Monday, April 12, 2010

Tips for Fast Tech Project Implementation

This is the first session in Track C, Managing 2.0

(a.k.a. Black Ops Ninja-Style Tech Projects)

John Blyberg, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Amanda Etches-Johnson

Running into frustration is a common experience, we want to talk about ways to get around those common frustrations that thwart exciting projects. Once you hear No you think No will always be the answer.

John - Things are done just because they're done, tradition! Talking about changing how we do things. People are key, need to win hearts and minds of librarians and users, it won't be successful without their support. Tips will focus on this aspect, how do you change attitudes from within? Every library has staff members who are leaders, who want to implement new things. As a manager, we ought to try to embed those people as change agents.

Amanda - Small department, what's worked is being strategic, knowing the strategic plan and making sure that what you do fits with that plan. Don't implement tech projects just for the sake of new technologies.

Sarah - Blend into the environment and sneak up on people. Make changes without people noticing right away, or without telling them until it's been up for some time. Covertly introduce ideas through e-mail or in meetings, in small ways, because if people have heard an idea at least once before they're more likely to say yes because it's now familiar.

John - Social Catalog system project, merges content management and catalog system. "We didn't want to have the process hijacked by people who didn't know what they were talking about." Because it was public success, we didn't get staff pushback. You need to provide a counter vision for people to latch on to.

Sarah - Follow evidence-based practice, but not to hide behind to avoid risk. It goes hand-in-hand with innovation, it just encouraged due diligence and mindfulness. Start with a literature search, turn to the network of colleagues. If there's no evidence, do it anyway and collect the evidence as I go along.

Amanda - Avoid collateral damage. Try not to step on toes as far as funding, staffing, support, etc. Get stakeholders to cheer lead for you, talk to stakeholders about possible negative impacts, get them involved at the earliest possible stages. We forget that other people are smart too about things we may not know about.

John - When you deploy things, deploy like a fire jumper - drop in and establish a foothold, commit to giving it all the required resources. However, there's nothing wrong with failure. If you are wrong, own up and put the effort into analyzing why it didn't work - was the idea bad? Not enough resources? Not implemented well? Some times an idea just comes too soon, and if you try again later it might work.

Sarah - Sometimes it's really hard to recover from No. No right now doesn't mean No six months from now. It might turn into yes. Committees bad, project teams good. It's not the people on the committees that are the problem, it's the structure - ongoing with no real mandate or authority. The project team is limited time, with specific objectives and goals to do.

Amanda - We knew that this group would present unrealistic fears and expectations, "The world's going to end because there's a new e-mail link", need to consider your past experience with the stakeholders and the possible implications of your action. Trust and follow your instincts, you have a sense of what will help your users. Have the confidence to convince other people that you know what you're doing.

John - Know when to quit, and how to do it properly.

Audience - How much will this undermine trust in my future work? (this = implementing someone's not so great idea)

John - Need to shore up our infrastructure, if we implement things in an unstable environment, people will complain about lack of basic stability while you play with new things. If what they need to do their job isn't rock solid don't bother trying to move on. Need a culture of innovation, not reaction. Become involved with IT to solve those chronic problems, and be high profile about that, so that when you do roll out new ideas staff feels like you've got their back.

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