A Baker's Dozen: What I've Learned as a Tech Director

Reflecting on success may accelerate your growth. One approach that can be painful is reflecting on your failure. As a technology director in various sized school districts, I've had the chance to make mistakes.

Yep, that's right. Even with the fun stuff I've done and accomplished with the assistance of many others, there are times when I've failed. It can be humbling to realize you messed up. When you're starting out, it's easier to own your mistakes. "Hey boss," I'd start out, "I've screwed up."
"Did you learn something?" the boss would ask back after hearing me out.
"Yes, I sure did."

And that was that.

Lessons Learned From Failure

Here are a few takeaways or lessons learned.

  1. Go to where the community is, don't try to get the community to follow you
  2. It's easier to plan an event that requires daily work than it is to implement it over time
  3. Just because you have a fresh idea every day doesn't mean you're going to want to blog it
  4. Avoid building (i.e. resource collection) on shifting sand (i.e. Microsoft kept revamping OneNote and changing how it worked, invalidating processes that worked even though they have a terrific product now)
  5. Try the inexpensive solution first; if it's good enough, you won't be out a lot of money
  6. When it comes to reconciling (think "South Africa reconciliation process") employees, you have two choices: 1) Fire them or 2) Do what needs to be done to move the District forward in spite of them. Having done the second, I'm ready to adopt the former. Some people are just too bone-headed to keep. One bad apple (or as I suffered in one school district, three or four) can spoil everything.
  7. When the people who hired you leave, are pushed out by a new superintendent, it's past your time to hit the road. It's business, not personal, but it feels like it.
  8. Be involved in every step, make frequent backups, and document the process. When done, reflect on what each person on the team (including myself) could have done better
  9. Changing the status quo is a tough job but it has to be done. Make sure you give everyone fair warning then do whatever it takes to achieve excellence, including termination for those who aren't going to move the ball forward
  10. Don't be afraid to tell people what the real score is so that they understand the why
  11. Make sure your solution will scale to meet the needs of the many
  12. NEVER, EVER make changes that could derail multiple programs on a Friday afternoon; you may rescue the initiative from the jaws of death, and none will be the wiser, but you will get older faster
If you're wondering if that's all I've learned as a tech director, then you're wondering how I enjoyed any success at all. The truth is, it would take a book to write it all down and a whole lot more reflection.

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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