February 12, 2012 1:25 PM
Posted by: TechTalker
Leading a team to success is a journey, not a destination, and creating a shared vision with your team is an important step in the right direction. The multi-step shared visioning process takes time to complete, but in the end your team will have a vision of the future worth striving for that will promote teamwork, pride, and purpose. Together Everyone Achieves More, so collaborate with your team and create the best shared vision possible by following the steps outlined below.
Working Session #1 (90 minutes)
Introductions – Who are we and why are we here?
Pull your team together in a conference room and explain to them why you have called everyone together – to work together towards defining a shared vision of the future that everyone can work together towards achieving.
Define Visioning – What is visioning and what is its’ purpose?
Explain to your team the importance of defining a current and future state, and that the purpose of having a team shared vision, which is in alignment with the organization’s mission, is that it will help everyone “Aim for Success … Achieve Excellence”.
Identify External/Internal Customers (High-Level) – Who depends on us and who do we depend on?
Brainstorm external and internal customers and create a “Team Dependencies” Microsoft Visio diagram that visually depicts the importance of your team by showing who depends on your team and who they depend on to be successful.
Working Session #2 (90 minutes)
Identify Responsibilities (High-Level) – What do we do and what are our customer’s expectations?
Brainstorm team responsibilities/customer expectations and create a “Team Responsibilities/Expectations” Microsoft Vision diagram that visually depicts the broad range of work that your team is responsible for completing on a daily basis along with service level expectations.
NOTE: Merging the “Team Dependencies” and “Team Responsibilities/Expectations” diagrams can also create a powerful image of how important a team is to an organization.
Acknowledge and brand the team – We are a team. What should be our name?
Brainstorm team names, acronyms, monikers, … and choose an appropriate team name if possible. Team identity, pride, and purpose starts with a name that insiders and outsiders can recognize and relate to.
Brainstorm possible shared vision statements – Where are we now and where do we want to be in the future?
Take all of the information gathered to date – internal/external customers, responsibilities, expectations, team name, etcetera, and blend together into a current state and multiple possible future states (high-level), and communicate that the next working session will be used to refine and choose a shared vision.
Working Session #3 (90 minutes)
Draft multiple shared vision statements – Combine keywords from brainstorming sessions.
Brainstorm multiple shared vision statements (future states) using all of the information from the previous working sessions and pull your team together to focus on indentifying an achievable future state that can be captured and communicated in a memorable, multi-sentence shared vision statement.
Example Shared Vision Statement -
“High-Quality Database, Application, Reporting, and Technology Services that our business partners can rely on to grow their business and achieve success … through consistent adoption of industry standard best practices, a commitment to excellence, and collaborative development of innovative solutions.”
Choose a shared vision – Narrow down selection, reach consensus, and agree upon shared vision.
Choose a shared vision statement through team consensus, congratulate the team on working together to craft a shared vision of the future, and explain to the team that the next steps will be to work together to determine how to communicate and work towards achieving your team’s shared vision.
Identify shared vision communication vehicles – Cubicle banner, key chains, pens, mouse pads, …
Identify and choose a method for communicating your team’s shared vision across the organization, to your internal/external customers, and amongst your team. Pens with your team’s shared vision emblazoned on the side, email signatures with a shared vision statement included, and a framed shared vision statement (8.5” x 11” picture frame) are generally good communication vehicles.
Working Session #4 (90 minutes)
Brainstorm steps to work towards achieving shared vision – Tie personal/departmental development plan objectives to shared vision to promote fulfillment.
Remember, leading a team to success is a journey, not a destination, and creating a shared vision is one step in the right direction. Now is the time to pull the team together to identify some individual and team initiatives that can be undertaken to lead the team towards success (future state).
Draft and adopt team strategy and initiatives aligned with shared vision – promote pride and purpose.
Combine all of the information obtained from all of the working sessions into a definitive team strategy and list of initiatives which are in alignment with the team’s shared vision and organization’s mission. Let your team know that you will be there to help them achieve their shared vision and follow through on your commitment to success.
Reinforce, communicate, and market shared vision regularly – Together Everyone Achieves More.
Be the leader. Constantly remind your team, internal/external customers, and organization about your team’s shared vision of the future and align all team efforts towards “Aiming for Success … Achieving Excellence”.
Join the conversation.
January 29, 2012 4:46 PM
Posted by: TechTalker
, Work Management
Have you ever worked with, or depended on, a IS/IT group that simply did not live up to your expectations completing routine, and in some cases important, work requests. Well I can relate as I’ve assumed leadership responsibility for two such teams throughout my 25+ years as an IT leader and have found an interesting solution that I would like to share with you here today.
The story begins with a group of Oracle/SQL Server database administrators, four of each, that were constantly being bombarded with work requests from all angles – ticketing system requests, emails, walk-ins, phone calls, text messages, etcetera. Normally this would not be a problem, but when you factor in that the team is part of a matrix managed organization with infrastructure support responsibilities, project work, break/fix, and special projects, then failure to respond to routine and important work requests quickly becomes the norm.
Confronted with the reality that routine and important work requests were continually falling through the cracks, I solicited feedback from the team on how to solve this vexing problem. The idea the team came up with, while somewhat simplistic, addressed the issue and then some, without costing the organization any money.
The team’s idea – leverage Microsoft Outlook resource calendars and allow internal/external customers to schedule work requests for specific dates/times and establish a weekly on-duty schedule for one database administrator per platform (Oracle/SQL Server) to complete all scheduled work requests without any infrastructure support, project work, or break/fix interruptions.
I liked the team’s idea, decided to give it a try, and before I knew it routine and important work requests were being completed on-schedule and incomplete work request complaints became a thing of the past.
An overview of the “Scheduled Work Request” process follows –
1) Create generic Microsoft Outlook mailboxes (e.g.: PSTORA1, PSTSQL1).
2) Assign delegate rights for generic mailboxes to DBA team members/manager.
3) Create auto-forward email rule for generic mailboxes to forward requests to entire team.
4) Establish weekly (rotating) on-duty schedule for DBA team members.
5) Inform organization to schedule work requests as meetings and invite generic resource (PSTORA1, PSTSQL1) as needed.
That’s it. Once the five items above have been completed, then routine and important work requests start flowing in as scheduled events on a dedicated Microsoft Outlook calendar and the remainder of the “Scheduled Work Request” process flows like this –
1) On-duty DBA accepts scheduled work request (meeting invitation) in Outlook calendar.
2) Requester automatically receives an email and knows who will complete the request.
3) On-duty DBA completes the request on the specified date/time and notifies requester.
The “Scheduled Work Request” process occurs seamlessly in a closed loop and provides full auditing/tracking of all work requests with a permanent record of who requested the work be performed, who completed the work, when the work was completed, and how long the process took.
The end result is a satisfied customer and a happy DBA team who no longer have to worry about overlooking routine or important work requests. And, as a side benefit, each DBA gets the opportunity to be on-duty once per month with exposure to all work requests while the remaining three DBAs get to focus on infrastructure projects, project work, and break/fix without any interruptions.
The “Scheduled Work Request” process may seem over simplistic, and it is by design, but it works. Give the approach a try where you work if you are confronted with a similar work request management dilemma and let me know how it goes.
Join the conversation.
January 21, 2012 2:52 PM
Posted by: TechTalker
Patching, whether for operating systems, applications, databases, or any derivative thereof, should not be taken lightly given the hyper sensitive and highly regulated data privacy world that we live in today, and failure to do so can lead to financial and personal consequences.
Data protection regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) require data, whether financial or personal information, be processed and stored in a secure environment which includes staying current with security patches.
What follows is a synopsis of how to stay current with Oracle’s quarterly critical patch updates (CPU) in a way that adds very little burden and ensures patches are applied in a timely and responsible manner.
NOTE: For more information on Oracle’s most recent critical patch update read the article “Oracle to issue 78 security fixes” by Mark Fontecchio at www.SearchOracle.com a TechTarget sponsored web site.
A typical Oracle shop will have many Oracle databases running on multiple machines representing many environments (development, test, quality assurance, production, reporting, etc.) and applying Oracle critical patch updates can be a daunting task, but it does not have to be.
Streamlining the implementation of Oracle’s critical patch update can be as simple as adopting an environment burn in/progression approach, where one environment per week is patched followed by normal database usage, leading up to implementation in a production environment. This approach generally allows for a four week burn in period before implementation in production and allows sufficient time for any patch related issues to surface and be mitigated.
Oracle critical patch update environment burn in/progression may appear over simplistic, but it works, and it can work for operating systems, applications, and alike too. If keeping current with security patches is not happening where you work, don’t wait for a security breach to occur, start patching today and stop worrying immediately.
Join the conversation.
January 18, 2012 4:50 PM
Posted by: TechTalker
In my last post I shared some ideas on how to provide training to technology professionals on a zero/shoestring budget. Well today I am happy to share with you that we held our first Knowledge Exchange session for 2012 and it was a resounding success.
Two weeks ago I offered to share my knowledge on the following topics with approximately 75 people where I work and nearly 40 took me up on the offer to learn about –
1) Microsoft RD Web (Remote Desktop Web Access)
2) CommVault Simpana Enterprise Backup/Recovery
3) Internet Browser Compatibility Testing Virtual Machines
The entire knowledge sharing session lasted one hour during which time all three topics where presented and demoed with open discussions/learning by all present. Immediately after the free knowledge sharing session multiple people approached me about holding future sessions which I agreed would be a good idea and offered to coordinate one per month with guest speakers depending upon availability and interest.
Some possible knowledge sharing sessions being considered include –
- Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
- Data Center Environmentals
- Master Data Management (MDM).
Building on the success of the Knowledge Exchange program, next week my team will be holding a Lunch ‘N Learn session on Oracle Database Refresh concepts, methods, and practice which will include a live demonstration.
Learning is a continuous process that most people enjoy and embrace. Host a Knowledge Exchange or Lunch ‘N Learn session where you work and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people will join you and share in the learning experience. And all without spending any money when learning sessions are held during a lunch break.
Join the discussion.
January 15, 2012 9:24 PM
Posted by: TechTalker
You’ve heard the old saying, failure is not an option … it’s a feature of the system; well sadly this is true in many organizations where training and education are not taken seriously as evidenced by ever shrinking training budgets and less time being made available for technology professionals to advance their knowledge. This organizational failure is shortsighted and counterproductive, but quite easy to fix.
Confronted with the challenge of how to train and educate technology professionals on shoe-string budget, here are five ideas that have proven successful that I would like to share with you –
1) Knowledge Exchanges
Everyone is good at something, including you. Share your expertise with others by hosting a knowledge exchange session. Pick a topic, invite others to hear you speak, and share your knowledge. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many people show up, and before you know it others will want to share their knowledge too. I’ve even had people come up to me and offer to host their own knowledge exchange after attending one of mine.
2) Lunch ‘N Learn
Video tutorials abound on the Internet. Schedule monthly Lunch ‘N Learn gatherings where attendees bring their own lunch and you set up a laptop and projector, then watch video tutorials together and share the experience of learning. Many people get more out of watching video tutorials as a group because the opportunity to discuss and clarify helps them learn.
3) Mentor/Mentee Program
Perform a skill set assessment of your team by polling your team for a list of required skills that individuals and the team need to be successful, determine the number of years experience per individual for each skill, identify who has had formal training/certification in a specific skill, and determine the level of interest each person has in advancing their knowledge in a specific area.
Use the skill set assessment to establish a formal mentor/mentee program where each person on your team, with advanced skills in a particular area, is a mentor for another team member who has less experience or has interest in learning a new area. This program should allow one hour per week for the mentee to schedule time with their mentor, then step back and watch the learning in action.
4) Cross Training/Backup Coverage
Similar to the Mentor/Mentee Program, cross training team members to be backup coverage for others is paramount to operational success as it builds team depth, but there are other benefits too. The person who is doing the cross training reinforces their knowledge while teaching others. The person preparing to be backup coverage learns new skills. And the organization as a whole becomes better balanced and able to withstand planned/unplanned staff time off.
5) Study Groups
Start by identifying a subject area that you and your team want to learn more about, all agree to purchase the same book and read one chapter per week, then meet once per week for approximately an hour to discuss the chapter that everyone read. The study group approach to learning promotes reading a chapter each week and the weekly gathering reinforces the learning as each person gets a chance to share their perspective on the material.
Technical professionals must be provided the opportunity to continually improve their knowledge and supporting this cause starts with you. Don’t let reduced, or no, training budgets stop you and your team from learning. Try some of the ideas shared here and share some of yours.
Join the conversation.
January 10, 2012 3:51 PM
Posted by: TechTalker
Welcome to “Tech Talk”, a blog dedicated to sharing and discussing real-world technology and leadership successes and failures. My goal is to blog on such topics as database administration/development, data privacy, disaster recovery, change management, enterprise reporting, project management, audits and controls (Sarbanes-Oxley/SAS70), team building, web analytics, etcetera, and solicit feedback on successes and failures alike. So let’s get started with a little background on me followed by a glimpse at my first blog submission.
My name is Raymond Lefebvre and I am Director of Database and Reporting Systems at a major public academic health sciences center based in Massachusetts. I have worked in the Information Technology field for 25+ years specializing in Oracle, SQL Server, and MySQL database technologies on UNIX and Windows, with an emphasis the past five years on database administration/development, enterprise business intelligence/reporting, and large scale healthcare systems implementations. I hold three Oracle Certified Professional certifications, an MBA and BSBA from Nichols College, and SQL Server Database Administrator professional credentials. I am a frequent contributor to industry news articles and routinely participate in business technology reviews.
Now that you are familiar with me, here’s a question for you – Have you ever wondered how, or been challenged with, providing training to technology professionals on a shoe-string or no budget? Share your thoughts and solutions with me and I will post my solution to this vexing problem in my next post.