Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Transformation Agenda

The more I read about history, the more in awe I become of the numbers and types of transformational changes that have occurred.  I read (audio book) Niall Ferguson’s Civilization: The West and the Europe 2012 079Rest this past year.  Empires as we know, rise and fall but their stories are impressive.  A rise and a fall are both transformational events.  We humans experience transformational events personally and on larger scales, all the time.  Being born is a pretty transformational event don’t you think.  Something seems to happen to many of us along the way through life to reduce our tolerance of transformation,

“a change or alteration, especially a radical one” (free dictionary, Dec. 14, 2014).

We become comfortable with the status quo and resistant to change.  Ruben Puentedura’s in his discussion of the SAMR model describes stages of change as Enhancement: Substitution to Augmentation and Transformation: Modification to Redefinition.  His context is change driven by technology, the realm I spend most of my time in.  However, I think the model can apply to and guide thinking about change in general.  Jordan Tinney, soon to be Superintendent for Surrey Schools writes about this here in a recent post.

I recently read (audio book) Onward by Howard Schultz CEO for Starbucks Coffee Company (good book review here).  Those that know me personally will not be surprised I read this given my affinity to Starbuck coffee…  But seriously, what a great story of survival and change for an amazing and very large company.  You should read the book.  Howard had to fairly quickly ‘right the ship’ call Starbucks as it was veering of course by the year 2006 and then the global financial meltdown hit.  He developed a very focused approach to reinventing Starbucks, he called the ‘plan’ his Transformational Agenda (I hope he doesn’t mind me titling my blog the same).  He imageshares a story of a global leadership conference held in New Orleans and the 1000s of Starbucks partners investing collectively many 1000s of hours in cleaning up, painting, planting trees, etc. all paid for by Starbucks and partner volunteer hours.  He talks about personal visits to Kenya to meet with small farm coffee growers to learn about their needs and to help them be the best they can be at producing quality coffee.  He and other partners began supplying some cows to families in response to their needs.  The cows are now reproducing and expanding their reach to meet the needs of other village families.  Remarkably, Starbucks is the only company (to my knowledge) that provides dental and medical benefits to all their employees (including part timers).

A key piece to the Starbucks story is how important it is to invest in your people (he calls them ‘partners’), to be relentlessly focused on your customers wants and needs, and to strive for specific experiences and quality.  I think we can learn a lot from Howard as we lead and implement change in our own roles and organizations.  A key part of my role as CIO is to choose and advocate for the ‘right’ technologies to ‘transform our learning and work’.  This is no easy Questions signpost in the skyfeat.  I recall a meeting early in my current role with a key stakeholder where they suggested that a way to do this is to ‘win the hearts and minds of teachers’.  I agree and this will be key to our ‘transformational agenda’.  It is important to be clear about why your organization exists, how you will support transformation, and what you will do to accomplish this.  I’ve previously written some brief thoughts on this here.

Those of you serving as leaders of IT organizations must read The Quantum Age of IT.  This is what Toronto School Board CTO Peter Singh said to me last month – I read the book.  Our IT organizations will either be transformed by us or for us.  IT as we’ve grown to know and love, is changing rapidly.  The author starts out early by saying “IT as we know it is dead” (Kindle Location 221).  “This is not your normal, run-of-the-mill change. This is big. This is game-changing. This is not a flavor of the month.” (Locations 250-251)

Essentially, our business is being disrupted, as we know it, into oblivion faster than most of us would like to admit.  My first post to this blog (4 years ago), Disruption is Coming and a month later, the Future of IT Services – Part 1 and Part 2 talk about this coming disruption.  Full disclosure, although I’m an avid reader and writer about the future and technology, this topic, the radical transformation and disruption of my work is disconcerting.  On the other hand, this is a good thing.  As a change and transformation leader where I’m asking others to get ready for their work, as they know it, to be completely changed, I can honestly say I’m speaking to myself too.  These changes are unavoidable, inevitable, and coming fast.  Many of us in IT, teachers, business leaders, other professions are not paying close enough attention to how the world around us is changing.  We think ‘it won’t happen to us’ or ‘we are safe’.  These are dangerous thoughts.  I think we all need our own personal ‘Transformation Agendas’ and those of us in leadership roles, aught to have clear Transformation Agendas for our organizations as well.  We are negligent if we don’t prepare ourselves, our people, and our organizations.

My Transformation Agenda is to (why) ‘transform learning and work through technology’ by (how) providing a robust sustainable infrastructure, enabling equitable access for all stakeholders, creating and assembling powerful (digital) learning and work spaces, and advocating for and supporting ongoing professional learning.  Within these four ‘strategic pillars’ are various specific initiatives, the what’s that put the agenda into action.

We live in unsettling but exciting times. Often I wonder if I can ‘hang in there’ and be the leader I need to be as the changes in our world speed up.  But, I quickly get over those thoughts and press ahead into the uncertain future.  It is what I do!