MY Hines

What a weekend it is! I’m thankful that I don’t really celebrate Easter any longer. I don’t have to worry about making a complex meal or dressing up. That is the one thing that is going for me. But it is a very difficult weekend because there are three things I really want to do, and I can’t figure out how to make all of them happen.

The most important item is to get ready for the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Atlanta next week. I have to figure out if I can fit everything into my carry-on luggage or if I’m going to check a bag. I have to look at all of the materials and try to narrow down which sessions I want to go – and that is becoming so very hard. I want to look at the vendors for the Science Fair. With over a 100, can I really see them all? I got to get used to my new portable brain – maybe switching to the HTC TouchPro 2 the Wednesday before the NTC, wasn’t the brightest idea. I got some more twitter basics done – I know to use the #10NTC hash for the conference, but my twitter skills need to increase, dramatically.

Then you have the fact that we have beautiful weather in Pittsburgh. Back in February when there were 40+ inches of snow, I never thought that on the 4th of April I would be wearing sandals, turning on the ceiling fan, and wearing tank tops to work out in while out on the trail. In fact, I guess I was worried we were still going to have snow.

Then, mix in the Pittsburgh Penguins. Well folks, hockey might as well be considered my religion right now. I dislike when I miss a game. I dislike it when I have to switch back and forth to a game because my mom needs to watch Dancing with the Stars or some other TV show. I tried to tell her the DVR is for those shows but she won’t hear about that because she can’t run it. I saw the game yesterday – when I had to half listen to it on the radio. But the other part of this is the fact that the Stanley Cup, with the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins that won the cup last year name’s engraved on it, is at the Heinz History Center this weekend and today is the last day for it to be there. I can go see it. I’ve always wanted to see it.

So, three things to do – several reasons to do all three – and now I have to find the balance to get all three done. I’m all about Getting Things Done kind of gal, but this trio is very interesting, because any of them could take my entire attention away.

No watching the Disney Easter Parade today. It’s time to take the warm Pittsburgh Penguins jersey and put it on with some shorts and sandals, take the digital camera and hope that my mom can take a decent picture, and get moving. Lots of things to do because in the next the thing I’m most excited about it….

I can’t decide! But today is the last day I can see the cup. I can focus on #10NTC starting tomorrow (unless I get those Penguin tickets for Tuesday night’s game against the Capitals.)

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I am probably not the best person to be giving tips on delegation. It is something that I struggle with for multiple reasons – I like the control, I used to do it all, and sometimes I am delegating stuff I wish I had the time to do. But, realistically, I can’t find new things that I may like to do if I’m so busy trying to do everything still. Now, when I think about delegation, I simply think ‘Let Go’ and sometimes that helps.

But of course, Let Go means a lot more than just those two words:
Loosen up
Expect the unexpected
Take time to prepare

Go away
Open up for interpretation

Here is an in-depth look at each of these and what they mean to me. They may mean something else to you, but in this field, I’m sure we all agree any help is worth it.

Loosen up – If we continue to run the tight ship, running the 101 tasks daily, and not allowing for fun, our staff aren’t going to want the assigned tasks when it is finally assigned to them. Plus, that one thing you may be holding onto because you really really want to do it may be the thing your staff person really is going to shine with, or that task may give them a challenge that raises them to the next level. If you don’t shake it up and drop the reigns, you will never find out. My perfect example is when I gave up the employee newsletter. I had been the person who brought back the employee newsletter in 2000 when I was an intern. I had done it for years with very LITTLE assistance. I would even work on it from home when I simply couldn’t get it done at the office. Giving it over to my staff – wow – it was amazing. She is doing a great job, it’s growing in new directions, and now I don’t have to stress about getting it done at home. Better yet, she is now able to take on larger newsletters, such as the agency newsletter, which means more that I can delegate. I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t loosened up and allowed it to happen.

Expect the unexpected – In general, this is one of my everyday mottos (along with never a dull moment). You may be able to hand off a task to someone else and magically it grows simply because that person is able to give it the time and attention that it deserves. There may be a surge of new ideas, new interest in it, or simply it transforms into something else. You should never expect the task to stay exactly the way you would have done it and you should be prepared to see it unfold in a different way. Unexpected does not always mean bad.

Take time to prepare – The worst thing you can do is to assign a task over and not spend the time with the staff explaining the task. Sometimes it’s just a simple email, but sometimes you really do have to explain face-to-face what the task is. You may have to be a sounding board for ideas and help with brainstorming if the task is creative. Sometimes you are going to have to teach the task to hand it over. Whatever the task is, don’t always assume you can just assign and walk away. You are the expert so be prepared to teach the task. I found this was the case when I was training staff on how to create email address distribution lists. I could have just opened up Exchange and showed them, but what good would that have been? I waited until there were several addresses to make, I made sure that there was proper documentation, and then I walked them through making the email distribution list and then had them finish together the other addresses that were needed. That time spent will equate to success down the road when the email address needs to be created again.

Go away – What good is delegation if you are always there? I know that there are some things that I can’t stand working on when other people are around. I find it easier to work when no one is there. This is especially the case with new things. The same thing may apply to your staff. You have to simply give up that control and trust that it is going to get done. The best way to do this is to leave. It’s the reason why we delegate and you will never know if delegation is working if you are always there. Now, this has been simpler said than done, I must admit. I currently share my office with my staff so even if I am working on other things, I’m sharing the space while they are working on tasks. But I am finding it easier to leave “early” (which really means earlier than I used to leave and it does not mean less than 8 hours of work). It is also easier to go to meetings and know that things are ok.

Open up for interpretation – Your idea of what the end product may be can be completely different from the staff’s idea and you should be ready to see that happen. If you want it to be completed in a very specific way, make that the expectation. But if the task is creative or open-ended, don’t let your picture of the completed task derail the work that was done. Again, this one is so difficult for me – especially on things that I used to do all the time. I had that reaction in my stomach the first time I saw the employee newsletter – but I stopped that reaction because you know what, it looked better than when I had done it. It was more personalized and exciting because there wasn’t a rush to get it done as quickly as possible. interpretation is a good thing.

The one thing I think is the coolest thing with my Cisco VOIP solution is the ability to add new ringtones and hold music. This may seem like something small. While I love how easy it is to integrate with Outlook and the possibilities of tying into our database applications, ringtones and hold music are two items that make staff happy.

Yes, I do care about making staff happy.

Recently, after realizing how many changes we have done to our network without much notice (new application required a no-notice upgrade to I.E. 8.0 and a screen resolution change), I thought it was time to give the staff something back. New ringtones were the perfect gift to give.

Did it yield anything? Yes – I actually could hear staff trying out the new ringtones within minutes of the email going out (oh, the beautiful symphony of Super Mario Brothers, Knightrider, and the Filet O Fish jingle all playing at the same time!) Then staff stopped and commented on the ringtones. That was good to know that they were being enjoyed and actually being used.

It also served as another tool. See, two outcomes for the price of one change!  The other thing new ringtones did was give the staff a reason to press that Settings button and to change the ringtone. It seems like something minor, but often after staff picked their ringtone, they never go back to that Settings button. Then, if for some reason their ringtone went back to the standard (and boring) ringtone, they were lost on how to get the ringtone back. In fact, I would probably get a support ticket for assistance on getting their ringtone back.

Yet, not one ticket was submitted for assistance with these new ringtones. I saw one staff member go to our SharePoint intranet and pull up the directions from our directory of directions for the network. I saw another one pull out a binder where she had printed all of her directions out so she could remember how to do the change. And the third? They just pushed buttons until they stumbled upon the Settings button and made the right changes. Along the way, two made other changes and the third remembered that after adjusting the volume for the ringtone you had to save the volume settings.

Woo-hoo! Ringtones as a teaching tool.

Plus, they keep things interesting. Now to get that Barracuda ringtone….

This year, I filled out my first March Madness bracket ever. I know that there are three teams around the Pittsburgh area that are in the NCAA tournament, but other than that, I might as well just drawl names out of the hat. Even if I didn’t fill out a bracket for the first time, I would be very aware of it being March Madness. I’m sure that you have seen the stories on television – March Madness and productivity don’t seem to go together. (Just Google it and see how many articles there are about the lower productivity in the workplace – March Madness a march to lower work productivity, The (Overblown) Cost Of March Madness, March Madness Productivity Drain: Calling a Foul,  and March Madness costs employers money, productivity (all glanced at today).

For me, March Madness is not always a bad thing. With nonprofit technology, sometimes you have coworkers who are afraid of computers that are lured into using computers for their March Madness needs. If it gets them onto the computer, browsing the internet, getting comfortable with search engines, using the mouse, and generally just using the computer – I’m for it. That is the healthy part of March Madness.

There is also the bad side to watch out for, especially given some network structures and typography. With my workplace, about 75% of staff use terminal server, which means that they share resources. While I understand this and several other people understand what this means – it does not usually stop the madness that will keep me on my toes in the next couple weeks. The madness that “I can watch this for a little bit and it won’t really impact anything”.  Shared resources are not an equal split, so if one person is able to find a site that is not blocked and can stream the games – that person will take a larger percentage of the resources and leave everyone else a lot less.

Blocking streaming isn’t the answer either. Why not?

Recently when I was allowed to finally do some blocking of inappropriate websites, I had to answer this question. It came down to what happens if you do really block that streaming of video. While YouTube is known for viral videos because that is usually what gets noticed on the TV News, the reality is that YouTube has a lot of really good training resources. Last fall I learned how to make an animated introduction graphic in AfterEffects – and I had only learned how to open up AfterEffects about ten minutes before finding that training video. There are countless numbers of valid training resources that now use video to train. Can I truly block all streaming to stop March Madness?

All I can hope is that the supervisors stay on the tops of this situation. It isn’t my responsibility to police the staff. All I can do is try to keep an eye on the shared resources and hope that everyone respects that they are all tied together. I’m sure that there will be a day or two when resources are low, but that is what happens in my network. It’s a trade-off for a lower cost of ownership and longer lifespan of my network equipment.

So, this is why I took my first NCAA bracket and filled it out (with help from my Uncle Don who I heard has won several of these in the past and I consider him to be a guru of all sport things). I had also looked up some other resources online and I’m still trying to figure out if I’m going to do a second bracket with some sort of geeky criteria of selecting winners (binary number of mascot names? highest Scrabble word that can be created from the name of the school?)

I did find some interesting sites that I wanted to end this post with. In case you are looking for inspiration for your NCAA March Madness Bracket – Muppet Madness (if they had 64 Muppets, I’d select my muppets and then just transfer that to my NCAA bracket), Meat Madness, and this one.

Being a Technology Director and spending most of the past decade working with technology, I have always been aware of how the medical profession was starting to move to electronic medical files. I had a brief glimpse of them once when I had an MRI done of my knee and weeks later the doctor was able to pull them up on the computer in the examination room to declare the MRI wasn’t detailed enough. I’ve read a lot about how much better it is and all the cool ways that they have been implemented in hospitals. Now, my doctor’s office is getting in the game of electronic medical files and I have had a mixed first experience.

First, I like the technology that is there. I like the fact that my scripts can be sent right to the pharmacy (except the one that they absolutely require a physical script for and the fact that the pharmacy by my work office isn’t in the doctor’s network yet.) I think the technology is going to help. My doctor has had a smartphone for years that he would look up drug interactions with during appointments, so I was comfortable with the use of technology in the examination room.

However, my concern goes to more of the implementation of the electronic medical files and what that is going to do with the interaction between the medical professionals and me. (This does related to work too because as we look into further databases for our clients, we run the same risk that I saw in the office this first time.)

My doctor’s office has been rolling out their electronic medical files for about six months now. It started with scans of our insurance cards and making sure that all of our information was correct. It was being done on paper still and that was pretty cool. But several weeks ago, right after all the snow had fallen, I had my first appointment with the laptop in the examination room.

Kudos to my doctor. Nurse, you need some help.

What happened was that the nurse who took me back was so concerned about the computer and what it said, I don’t believe she ever looked at me. When she was taking weight and blood pressure, her eyes were on those details and never once did she actual look at me. It made me feel very uncomfortable. Further, the computer prompted her to ask me some questions because of my medicine – but the computer didn’t know that for the previous week all it had done was snow and that 40 inches of snow may make someone more frustrated or moody. The nurse was so concerned about the question getting answered because the computer needed an answer, she couldn’t remember that there is lot more factors than just medicine that might make someone more  moody in the “last two weeks’.

So I was pretty much concerned about how my doctor was going to handle this laptop and if it was going to change what I had grown to like about him. I’m tough on doctors. It took me a long time to find this one and to become comfortable with him. I surely didn’t want this laptop in the room to change things.

It did change things, it actually seemed to give me a longer appointment and unlike the nurse, he was conscious of looking back to me and stepping away from the computer. In fact, I was able to give him a trick about the touch screen that he was struggling wtih as they had wired stylus devices that were way too thick for the small buttons that he had to touch. He commented that he loves when he gets the “technical patients” in because we give him hints on how to handle the laptop better. He took his pen without the ink it in and found it so much easier to use than that stylus.

I know that they are just starting out. I’m sure that the nurses are stressed out with the changes. I’m just hoping that they take on the attitude my doctor took – not letting the laptop run the appointment. Ultimately, no matter what the technology is, you still have to talk medical professional to patient – human to human. It absolutely gave me an idea of what could happen when my agency gets ready to go with any sort of mobile database out in the field. It’s a lot to think about, but it’s a good kind of thinking.

Again, kudos to my doctor. Nurse , better luck next time!

On New Year’s Eve, I shared on the blog a partial list of my resolutions. If you want to reference that post, its available here. Then, thinking that I can force myself to actually follow thru with the resolutions, I got the bright idea of looking back on the progress of the resolutions every month. I even managed to do this on February 1, 2010. This was before Mother Nature went for the Grand Slam of weather drama and dropped over 42 inches of snow around the Pittsburgh area. Now, I find myself on March 11th and wondering, how can I even blog about this.

However, I made the idea that I have to do this to make any progress, so, I will admit to my failures of working towards the resolutions and how I think I can move forward. But looking at it, I have not failed in all of these.

  1. Read more resources for work – Maybe I made this one too difficult to start with by saying that I had to read books. There are tons of resources that I do read every couple days. I sometimes even get really good information from those stacks of “IT magazines” that are really just trying to sell a company’s products. I still have the books that I have listed and the one has managed to make it to the chair in the living room (the travel book about Vegas is on top of it right now and has me wanting to just plan my vacation to Vegas.) I will get to the books, but I think I also have to try to make an effort to recognize all of the other resources that I do read and maybe even make a better effort to review some more of the resources that are coming to me via Twitter.
  2. Try positivity – I’m going to plead the fifth, ask for mercy, and comment on this next month. (i.e. find someone with a good mood after shoveling 42+ inches of snow in one month).
  3. Keep up with maintaining Outlook  – Oh-oh!  Last week my work actually had issues with Outlook because everyone in a whole was keeping too much in their Outlook. Did I do something about it? Yeah, I got us more space on the server, I started to completely delete junk mail from the beginning, but have I done much else? Sorry, no. It’s there to be done. Baby steps, I say! Baby steps!
  4. Organize My Documents – Maybe chaos is the way that I roll best? I have made moves to organize documentation better for technical staff and I did get hard copies of vital network information that some staff need when they can’t logon the network to get the documentation on how to fix a problem if the problem blocks access to the network. Still, my personal My Documents need some help. I think the help that is needed is called “purge to CD immediately”.
  5. Enjoy Life Outside of Work – This was one of the goals that I thought I would struggle the most with but since I dug my car out of the snow, I think I have done a better job at enjoying life outside of work. I went to the movies with my sister – and I can’t remember the last time I did that. I went and saw Alice in Wonderland with my best friend and went to a Penguins game all in one weekend last weekend. That’s huge for me. (I also took a bus to a Penguins game while the snow was fall in February – you don’t miss Penguins games if you gotten tickets!) I am even thinking of starting up my photography hobby a bit more to the thought of taking some real classes – so I think I’m actually doing a lot towards this resolution. Go figure – the one I thought was going to be the hardest is becoming the easiest!
  6. Delegate – I have mixed feelings on this. So mixed that I don’t think that I can really comment on them right now. Maybe next month?

So, I’m starting to get back into the swing of things, I have ideas for a couple more blog postings, and I think having sun for a couple days is making everything so much brighter. I only have a couple weeks to make progress in ay of these resolutions – but I think I can do some towards them. Check in next month to see!

Often it seems as if the winter drags on and it lived up to it this year. I don’t think I had one post in February simply because of one thing: SNOW. That four-letter word was the worst word to hear. It was the worse four-letter word of the month. My shoulders, back, and legs still hurt when I type that word – it was disgusting how SNOW ruined the month of February for me.

I had moments of brilliance and I had some thoughts of posts to write. For a couple days I was going to equate trying to help staff who need assistance with installing remote access software while being remotely connected myself as like walking on snow and ice – sometimes you have a grip and other times you are sliding. I think too many bus rides derailed that post.

I had one thought that was around a snowman. I’m not even sure exactly what my point was and I’m glad that I didn’t post that one. But mostly, my fingers, thoughts, and month were just simply frozen with snow.

So, now it is the second week of March and I’m finally able to get back to my blog. It happens as spring is around the corner, when I saw the forecast included 60 degrees for a couple days coming up, and I can look ahead and see very interesting events. Pretty soon I’ll be heading to the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Atlanta. Vacation is the following month – so things are looking up.

I’ll bring everyone up to speed on where I am with the New Year’s Resolutions tomorrow – but warning: it hasn’t been good in February!

So, melt snow, melt! Take all the bad evil feelings that filled February with you and let the sunshine now!

Now in the words of Walt Disney “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

geeka507

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