Work Smarter and Innovate More: Flatten the Organization

Organizational charts are necessary for decision making and budgeting but the same structure can create a disconnect from “boots on the ground” if deliberate action isn’t taken. In my position as a Technology Director, I feel this often. When an issue finally bubbles up to me, the end user is so ticked off their head is about to explode. All the while, I had no idea this person was struggling.

Remove Us vs. Them: Mobile Office

In reading, Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, the authors mentioned having office hours in each school that are similar to a college professor’s office hours. Appointments were booked 40-60 minutes at a time with one to three people. What happened? Accelerated innovation. What a great concept! My style is more fluid and dynamic, so I’ll encourage drop-ins and see if more structure is necessary.  In a district with nine buildings, the logistics may be challenging but the dividends great. Time together builds trust and understanding. Every leadership book you will ever read discusses the value of relationships and trust but you can’t build either without time together.

What I noticed…was how these one-on-one sessions accelerated innovation. Instead of people relying on me to create the learning experiences, each staff member I’d met with saw the value in the ideas we discussed and found a new confidence to share those ideas with other colleagues. – Joe Sanfelippo [Tony Sinanis] – Hacked Leadership

An important element of creating trust in moments together, according to Steven Covey, is being trustworthy in your heart and sincere about your intentions. If someone asks you a tough question in your mobile office, be constructively honest and transparent. People recognize smoke when they see it.

If there’s a little (or big) part of you saying, “I just don’t have time,” my question to you is: What is more important than understanding what’s happening with those you serve?

  • Technology Plug: Try a portable monitor for improved efficiency in the event no one attends office hours and for guided learning. 
  • Side Hack: Get some spirit wear from each school and wear it when you go. The staff will notice!

Look in Your Own House: Flatten Your Department

In department meetings, I include everyone in my department including my administrative assistant. There’s a reason vendors’ create entire product lines around administrative assistants being the “heart” of the school or department. Their voices provide value; people tell them information your ears may never hear. In addition, in today’s world, administrative assistants are extremely competent and in many cases their talents underutilized. When they are included, they understand “why” you are asking them to do a particular task, they can field questions when asked, and add their creative solutions. Including them will SAVE YOU TIME later and increase their loyalty because they feel like a valued, contributing member of the team.

I like to start meetings being personal. What are your plans this weekend? What has been going on with X (passion or hobby)? By showing you care before getting down to business, you can allay trepidation. Meetings should be opportunities to have open, transparent discussions. Respectful conflict in a safe setting trumps small sidebars after the meeting, particularly sidebars without you present! No matter what, be authentic.

I must give a big “thank you” to my administrative assistant, Ann Hachiya. She makes my days easier, contributes great ideas, and provides the calm presence I need to keep our technology department moving in the right direction.

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