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Saturday
Nov212009

Big projects and psychic wear and tear

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. - Tom Landry

... it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. - Machiavelli

We are currently undertaking two major projects in our district that will impact lots of staff members. We are installing 157 mounted LCD projectors and 120 interactive white boards between now and winter break throughout the district. And we are switching our e-mail service from Microsoft Exchange to GoogleMail and providing GoogleApps for Education to faculty.

While every effort has been made to plan well, get buy-in, provide information and make these changes as easy on everyone as possible, there will be a learning curve for all, nervousness by many, dissatisfaction for some, and outright resistance by a few. We'll have missed some problems in our planning and implementation no matter how diligent we try to be and every problem will not be immediately solvable. And I, as tech director, will be pretty much the focus for those who don't like change - or at least these changes.

I will hear about it - either directly from the aggrieved or via my boss, the superintendent, relaying complaints indirectly.

I don't know about you, but I get little satisfaction from knowing something I've done is making others unhappy.* Like most folks, I prefer days filled with compliments rather than criticisms. I know over the next few weeks I am in for some pretty long days of getting verbally beat up about installations, migrations, training (usually lack thereof), additional work, and plain old differences in how things are done. What makes things harder is that some of the complaints will be deserved.

But having gone through big technology implementations before, I know that in only a couple months the vast majority of those impacted will be very glad that the changes happened. Teachers will be pleased with their projectors and SmartBoards. Principals will be happier with the flexibility of the GoogleCalendar. Techs will be happy not to have to deal with overflowing e-mail storage spaces. Everyone will appreciate the ease and power of collaborating with GoogleApps.

And the district will be more effective because of these changes.

But getting through the next couple months will be tough. I see why:

  • It's easier to advocate for big changes when you don't actually have to make them happen.
  • It's more psychically difficult to advocate for big changes the more you've done - why many people seem to take a long glide path into retirement.
  • It's essential to have faith that what you are doing is in the best interest of students and staff.
  • That never attempting to change anything would lead to a pretty damn boring existence. I suspect that most changes are made by those of us when students who rather get attention for bad behavior than no attention at all.

Any secrets for maintaining one's sanity when "undertaking an order of new things," as Niccolo put it?

*With rare exception - there are always a few people it is fun to royally piss-off. They turn such interesting colors of red and blue.

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Reader Comments (11)

It sounds like you already have a pretty good attitude about it and that's probably the most important thing. I can't wait to hear how the changeover to googleapps goes--sounds like a great idea I wish our district would consider!

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

We've been through the switch from microsoft to google mail and the install of projectors. Those changes will be accepted pretty readily. Anyone who really loves microsoft for email needs to have their head examined. The savings from not having to pay for the MS exchange software alone should save 30-40k a year and what's not to love about google aps unless a central office paper pusher owns paper stock.

November 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie A. Roy

Hi Ninja,

My attitude is variable!

I'm hoping both these projects will be a big win for the district, but getting there is a stresser!

Doug

Hi Charlie,

Glad to know others have survived the transition. I DO think I will be ready for winter break when it comes!

Doug

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I appreciate this post. I think it came along at a pretty good time for me. As did this little slice of wisdom- of which I'll share below. This quote was pasted by a parent in a thread I started in a student-run social network in our area:

"Each time a person stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. Few are willing to embrace the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change." [Robert F. Kennedy]

Hopefully this helps bring a bit o' snap to your step today.
;)

Sean

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSean Nash

Your post was timely as I find myself in a similar situation. We are implementing similar changes at our high school and though smaller, it still overwhelms me. I looked over your web sit and couldn't find additional information. Wondering if you have your plan for implementation (specifically with regard to staff development and buy in) available?

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

This is a great article. Couldn't be more right on.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSquarespace

Testing again at 6:50 AM.

Doug

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I look forward to hearing how the switch to Google Apps goes.

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

Thanks, Sean. This is really, really a great quote. I'm adding to my list of favorites.

All the best and a happy holiday season to you,

Doug

Hi Nathan,

I think it will be fun. I'll keep folks posted.

Doug

November 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

It's still MSmail for us but we are switching out to Whiteboards and projectors. I do love me mine. But there are still way to many that are being used as projection screens - and don't get me started on the ones that are covered over with butcher paper so the teacher can "write" on them.

I wish our district would give them to the folks who are really, really want them, as opposed to doing an entire grade level or subject area. The teachers who don't want one would have to get on the tour bus sooner or later - their students will demand it.

November 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGuusje

Hi Guusje,

Until this year, we have only had enough IWBs in our buget to give them to a small percentage - the most willing - each year. This year we have the funds to give them to both the willing and unwilling and I am very anxious about how this will go. I HATE to see unused equipment in my schools.

Thanks for the observations,

Doug

November 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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