Bringing Organizational Change

I think it is safe to say that every organization, no matter how big or how small, could improve in some way. Sometimes it is forced upon you by a large shift in the business you are in, or by turnover at the executive/management level with a mandate to “turn things around”.

More subtle is the constant opportunity for small but useful changes which can accumulate over time and make the organization much healthier. However, how can those changes come about?

Often I hear of “bringing in consultants” to come and spend some time within the organization and then provide a plan for the change. Usually you are then parted with an amount of money and left to implement the said plan on your own terms, taking the parts that you want.

However, maybe there is a better way to try to bring about meaningful and lasting change (hopefully positive as well) within an organization?

It starts by looking internally for ways to bring people together. I truly believe that current staff is a huge untapped potential for ideas and change that can sometimes go untapped. The impulse to bring in outside consultants should be buried, at least for a while, so that internal members can use their knowledge of how the organization currently works to try to come up with ways to make things better. There are obviously things that can be made better and maybe someone who is already there has an idea of what that might be.

Doing this can have two added benefits (besides the change):

  1. It is cheaper. You area already paying someone to work for you, so why not pay them to also try to make the business even better.
  2. It gives current staff some sense of “buy-in” into the organization if their ideas are taken seriously and results are seen. This is the more “fluffy” of the two but might be the more important.

Then try to put in place processes to encourage continual change within the organization. Plan regular gatherings with the sole purpose of trying to think of ways to improve things. Include department across the organization because, often, individual departments don’t know what the other is doing. Steve Jobs was rumored to have built the Pixar headquarters specifically to encourage this sort of cross-department talk to bring new ideas into play (not to mention the new Apple headquarters being built). Find ways to do the same within your own organization.

There is no silver bullet, obviously, but I recommend looking internally first before bringing in outside help who have a limited understanding of what you are currently doing. There are times for that, but exhaust current options first.

Image by allison from Flickr.

My BrainShare Takeaways

From November 1 through November 5 I attended two events in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was able to attend and speak at the TTP Summit at BrainShare 2014 on November 1, 2 and then attend the main BrainShare 2014 conference from November 2-5. I had a great time at both events and want to thank everyone who was involved in getting them off the ground my thanks. I’m hoping to be able to come back in the future.

If you want a look at what Novell took away from conference, you can read Bret Fitzgerald’s post over at Cool Solutions. It has a good “30,000 foot” overview of the main conference. I had the pleasure of talking with Bret and other team members at Novell and NetIQ and enjoyed every one.

Below you will find what I took away from the entire week:

  • The development changes started at Novell not too long ago are pretty much fully implemented. Every division is talking about multiple releases over a given calendar year, beta programs, getting feedback from customers earlier in the process … all good things. I know that many of the headline products have received significant upgrades over the past 12 months already and that progress is not slowing down.
  • Vibe is maybe the most criminally underused product Novell has at the moment. Talking with the guys at Code and Concept was enlightening because of all of the things you can do with Vibe as a platform for more than just simple collaboration. I have in mind to spend some time this coming year to really dig into Vibe. I feel like it could fit into multiple areas on campus with little effort.
  • The Micro Focus merger can mean some good things for the company overall, but there is still a lot of work to be done and the prospects in the distance are unknown. Many of the education customers I talked to are quietly optimistic that a change in ownership is going to, overall, be a benefit to The Attachmate Group companies. It seems that “the market” agrees as shares have been up (quite a bit) since Micro Focus announced the plan.
  • Mobility is here to stay and Novell knows it. A lot of talk about expanding the capabilities of products like Vibe, Filr, iPrint (really excited about some of this stuff), and ZENworks to make managing mobile devices even easier. That is going to be a major focus here as well (at MLC) and those products will be central to how we get those things done. I had only my iOS devices along for the trip and so I was able to use the Filr and iPrint apps to get work done. They worked well and I’m excited to see where they go in the future.
  • GroupWise moving to embrace open standards to support the Mac is a great move in my opinion. Bringing first-class IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV support will allow them to integrate into the Mac platform seamlessly in ways that Google and Microsoft just are not interested in (sadly). I think it is a great move.
  • Good to hear some increased development around NetIQ eDirectory and iManager. Both will be getting major version updates in the coming year and as I like both products, that makes me happy.
  • There is an excellent community of IT professionals around the Novell and NetIQ ecosystems and I am happy to continue to try to embed myself in it a little more. I’m hoping that the continued effort on bringing great products to market to solve problems we are facing will grow the ranks again.

I’ll have more to talk about in the future as products start to be released. I am also hoping to talk briefly about my experience of going iPad-only for a week-long trip. More on that in the future.

Bad Wireless Routers

At Martin Luther College we allow students to bring wireless routers into their dorm rooms so that they can connect their devices to our network. One thing we have seen creeping into more and more routers is the interstitial landing page and “helpful” software from the router manufacturers getting in the way of using our network.

Belkin and Netgear are the two worst at the moment but if history repeats, it will work its way into everything. The routers will ping out to some server (or a number of different servers) and if it doesn’t receive a response, it will throw up its page and keep you from using the network.

Awesome.

Even better is that some Belkin routers coming in recently have had some “content filtering” turned on which means that the router cannot get the proper DNS servers to allow them to register the device.

Awesome-er.

Defaults matter. Software matters. Hardware that might work just fine otherwise is broken by poor software with poor defaults. It isn’t helpful.