Sunday, February 19, 2012

The CTO's Role - Involve Stakeholders (Part 2) #cbchat

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"A different world cannot be built by indifferent people."

Note: This is one in a series of blog entries exploring the role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Director of Technology. Please be sure toread the whole series! 

"I have the courage of 10,000 Bengal tigers." When I participated in the Dale Carnegie Human Relations course--a course I was in need of as a shy 17 year old, my father pointed out to me--one of the ways to build courage before a presentation was to repeat this statement. "Repeat this statement until you feel like you have a cushion of courage to rely upon," came the advice from a man in a business suit. He then modeled it for me. A confident person takes on challenges he doesn't know the exact way to solve, counting on his experience and team to "get it done." When one builds relationships with stakeholders, one increases organizational confidence to get what appeared insurmountable alone, done.
Note: Some time ago, I asked a colleague to share her insights about the role of the Chief Technology Officer.   It's no secret that that is the job I want to have when I grow up, and I'd noticed her leadership. This is the second in a series of personal responses to the insights she shared with me in a quick email that knocked my socks off when I read it a few weeks ago. I invite you to share your perspective, whether as a team leader or team member, in the comments for this blog or on your own blog. Her initial advice appears in blue and my reflections in black.

(2)    Form a fantastic stakeholder team – include board members, parents, students, teachers, administrators, & higher ed to help you build a vision

Depending on the organization you're in, accomplishing this can be an easy task or a difficult one. To find a bedrock experience for this, I have to go back to my time in Mt. Pleasant ISD when I worked with the Deputy Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent to collaborate with stakeholders, do Board presentations on the District Technology Plan to build a shared vision. This is heady work, a job of facilitation that involves connecting with people, building relationships.

Often, building those relationships can be challenging in larger organizations...only certain positional roles are permitted to interact with community members, Board members, etc. While these distinctions remain in smaller organizations, the dividing membranes are more permeable and relationship building, permissible. The experience is not unlike that of my second efforts at integration technology into a school's classroom practice. Having done it once--stepping in all the potholes available, building coalitions between technology and budget committees, meeting with the principal and leadership team to plan the way ahead--I hoped that the second time would be easier.

"Miguel," asked the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent jointly, "how do you know about the state technology allotment?" I'd asked my principal at the time how much of the state technology allotment his campus had access to. Surprisingly, my principal didn't have a clue about he setup the phone call (that easy in small organizations to access leadership!) and had me ask. At the end of our conversation, I had been offered all the money I needed to get things rolling...much of what we purchased back then for technology integration is now available for free through cloud-based solutions (e.g. GoogleApps for Education, Edmodo/CollaborizeClassroom/Schoolology,, Aviary Tools).

From that moment of conversation, I enjoyed support in building a curriculum-based technology program with classroom teachers. In the middle of my first year as a third grade bilingual teacher, I'd already been asked to assume a district level position created just for one of the leadership put it, "We need what you're doing across the District, not just as one campus." The small school district continued to develop its program, coming to view technology as something not just for recreation after kids had finished the real work.

Involving stakeholders--like visiting classroom teachers, one by one, and encouraging them to try using technology, sharing what their kids created at school board meetings--can be frightening if you focus on the "idea of it." As a veteran educator, I find that while many of us are scared of the "the idea of it" the doing is a lot simpler, even when there are minefields to cross. We simply have to build the relationships.

This lesson comes home for me in the story related by a tech director in a small school district and which I shared in this blog a few weeks ago:
I have to also admit (truth in advertising here) that I think my district’s small size is an advantage here.  They all know me personally and trust my judgment.  If I tell them I can make it work, they believe me.
The 5 lessons from that blog entry include the following "formula for success:"

  1. The relationship she had with her peers enabled them to know her personally and trust her judgement. This enabled her to bring about powerful changes that some district leaders would scoff at..."Pshaww...Linux? Give our children a break! That's insane when Mac or Windows are available!" The power of relationship building proves that before you begin any major change, build a solid relationship with people.
  2. Get top-level support from district and campus administrators.
  3. Take advantage of web-based apps, such as GoogleApps for Education.
  4. Use free solutions like to facilitate reimaging computers
  5. Offer frequent professional learning that highlights the changes being made.
How do you build relationships with your stakeholders that provide a cushion of support?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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