets have been slashed and only come every other year – are ones that I consider consulting when I run into various problems.  In the exact same way that I’d think about calling someone over at Central IT or perhaps up the road at Stanford.  And I have developed professionally, which is a benefit to the department and yes, to myself in the long term should I look to other professional opportunities.

And all of this is because I have fought for the travel budget.  Because we stopped offering staffed video recordings in non-automated rooms (something we’d been wanting to do for a long time anyway – we’re putting our energy towards lobbying to automate the rooms instead), because we cut back on a ambitious cloud-storage pilot (let’s find 50 committed users rather than 50+50 occasional users), and because we continue to look critically at our budget and service portfolio, we have maintained our travel budget.  And my web developer gets to go to the one conference per year that is the conference for people in his field.  My Systems Manager has been able to go to a couple of intensive virtualization briefings or trainings, and I can bring one of my Support Team folks to SIGUCCS as well.  In the past I’ve attended Educause, too (though now it conflicts too much with SIGUCCS).

So think twice before you cut that budget.  Or perhaps take another look.  It’s an investment in your team to be able to send them to conference.  It’s an investment for an attendee in the conference itself and the community thereof.  And it’s an investment for almost everyone professionally.  And if we don’t care about our level of investment in our jobs, our careers, and the quality of our work…are we in the right field?

supporting early adopters, or punishing those that go off the reservation?

A combination of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) “movement” and the rise of widely-used, highly-effective third party communication systems (eg – Gmail over whatever your company/institution is using) has created what I see as a conflict about whether to support people that you’d call either early adopters or ones that have gone off on his or her own and away from standardized systems.

First, some general definitions and stuff.  BYOD has arisen mostly because incredibly powerful computing devices have hit the mainstream.  Tons of people have smart phones (though the actual % is lower than you might think – recent surveys indicate that a solid 30-40% of cell phone users have, at most, “feature” phones with keyboards or some other extra feature for faster texting, but no web browsing or anything like that.  Many others just have flip phones for regular calling).  Lots of people have tablets.  And laptop ownership went past 75% a long time ago.  So with all of these devices already in our pockets and bags, we have to start considering the ramifications of so much computing and productivity power being brought to our campuses and work places, rather than being provided by.  A computer lab might need to be only half the size of just 2 years ago, with empty desk space being far more useful for students and their own laptops, etc.

Even though AOL first offered its own e-mail system a very, very long time ago (I was on AOL starting in 1994-1995, and I remember it had not yet purchased Compuserv), the massive shift to yahoo and google for personal e-mail also causes an issue.  In the same way that we have to consider that users have their own devices which they prefer to use over the ones we provide, we must also be aware that one’s well-established gmail account might supersede the benefits of an organizational e-mail system (or calendar system, or chat system, etc).  Yes, for work purposes there is the issue of separating official from personal e-mail but the lines get more and more blurred, even for employees, as adoption of these other tools gets higher and higher.  Investment into one’s personal gmail account gets so high that his or her identity is based on that account, not the name.edu or company.com one.

We have faculty at Santa Clara Law – people who are scholars associated with an academic institution – who use their gmail accounts with gmail.com suffixes over their scu.edu accounts.  I recently worked with a few marketing folks that asked me to contact them on their yahoo and gmail accounts instead of their company ones, because it was faster (and easier to get to one their phones, etc).

A lot of the two movements go hand-in-hand.  Because it’s so easy to connect an Android phone or iPhone to gmail, people prefer to have that account when “on the go.”  As they are more and more mobile, more of their e-mail goes to those “non-sanctioned” accounts.  As more goes there, less goes to the official one.  And so on.

As we look towards a shift to a new e-mail and calendaring (and collaboration) toolset at Santa Clara University, those faculty that switched over to gmail will in fact be left “out in the cold.”  They are using the “commercial” version of gmail, and we’ll be using the “educational” version of either Google or Microsoft’s cloud-based solutions.  Even if we go with Google, there is no migration option from a personal, commercial account to an institutional, Apps for Education one.

So…in a way, we are punishing those that adopted these highly-productive tools (gmail, gchat, etc), potentially a side-effect of early adoption of highly-capable devices (smartphones, tablets).  We are penalizing early-adopters.

Yet we rely on early adopters to push the envelope, to ask the questions that those only one standard-deviation away from the mean have not yet considered, and to help motivate and inspire us to do more and be more creative.

How do we resolve this conflict?  Do we create an environment that encourages early adoption?  Many times it is these individuals that help instructional technologists (or just plain technologists) try new things and work out the bugs.  But what happens when we switch to a standard that leaves them out in the cold?  What safety nets do we provide?  If none, then do we risk fragmentation (aside from dissatisfaction, of course)?

the (legal) future of collaborative documents

Fascinating post about the US v. Lawson case over at the blog run by Eric Goldman (a professor here at SCU Law).  It’s actually a guest post by Venkat Balasubramani.

I’m not a lawyer, do not have a JD, and am generally often only about 95% informed on things which makes me very dangerous and likely to make myself look foolish.  To make things worse, the blog belongs to a professor at the law school where I work.  I don’t know the guest author, but this is still a pretty dicey situation.  But I’m going through with this post anyway.

Basically, the ruling in US v. Lawson, which was essentially about cockfighting (or “gamefowl derbies”) but involved issues of “sponsorship” of the events, was overturned because a juror printed up the definition of the word “sponsor” off of Wikipedia and brought it into deliberations.  That, unto itself, apparently would not necessarily warrant overturning the decision – the original court ruled that it did not prejudice the jury.  The Fourth Circuit, on appeal, ruled that it did prejudice the jury, however, and issued an opinion (but not a decision on the appeal?  this is where my understanding of the various rulings a court can have gets really muddy) on the matter.  The opinion is fundamentally arguing that the inherent effect of bringing an outside source into the jury deliberation room.  It also, however, makes a lot of comments about wikipedia specifically, and suggests certain things about other collaborative editing situations.

One way the court discusses the possible validity of the document brought into the jury room is whether the definition procured from Wikipedia was the legally correct one.  But since Wikipedia is always changing, someone would need to prove that the definition on wikipedia the day that the juror printed it out was accurate, not just the one that is on the site “today.”  The government didn’t bother to do that, which is weird but that isn’t want struck me.

What really intrigues and disturbs me is this quote from the ruling:

the court notes that even if historical edits were presented by the government, it could not consider these, absent some indication that Wikipedia archives of historical changes are “accurate and trustworthy.

So…while I think it’s awfully strange that the government didn’t even try to retrace the versions of the wikipedia page, the court would need an “indication” that the archives would even be accurate.  The court wouldn’t even consider the evidence presented unless it could be “proven” that Wikipedia archives were accurate.

What would be sufficient indication?  What would be enough to make one court feel that the archives of Wikipedia (or…revision history in Google Docs?  on Dropbox?) are accurate and reliable?  Wikipedia is based on the MediaWiki platform but what about other ones (like…Wordpress, which is the one that powers this blog?)  Would that “indication” for the Fourth Circuit be enough for the next court if there is an appeal?  What about a court in one state vs. the next?

Considering how many different collaborative editing tools we use these days, this is, to me, a frightening question.  Almost all of these tools – whether a productivity tool like Google Docs or a file storage/sharing system like Dropbox or Box – have some kind of version history system.  If for some reason a document that has been edited collaboratively becomes important in a legal case, what if the court decides that Box’s version history system is not sufficiently accurate?  That it is possible to somehow “break into” the history and alter it, such that it is no longer a reliable part of an e-discovery effort?  Or what if one person collaborating on the document – a “low-level” team member – went through the revision history and restored the document to some earlier point?  Then there is more editing.  If you go from version 1 to version 3, then back to version 2, then edit to version 4…I have no idea.

Do we now have to start vetting archiving and versioning systems to meet exposure, e-discover and other legal needs in addition to just general security of information?  And should we just be paranoid in general?

to the polygon!

As part of “Project 2012,” the team established an explicit expectation that we all operated as a unified team, and that we were all accountable and dependent on each other.  This may seem like something every team should have, but the point was to explicitly state – and collectively agree – that we would operate in this manner from now on, and to acknowledge that team success depended on team cohesion.

Rather than a traditional org chart of any kind – even a very flat one of manager (me) and then the rest of the staff reporting up – we are formed more in the shape of a 7-sided polygon.  Not only is each point connected to a neighboring point, but also to everyone other point.  It’s like a 7-point web, really (but a polygon is easier to visualize when I’m describing it to others).  We are all the same level.  Each position is empowered to act individually to the benefit of the team.  Each position has internal and external responsibilities.  The Classrooms and Media Production Manager, for instance, has the internal operational responsibilities of updating our classrooms, the internal programmatic responsibility of researching new educational technology that can be used by faculty in those rooms, and the external responsibility to interface with university Media Services.  Law Tech is dependent on the Classrooms Manager to keep up with Media Services such that we are effectively never surprised.  The Classrooms Manager is dependent on Law Tech to support efforts made while collaborating with Media Services, provide input, etc.

The polygon is actually also a great management tool.  It may seem that the team is decentralized but, because the dependencies are emphasized so heavily, one can never go too far without running into a checkpoint with another team member.  One can have an idea about a classroom technology, talk to other schools that have used it, and talk to the manufacturer.  But once a reseller is contacted, a dependency on the budget manager (me) comes into play.  Even before that, dependencies on Operations to make sure the new technology will fit our overall maintenance system or on the Help Desk to make sure the technology can be supported arise.  Each person on the other end – me as budget manager, Operations for maintenance and Help Desk for support – depends on the Classrooms Manager to check in with us at the appropriate points.  Failure to do so is letting us down.

In an ideal world, the polygon empowers individuals, improves communications, and leads to overall team improvements in creativity, collaboration, and performance.  At the least, it allows me to expect more from the team (and myself – this isn’t always easy for me to navigate, either) and react to deviations from the polygon approach as appropriate.  So I’m not giving up all responsibility – far from it.  I am asking each team member to step up (and of course I am putting myself in the mix at the exact same level, which I think is a good part of a team-based operation).

As today is my first back from paternity leave, having put in the polygon – at least conceptually – proved to be very comforting as I shifted all of my attention to my family.  I knew things would not go perfectly (and truth be told I’m still sifting through stuff now) but I also knew that, when in doubt, the team could “go to the polygon” and ask more of each other, and have more asked of them.

We’ll see how the next few weeks go as I switch back to a more regular schedule.