John’s perspective: ITS promotions, space study, and roles of project and change management

June 27, 2019

Yale’s Chief Information Officer, John Barden, addresses questions asked by the community through our Ask John survey feature. In this edition, John shares his perspective on how the organization handles promotions and the role it plays in helping to make Yale a workplace of choice, and what is going on with the physical space study. He also clarifies the roles and unique focus of project management and the two types of change management within our organization.

How is Yale ITS ever going to be a workplace of choice when as an organization you deny promotions that people very much deserve, forcing them to look elsewhere for better prospects? And to add insult to injury there is only one window for promotions once a year. Are you trying to thin out the workforce?

Candidates for promotion are evaluated based on an individual’s contribution against goals, their alignment with core competencies, and the management team’s assessment of readiness to take on broader responsibility. This framework aligns with the FOCUS form and the assessment approach we initiated two years ago. Most team members have responded positively to this more inclusive, competency-based approach. We have also put substantial effort into improving the clarity of our IT-wide goals and continue to make progress on translating these to individual expectations. Additionally, every team member should be having meaningful discussions with their supervisor about their career goals, have the benefit of honest and timely feedback, and receiving coaching in support of shared objectives. I believe that in large measure, the work we are doing on these fronts is supporting both individual professional development and institutional outcomes. That said, it is also clear there is more we can do to expand succession planning, make open positions more visible to all team members, and be more deliberate in identifying cross training opportunities at every level that often fuel long term growth.

While exceptions do arise, we are aligned to the Yale-wide approach of assessing most promotions annually. It is our goal to facilitate promotion discussion across all of leadership, and this is much more effectively coordinated annually while many team members are being considered. This is intended to expand team-wide accountability and sponsorship for promotions, make progress on any equity issues with full view of the comparable roles, as well as to help identify the widest possible breadth of potential opportunities for individuals ready for new challenges. It is my hope that most see that intent as positive and are seeing demonstrated progress as a result.

If there are individual concerns that there is a mismatch between an individual’s self-perceived readiness and a supervisor’s perception of readiness for promotion, I strongly encourage a direct conversation with your supervisor and/or leadership team member to see if there is a way to better address the concern.

A while back we had a physical space study done by a consulting company. Is there anything you can share about that? What were the results? Are there any actions planned?

Many of our peer institutions have substantially advanced the way they think about team space. By example, both Harvard and Stanford have recently undertaken very comprehensive changes to administrative office space, including that used by Information Technology. While our institutional pressures are not the same (i.e. we do not have the same degree of commuting pressure as Boston or Palo Alto),we are experiencing the same shift in work methods such as increasingly collaborative work methods that exert pressure on conference room space. These changes in work method are starting to bump into some perceived limitations in the way our space is currently structured.

I volunteered IT to be seen and to serve as an initial sample of how our space is being utilized. That information is feeding into a much broader discussion on how we might think about our space needs for the future. There is nothing currently formalized, but a lot of interest in assuring that we start to envision the future state of office space at Yale. I expect more discussion in the months ahead, but no imminent changes are pending.

It seems the role of Project Management and Change Management are very similar and easily confused in the minds of many. Until recently, I did not understand the distinction very clearly, but I now understand they are related, but distinct things. I’m wondering if you could explain to everyone your perspective on what each does and what their unique role is in enabling the successful implementation of IT initiatives and projects.

Project management is a set of processes that support successful delivery of activities that have a clear beginning and end. Projects are often thought of as exclusively the broadly visible activities such as Next Generation Network, but, they also can be operational activities such as a recurring system upgrade. We are in the process of retooling our support for projects, with an emphasis on methodology and a process called “Gating.”Gating is a way of promoting broader awareness through checkpoints at the major steps along a project and assuring a more consistent outcome. The Project Management Office anticipates broader training on the evolving approach, tools, and templates in the months ahead.

Change Management is a term that has two distinct definitions. One is the process by which changes in our technology base are introduced, often referred to as Technical Change Management or Change Control. Under the guidance of the Change Advisory Board (CAB), we have been refining the change control practices over the course of the last year - most notably introducing a risk-based assessment model. This allows low-risk changes to go with minimal conditions, and high-risk changes to be more thoughtfully planned and staffed. Like project management, changes in this area are designed to help us improve the consistency of outcomes.

Distinct from Technical Change Management is Organizational Change Management, supported under the Operational Excellence team. This focuses on how transitions impact people and helping to account for and thoughtfully move through the process of how a transition is introduced to the people impacted by the change. In major projects, it is well demonstrated that helping people effectively transition is the most critical success factor, and therefore it is an area of increasing emphasis for our organization.

Project management and change management (both types!) are core processes for information technology that are pivotal to our service quality goals and are areas I expect continued evolving tools and support in the year ahead.

Take a moment to share questions and ideas you might have with John; questions will be answered in each subsequent IT Update.