Monday, June 24, 2013

Urgency kills Priority, don't let it kill your Impact

So at my new job I have been working on ways to prioritize projects and daily work to move things forward. You know, good old strategic tech planning.

One of the things we did was we took a couple steps to formalize how people access the IT help desk. Nothing fancy or new, just a simple policy. One of the keys to me though was asking users to set a priority for the ticket; High, Medium or Low. I defined these terms in the policy something like;

  • High= interrupts business for multiple people, impacts finance, etc.
  • Med= interrupts your ability to work,  no work-around, etc.
  • Low= everything else
I also asked for any associated deadlines, details, screenshots, etc.

But here is where things got interesting quick. And before I say anything else, I am not trying to say anything bad about our staff. This just seems to be human nature.

Requests came in, but the priority seemed to be driven by when they needed it done, not by the impact or importance. Because things get more important when you are faced with urgency. I need this by 1pm today, I am working on something for a Board Member that is going to be here in 30 minutes....

This is not a big deal when it is the occasional request, which is true for my org. They are typically good about leaving time and being purposeful. But this really got me thinking about the difference between urgency and priority.

The trick is that if you have too many urgencies, you can get to the priorities. This is where a help desk process can really help. 

Track IT! If you are tracking all of your requests and work, you can look for these trends. You can see repeat requests each month at a deadline and anticipate them. Then make a change to your technology to address it. Automate the report.... Follow up with that department, ask them to request earlier... Simplify the tool to allow self help....

Expectations! Setting expectations in your help desk process will help drive the change needed. Tied to the priorities in our help desk process was a service level agreement. We plainly tell our users how quickly to expect support based on the priority of the ticket. The service level agreements will range from org to org based on available resources. And we told the why, to allow us to balance projects with big impact with the daily urgencies.

Definition! Taking time to write a policy, enforce it and define all terminology is not easy or fun. But is important. Simple definitions and ongoing conversations have a real, lasting impact on culture.

Address the problem, not the symptom. Not a new idea. Focusing on urgency will keep you focused on the symptoms.

We are also looking to formalize our tech project request, our tech project steps, data governance, business process documentation and so much more. We have to shift from urgency to priority to allow for impact.

My question is why aren't more topics like this at the forefront of our technology conferences, blog posts, webinars, etc? Basic technology support is still important.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Due June 15! Tech Session Suggestions needed for #14NTC!

Social Media and Communications session suggestions out number the tech and tool session suggestions in mass quantities.

We need your help to get the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference to have a better Technology focus.

Here is some of the feedback that is listed on the NTEN website about what people are looking for:

More than 70% of 13NTC attendees surveyed identified as either managers or directors at nonprofits. More than 60% of that number also identified as intermediate or journey-level learners. When asked what kinds of content they're specifically looking for:

  • 53% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on technical how-tos
  • 50% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on programmatic uses of technology
  • 40% indicated they'd like to see an emphasis on management strategy
I suggested sessions on:

  1. Tech planning: When to use tactical vs strategic vs mission impact planning
  2. How to process map
I would love to see some others that have experience suggest some of the following:
  1. Working with technology consultants - how do you pick?
  2. Using a managed network vs hiring your own network admin
  3. My favorite Network and technology management tools: what do you use to monitor your network, run help desk, measure bandwidth, review capacity, audit security, etc?
  4. Data mining and dashboards
  5. Office365 vs Google Apps
  6. Back to the basics on Project Management
  7. The value of a technology committee (project review, peer advisory, etc)
  8. Best practices in desktop support\management
  9. BYOD and other policies needed for todays tech
  10. Governance of all kinds, data, process, etc
Anyway, that is just my initial list, I am sure you have ideas, so go suggest them now!

Then go to NTEN and suggest your session! Before June 15, yeah, only 4 days left.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Prove me right about the YMCA!

I am no longer a YMCA member.

That is a strange phrase for me. I have been a YMCA volunteer, member, staff person for over 35 years. But with recent changes and management decisions that has changed. But I do not want to go down that road in this post.

Instead, I am hoping you can help me.

When the YMCA of the USA started it's rebranding process, it developed the strategy, worked with CEOs, consultants, key staff and whatever.  Then they worked with Marketing Depts and Leadership at local Y's to roll it out. They were trying to change the YMCA to be seen as a cause driven nonprofit, not a place to go.  But Marketing won't change that (in my opinion).

Ever since I started in the Y as a kid learning to swim and then becoming a volunteer as a Teen, I always knew the real mission impact was done by the program and membership staff at the local Y. It is the staff on the front lines working with the members that make the real difference. And these staff tend to be overworked and treated as just another employee by big Metro offices. These staff have the real power to change the YMCA image and impact. Not a new logo.

My theory has always been that the real power of the YMCA is the everyday staff. It is the lifeguard that takes time to high five a kid for getting in the water even though they were afraid. It is the Day Camp staff person that is purposeful about talking about Christian values, instead of barking orders about rules. It is Fitness Staff that encourage the Health Seeker by being realistic about body image, slow change and gradual progress. It is the Front Desk staff willing to chat with members and knowing the names of their kids. These are the YMCA Heros. These staff matter.

So what does that have to do with me not being a YMCA member? Well I still love the YMCA. I still cherish the friends I have made with other YMCA staff. But in the end, my YMCA career took turns that I didn't choose and now I am in a different place.

Over the years, I have collected mounds of YMCA logo stuff. Sweatshirts, T-Shirts, mugs, luggage tags, USB drives, etc. I want to share my collection with people who also love the YMCA and want to help me prove my theory right about the YMCA. The staff make the Y what it is.

My wife and her friend have started their own organization, Leap of Faith Arts Ministries ( This organization embodies everything that the YMCA used to be for me, plus a strong emphasis on Worship which plays a larger role in my life today. Everything is focused on the mission and the kids in the program.  They are consistently asking themselves, what can we do to help these children learn to use their gifts to praise God and to know they are perfect just the way they are.

Kids today are under so much pressure to achieve, to be better than the rest, to rise above. What ever happened to having a heart eager to serve?

Image is everything. You have to have the right clothes, cars, house, cell phone, etc. Girls are encouraged to dress like they are 25 at age 5. Body Image is so distorted. Where is our sense of values?

Leap of Faith Arts Ministries is having a real impact on changing this. It isn't about the Arts that they learn, even though they are getting high quality, professional instruction. They are changing lives.

This is not some new start up though, Leap of Faith is new as a nonprofit, but has been around for years. They just recently went out on their own though. And this first year in their new building is proving financially challenging. They have a solid business plan for operations and funding through program and membership fees. However, they do want to go down the path of relying solely on charging more or running more programs to generate revenue to expand their impact.  They want to begin with a foundation of support from donors, so they can grow the program and not put a heavy burden of cost on the members.

This is their first attempt at real fundraising and we need your help to kick start it and show the board and parents that this is worth fighting for and raising money can be done.

So here is my ask. Can you show support for my wife's new org that is living out what I think is the best quality of YMCA staff today?

Here is the fun part. The first thirteen people that make a donation over $50 can get a Thank You in the form of random YMCA logo items. You will get one of the 13 piles in the picture below. Each contains some clothes and a random item.

Here are the rules:
1. Make a donation of $50 or over at
2. If you would like the YMCA thank you, leave your name in a comment below in this blog post. I will get your address from the donation, so just your name, indicate you would like a "YMCA thank you" and any other thoughts in a comment. First 13 comments from people that live in the United States will get an pile of YMCA stuff shipped to them.

NOTE! so if you want to make sure you are one of the first 13, just count the comments below.

Here is another picture of all of the items.

Or if you would just like to show your support, you can make a donation or share this post with others. If you want to leave comments, without donating, that is welcome also. We also ask that you keep Leap of Faith in your prayers as they look to ensure their future growth and impact through their first fundraising efforts.

Thanks, Steve