In 2010, the Information Technology Services team at the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse got the news that no IT department wants.
It was not the well-oiled machine an IT department hopes to be. An external review and audit pointed out some troubling aspects: low morale and ineffective leadership seemed to plague the department’s credibility to service the IT needs of approximately 10,000 students, 600 faculty members, and 117 academic programs—91 undergraduate, 26 graduate.
Today, the department is thriving; after a new Chief Information Officer was hired, he went directly to the university’s Academic Technologies Director, Jim Jorstad, about how best to go about revitalizing the department.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy, quick fix.” Jorstad offers CampusTechnology.com. Also adding in that, “you have to strategize to do it.”
Strategize they did. Jorstad and his team came up with ten ways they could work on bettering their department:
1. Increasing Communications
By “increasing communications,” one may think that the department just sent out more emails. On the contrary, they upped their quality of messages. Jorstad adds, that, with the increased quality of messages, including a high quality video, “I can send a message out at 8 a.m. and I will double our projected attendance at an event by lunchtime.”
2. Being Innovative
Rather than just keeping the technology to the department, they opened it up for faculty members to try for themselves. This allowed the faculty to bring new innovations into their lectures. As the article points out, an art history class was able to view Egyptian hieroglyphics in an exciting new way due to the university’s 3D printer.
3. Building Better Relationships
Those in attendance at training and certification events were able to network with other individuals and even got to make attending the sessions fun by redeeming proof of attendance to get a parting gift.
4. Be a Visionary
Understand how your IT department fits into the larger picture of your institution. Jorstad reached out to a furniture maker to make sure the library’s new Learning Commons had great furniture on top of great technology for the students.
5. Strategize Effectively
You’re all part of the same university; reach out to other departments to find out how you can assist them.
6. Trusting Relationships
Earning trust is very important as a leader. Make sure to build great relationships with those you work with.
7. Take Risks
Make sure that your staff knows that you trust them, and let go of the top-down methodology that may be in place at your office.
8. Accept Failure
This seems fairly self-explanatory, right? Understand that your staff is human and use it as a teaching moment. Or, as Jorstad puts it, “celebrate it.”
9. Be Empathetic
Again, fairly self-explanatory. Remember that your staff are all individual people first, and sometimes they might just need a little understanding.
10. Empower Your Staff
Applaud their greatness; use their failure to discuss how to better do something in the future; make sure your new staff member isn’t just thrown to the wolves.
Jorstad is able to report that, after implementing these ten tips, “the rapport between the university and the ITS team has never been better.”
We, at Optimal Partners, would like to add a few more tips.
1. Be Open
The concept of openness is touched on in various points that Jorstad makes in his article. However, we’re stressing openness in a teamwork sense. Being on a team is stressful at times and can be even more stressful if there’s unresolved issues that are festering. Be open with your team members: respectfully express how you’re feeling and let them respond how they see fit. Or, enact a “rule:” if something is wrong, your team members have X amount of time to bring it up, and if they don’t bring it up within that amount of time, it’s probably best to let it go because it was never that pressing of an issue to begin with.
2. Use What You Have
You don’t need a 3D printer to be innovative. You don’t need to make high-quality videos to entice readership. You know your available resources better than anyone else—use them! Maybe you don’t have a way to create video messages, but you can create visually pleasing email templates that are easy to read and navigate that work just as well. No matter what you do, your audience will undoubtedly appreciate the effort.
3. Stay Organized
Not only should you be staying organized in your day-to-day work, but you should be keeping good notes on what has or hasn’t worked for your team. Stand-up meetings may work great for your team, or it may not. Make sure to have an easily accessible document or notebook to record what does and doesn’t work and why. Maintaining a positive vibe in your work environment, and an overall cohesive team is a process and will always take adaptation.
La Crosse IT department’s changes,
read the full article at Campus Technology.
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