Sunday, December 13, 2009

Work Hours and Lifestyles

Today I ready a post by Sonny Gill, Give Me My Time Back in which he lists some advantages of working in a digital age, but also questions these advantages in regards to the possible negative impacts on his personal life.

This topic has probably been discussed ad nauseam, so I thought I would put my own spin on it. :)

For me, its about opportunities, expectations and guidance.
  • New technologies give us the opportunity to stay connected pretty much 24/7.
  • Opportunity is not the same as obligation. However, what new expectations does this connectivity raise? Are we expected to work and respond to messages 24/7? Are we also expected to work the traditional 8 to 5 work day?
  • While we have the opportunity to work from home (or on the road), are we given the freedom to adjust our personal lives as well?
Organizationally, this disruption/opportunity in our business operations becomes a discussion of performance, efficiency and cost. In operations where performance is measured by face time, expectations are most likely not balanced with freedom.

What are the desired outcomes?
  • Greater efficiencies and increased value for your organization.
  • A richer personal life; one not constrained by time and location.
Being connected gives me opportunities to be more effective in my work, but I must make choices on how I use employ this technology. The choices are made in the context of my organizational priorities as well as my passion both for my work and my personal life.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mixing It Up for 55 Years

After 55 years of mixing it up... Betty's Sunbeam Mixmaster Junior finally mixed it's last cake . The cake is to celebrate the 55th wedding anniversary for Betty and Bob Meder, my mother and father-in-law.

Betty loves her Mixmaster and has used it exclusively since she received it as a wedding gift in 1954.

I have certainly benefited by 25 years of marriage to their daughter, kim, as Betty always prepares a variety of desserts when we visit (primarily pies). :)

I think it is time to get Betty's Mixmaster repaired. I'm off to check with Sunbeam and see what we can do.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finding Value

I'm part of a task force for ISU Extension evaluating reporting systems and procedures.  Specifically, how do we (ISU Extension) better communicate our value to our stakeholders.  Simple in theory; you have a service, you define objectives for this service and you measure and report on your success in meeting these objectives.  However, there are a few challenges.

  1. Defining measurable objectives.
  2. Collecting measurement data.
  3. Ensuring your objectives tell a compelling story.
In a separate meeting today with IT leaders across campus, I participated in another discussion on performance indicators, but for IT services.  I want to share a few points which I found very helpful in the discussion. 

The following three sets of indicators can help you in defining objectives for a specific service.  These were summarized by Jim Davis, ISU CIO.

  1. Capacity.  Can you meet the needs of your clients and scale the service as necessary or desired?
  2. Effectiveness and efficiency.  How well do you provide the service? 
  3. Value. How does it impact your clientele?
While I have thought about these indicators as "outputs and outcomes", you might consider what Chris McCoy (a colleague in Engineering) refers to as "looking in and looking out".

The first two sets most likely measure "outputs"; indicators which help you manage your service and plan for the future, "looking inward". The third set of indicators would more likely measure "outcomes"; indicators which help you understand the value of your service and tell a story, "looking outward".
We are pretty good at defining indicators in the first two sets (when we take the time).  The third set (value) of indicators are more difficult, not only for IT, but for other service providers as well.  Of course if you are fully cost recovery, then you could argue that value is measured by revenue.  I believe this is a dangerous simplification that will lead to certain irrelavency in the future.

So, how do you measure value?  I have to believe the value of a service is measured by how much it increases the value of those it serves.  So, I measure the value of Extension IT by measuring how it increases the value of Extension.   Interesting to me is the continuous nature of this question.  How does the Extension measure its value?  I would assume by increasing the value of its clientele.  :)

It's an interesting discussion based mostly on experience, I probably need to visit some literature on this subject.

Image by vtengr4047 on flickr.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Future Starts Now

I just read a short paper titled "Future Trends and Their Implications for Extension" (shared by Anne Adrian in FriendFeed). It listed a number of important trends which will impact Extension in the future. No big surprise that technology was one of them.

Last week, I attended an open forum where a senior member of our campus administration was asked to elaborate on the comment "technology in the year 2050 will be unimaginable". The reply was simply "it will be unimaginable". Cute and correct.

Here is my reply... it will be unimaginable. Therein lies the challenge and the opportunity. How do we prepare for something we know is coming (change) without understanding its nature or impact? Whether its technological, societal or economical, we participate; engage the drivers for change and bring them into the context of our work.

In general, technology will get smaller, more powerful, more portable, more available and much more unavoidable. But, I don't really believe in predicting the future of technology. Because it isn't as important as how it will be embraced by a new generation, which is the more difficult prediction.

We shouldn't be worried about the future of technology; we should be worried about the changes taking place around us which we don't understand and where we aren't engaged.

The future is already in motion.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New ISU Extension Video

ISU Extension is about to go live with an initiative which highlights resources for addressing issues brought about by the current economy. The initiative is called "Managing Tough Times". One of our goals is to become much more engaging for our online clientele and I'm very excited and hopeful that we are moving in a new direction.

I will share more information about this initiative in the future (as it goes live), but today, I just wanted to highlight a new marketing video. I think its a great short video and I'm testing the ability to embed it into my own blog. We hope to use more video content (not just marketing) to a much greater degree in the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fun at FIRST LEGO League 2008

Last Saturday, about 72 teams of kids, ages 9 to 14, converged on the campus of Iowa State University to compete in the 2008 Iowa FIRST LEGO League. The competition itself was held in Howe Hall, hosted by the College of Engineering. The teams use the LEGO Mindstorms robotics kit to build a robot capable of completing a number of specified tasks autonomously on a prearranged playing field.

For the last couple of years, I have worked with my friend Paul Jewell, who is the Technical Director for the event, to help broadcast it live for all the parents, grandparents and friends who can't attend so they can watch and participate.

ISU Extension supports the event by broadcasting it live (that's where I come in) on the web using their Adobe Connect conferencing system. The broadcast went very well. Even though we were pushing out a large amount of video, we continuously had over 100 participants online and ended up connecting about 600 individuals to the event.

It is a massive, crazy and fun event... in which Camille Schroeder, Director of ISEK and Brandon Newendorp (the young man in the jester hat in the video) as well as a multitude of volunteers somehow manage to bring it all together and create a very sucessful and enjoyable day for all the participating kids and their families.

Ann Bugler helped me take some video of the event to give you a sample of the fun and action. Oh and my son and daughter helped with the event as well (near the end of the video).

Iowa FIRST LEGO League 2008 from Floyd Davenport on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How Does Social Media Change the Rules for Civility?

Early today, Robert Scoble twittered "“I think I'll write up a new post about why the new polite is to be impolite". His statement made me think about the civility of social media. Please understand that I'm neither an expert on social media or civility... but I have been accused of being too short and impersonal in my own communications.

Here are a few observations to keep in mind when using social media tools.
  1. Don't try too hard to read between the lines. Twitter, Friendfeed, blog comments, etc are not the same as face to face conversations, they are concise and public.
  2. Social media has significantly increased competition for attention. This may be the scariest aspect for many people new to using social media. I want to participate in the larger world, but I need to filter it down to something I can digest. This means I can't attend every party and I must recognize that my parties may not always be well attended.
  3. Sometimes I'm just talking to myself... and that's OK. Find value for yourself. Yes I can laugh at my own jokes and I often do.
  4. Sometimes you're not talking to me. If I dont' get it, you probably don't care.
  5. Don't feel the need to respond to every post. Ask yourself if you are adding value to the conversation. I admit this is difficult for me; sometimes I need to keep my 2 cents and save them up for a different conversation where I can provide more value.
  6. Communications are more public than ever before, you may not fully understand your influence and words can hurt... so use your words carefully.
Have a nice day!