Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Day Two Recap - Economic Development, the City of Atlanta, and Global Connections

Here’s a recap of day two on the University of Georgia (UGA) New Faculty Tour. The day began by driving south to Cartersville and from there the rest of the day was spent in and around the City of Atlanta.
  • In Cartersville the group toured the carpet manufacturing plant operated by Shaw Industries. Throughout Georgia the company employs over 15,000 individuals and the starting wage at its Cartersville plant is $15/hour. Shaw believes strongly in sustainability and currently recycles 95% of its waste. It’s aims to improve that to 100% by 2030.
  • Next stop was the Georgia State Capital building to hear comments from Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Senate Majority Caucus Chair Butch Miller. Miller stressed to the faculty the importance of compromise, something that is highly valued in Georgia politics, and lamented that too many of our social and economic ills result from inability to reach compromise.
  • Lunch was with Commissioner Gretchen Corbin of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, USG chancellor Hank Huckaby, and UGA president Jere Morehead. Each spoke to the group and stressed the importance of higher education to the economic development of the state and the need for USG institutions to take a leadership role in strengthening this alignment.
  • After touring the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta the group visited the UGA Alumni Center and the Terry College of Business facility in Buckhead. Following the tour, the group took a break before enjoying dinner with the Consular Corp of Atlanta, UGA provost Pamela Whitten, and UGA Alumni Association president Tim Keadle. Canadian Consul General Stephen Brereton stressed the importance of global collaboration and the special relationship that UGA enjoys with countries across the world.
After dinner the group returned to its hotel for an evenings rest. All enjoyed a great day. Wednesday’s program includes stops at Senoia for a tour of Riverwood Studios and stops at the Kia Motors facility in West Point and at Robins Air Force Base. More to come.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Day One Recap – Agribusiness and Agritourism and Spotlight on the Arts

Here’s a quick recap of day one activities on the University of Georgia’s New Faculty Tour. After hearing from UGA president Jere Morehead and vice president for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum, the group assembled for a picture and then it was off to visit North Georgia. Highlights include:
  • Having lunch at Jaemor Farms, a family-owned farm that has been in business for over 100 years. Owner Jimmy Echols and operations manager Drew Echols represent the third and fifth generation of family leadership. They have expanded Jaemor Farms from simple agriculture production to being a tourist destination in its own right complete with great food, annual activities such as the corn maze, and facilities for group meetings.
  • While at Jaemor University System of Georgia Board of Regents chairman Philip Wilheit discussed the importance of the agriculture economy in Georgia and how businesses such as Jaemor are deeply integrated into their local communities by producing products the community needs while also consuming necessary products like packaging from other businesses. Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black also spoke and challenged the faculty to be public servants in all that they do and to give back to the State of Georgia as all UGA faculty have done previously.
  • After lunch the group traveled to Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery to tour another family owned business that has become a tourist destination in its own right. Owner and family patriarch Karl Boegner discussed the process of creating the vineyard’s award winning wines and the tour participants enjoyed a wine tasting event.
  • The final destination for the day included a stop at the Amicalola Falls State Park where Georgia State Parks Region I manager Joe Yeager discussed the state’s extensive system of parks and recreational areas. After dinner the group enjoyed presentations by UGA deputy librarian (and soon to be university librarian) Toby Graham who discussed the University’s resources for supporting teaching and research. Karen Paty, director of the Georgia Council for the Arts, discussed the history of the arts in the state and how the arts are a critical part of the state’s growing economy. The evening concluded with Georgia poet laureate Judson Mitcham recalling his fond memories of growing up in Georgia as he performed several readings of his poetry.
After a long and fruitful day the tour participants enjoyed a good nights rest at the Amicalola Falls lodge. Stops for Tuesday include the Shaw Industries plant in Cartersville, tours of the State Capital and the Martin Luther King center in Atlanta, a visit to the UGA Alumni Center in Buckhead, and dinner with the Consular Corps of Atlanta. The tour has a full day ahead of it on Tuesday. More to come.

On the Road Again

Just finished my first day on the University of Georgia New Faculty Tour. This annual event takes approximately 40 new faculty on a tour of Georgia to view first hand the impacts of UGA’s teaching, research, and service missions on the economy of the State of Georgia.

As the land grant, flagship institution for the State of Georgia, the University plays several important roles across the state. Our faculty members are key for each of these roles.
  • Teaching – everywhere we stop we meet graduates of the University of Georgia. UGA is beloved all across the state and our graduates are in leadership positions across all sectors of the economy. They all tell us of the impact their faculty had on them as they earned their degrees at UGA.
  • Research – across multiple sectors of the Georgia economy, from agriculture to advanced manufacturing to services, research by faculty and students at the University of Georgia drives innovation all across the state.
  • Service – is key for land grant institutions like UGA. At every stop on the tour, we meet the local county extension agents and others who work closely with community leaders, business owners, and families to provide support and access to the vast UGA resources that are available to every citizen of the state.
This is my second year to go on the tour and I’m grateful to vice president Jennifer Frum and associate vice president Steve Dempsey for allowing me to tag along again this year. For me, it’s the chance to spend more time building relationships with our new faculty who five, ten, or fifteen years from now will be the senior academic leaders of the institution. After spending a day with them so far, I would say the future is very bright.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Completing the Circle

As IT leaders, our singular focus shouldn’t be to partner with the business or to align our work with the strategic goals of the enterprise; it should be to develop our staff into business professionals who add value through the use of technology. If we do that, both partnerships and alignment become givens. If our profession is to complete this circle of transformation, we have to dramatically rethink our approach regarding the professional development of the IT staff working throughout our organizations.

Advances in technology, including the wide availability of cloud services, now allow us to shift our organizational focus away from the care and feeding of technology to the intersection of people, business needs, and the imperative to add value in whatever we do. Technicians focus on technical skills and the delivery of technology as the essential ingredients for personal and professional success. Business professionals, on the other hand, must focus on competencies such as communication, analytical thinking, process orientation, emotional intelligence, building relationships, change advocacy, and adding business value as essentials for success. Becoming business professionals requires that we in IT shift our focus from the development of technical skills to the development of the competencies that drive business success. That is not to say that strong technical skills are not a necessary component of success – they are – but by themselves they are not sufficient for IT practitioners who desire to take the next steps in their careers.

We are now embarking on an initiative at the University of Georgia to implement a new professional development approach for our IT staff that will provide each of them with a personalized roadmap to becoming a business leader. We are building on groundwork laid out over the past three years where our focus has been on the development of communication and teambuilding skills for staff, managers, and senior leaders. An additional prerequisite has been an assessment-based continuous improvement process that uses TechQual+ data to support the setting of organizational priorities. This annual program ends with the reporting of organizational goals and an accounting of how we fared against goals set the previous year. Our work in both these areas now puts us in the position to take the next step, which is to work with each of the teams across our organization to identify the competencies that are most critical for individual and team success, and then to embed the development of these traits into our job descriptions and performance review processes.

We have significant work ahead of us.
  • This month, we’ll be surveying every employee in our organization, asking them to rate a set of competencies, ranging from decision-making to planning and organizing to self-confidence and continued learning, as critical to high performers among those who play a similar role. Technical skills will be one of 32 competencies listed on the survey.
  • Data from these surveys will be the focus of a series of workshops with staff from our organization and IT organizations across the University of Georgia. Staff will be broken into groups by their primary role (developer, analysis, or system engineer, etc.) and will be asked to come to consensus on the eight most important competencies for their role and how the development of those competencies should be mastered over an entire career, from the entry level to mid-career to late career stages. 
  • Based on the workshop results, rubrics for each competency for each position in each career ladder will be developed, which will become the primary focus of professional development plans and annual performance reviews. The new approach will be introduced individually to each employee as a part of his or her regular annual review in 2015. Individual performance plans will be reviewed six months later, during mid-year reviews, and the annual reviews in 2016 will be fully based on the competency-based model.
Our staff will guide us along the way, from the identification of key competencies that drive high performance to the mapping of these competencies within each of our career ladders. Two key outcomes are expected from this work. For our staff, we will expand their professional development focus beyond technical skills and each will benefit from having a personalized plan that puts them on a trajectory aligned with our goal of transforming our organization from groups of technicians to teams of business professionals. Organizationally, we all benefit from having a formal methodology that identifies the critical competencies that allow our profession to grow and evolve in a manner consistent with the same transformation.

IT leaders are uniquely positioned between both the academic and administrative worlds of higher education, and we have the opportunity to play a convening role in critical University-wide discussions. Business leaders, not technicians, can do just that – but only when actively demonstrating the competencies above and beyond technical skills that are both necessary and sufficient for success. There has never been a more critical moment for Higher Education – it is in desperate need of this type of leadership from its IT organizations.