Switching Contexts - Strategic v. Operational

I reflected a bit this weekend on wearing dual hats as both a Director in our Senior Management Team as well as a DL serving (BAS, Chancellor's/EVC units Planning & Budget, VPAA, VPDUE, University Relations and Student Affairs). It's evaluation season, so as I think back on another year of service a couple of nuggets fell out.


Operational v. Strategic

One of my challenges is that I've taken criticism as being "too technical" and that I should be working on simply managing my resources (staff) against my operational portfolio and proejct work. I interpret this as "how can you have time to innovate"?, or "why are you studying that"?, or "why aren't you managing your people and delegating more"? 

Most of my ideas and prototypes come from client requests. In some cases they come from my reading and working to extend and evolve the technologies we're using.

So, I think to myself, if I don't do it, who will? In several cases, my adventures have turned into learning opportuntiies for my staff to take on new technologies (Docushare, Drupal). As our resources continue to shrink in our central programming teams, they are unable to quickly test a new idea or theory. Through the design of our organization, the DL's have resources that can be brought to bear that our colleagues don't. My ability to move priorities and work across teams is admittendly easier than in APM or Core Tech and allows me some time to innovate.

It is true that we have managers in ITS who largely manage their resources against projects. Their roles may be more or less project managment, meeting facilitation, reporting and supervision. We have other managers who may manage a service; a collection of staff resources that don't report directly to them and the associated service levels for that service. I want to do both and more.

My thought here is that I'm good at context switching. Having a deep and practical understanding of technologies has always given me a leg up; I'm able to understand the work at the detail and strategic levels. From there, translating the geek speak or business value to all levels of the institution has reinforced my creditibility as both a leader and manager.

So, keeping my hand in a few technical proejcts allows me to stay sane in between all the meetings. I think it helps me formate strategies too. It has resulted in getting new products out to my customers (Campus Map, Sustainabillity Project Clearning House, Online Grocery) and test their ideas before we incorporate them into our stratgies.

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