Wisdom from Winning Leaders

What leadership practices help you succeed? That is the question posed recently to the National CIO ORBIE Finalists at the first-ever national Chief Information Officer awards celebration. The ORBIE signifies exceptional leadership, innovation, and vision.

Orbie_awards.png

I was pleased, as the 2020 Colorado CIO of the Year in the Public Sector, to serve as a judge for the National CIO of the Year ORBIE awards. There is so much to learn from these leaders, each of whom was initially selected as an ORBIE CIO of the Year winner in their local area and business category.

Wise Practical Pointers

EXPERIENCE

John Hill, CIO, Carhartt — "There is no substitute for experience."

GOALS

Sumit Anand, CIO, atHome — "Learn from the team to infuse realism into inspirational goals."
Mike Larson, CIO, Agiliti Health — "Understanding company goals is critical."
Jacob Sorensen, CIO, Bank of the West — "Find time to relax."

GRATITUDE

Bob Solis, CIO, MIT Lincoln Laboratory — "Take a step back and take it all in. Thank all that helped you get here."

LEARNING

Matt Bieri, CIO, Tyler Technologies — "Don't stop learning."
Tom Gordon, CIO, Virtua Health — "Be a better thinker."
Pramesh Naik, CIO, Troutman Pepper — "Never stop learning. Understand what makes the business tick."
Darrell Fernandes, CIO, TIAA — "Learn to listen. Bring in diversity."
Christer Peltomaa, CIO, Comcast Business — "Think like business."

MENTORSHIP

Lisa Dykstra, CIO, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago — "Be a good mentor, like a mother."

OPPORTUNITIES

Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO, Nutanix — "Watch the movie, Yes Man. Say yes to each opportunity."
Usman Waheed , CIO, KnollNational CIO of the Year — "Be fearless. Challenges are opportunities. Must make sure the Customer Experience is the goal of the journey."

PASSION

Kevin Boyd, CIO, University of Chicago — "Be passionate. Love what you do."
Matthew Chambers, CIO, Baylor Scott and White Health — "Pursue something you love."
Tarek Tomas, CIO, State of MN — "Follow your passion. Don't give up."

PEOPLE

Paul Algreen, CIO, Janus Henderson Investors — "Get your team to pull in the same direction."
Mike Goodwin, CIO, Petsmart — "Build authentic relationships."
Joan Kuehl, CIO, Elevate CreditNational CIO of the Year — "Leverage everybody's unique skills."
Mike Matthews, CIO, DeluxeNational CIO of the Year — "People matter the most."
Ravi Pendse, CIO, University of Michigan — "Make sure you bow before people in humility."
Craig Richardville, CIO, SCL HealthNational CIO of the Year — "Learn how to be a better parent. Grow and develop people around you. Prepare people, then step back and let them go."
Len Peters, CIO, New York University — "Trust people. Get out of their way."

VALUES

Andrew Brock, CIO, Associa — "Values are most important. Hire for character, loyal, and integrity."

VISION

Tanya Hannah, CIO, King County, WANational CIO of the Year — "We need leaders at all levels to bring organizational vision to life."

Summary

These CIOs, from around the country in many business categories, have been honored through the National CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards. They are inspiring and they challenge all of us to step up and lead well in our organizations. What leadership practices can help you succeed? Think about the experience, goals, gratitude, learning, mentorship, opportunities, passion, people, values, and vision that can make you and your team winners.

Theresa Szczurek @copyright 2021.  All rights reserved.  [spread the word.]


Do You Know This About Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is in the news almost weekly. Unfortunately, the number of threats is increasing. The sophistication of the attacks is growing. Individuals, businesses (large and small), and governments are under attack. Here are some basics.

For example, Colonial Pipeline, which carries gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from Texas to New York, was recently hacked in a high-profile ransomware incident. Another case involves SolarWinds. An NPR investigation into that attack revealed "a hack unlike any other, launched by a sophisticated adversary intent on exploiting the soft underbelly of our digital lives: the routine software update."

WHY should you care? The problem is huge, changing quickly, complex, and expanding. It impacts everyone and every organization. In a 2019 CEO Imperative Study by Ernst & Young, CEOs of the largest 200 global companies rated national and corporate cybersecurity as the number one threat to business growth and the international economy in the next 5 to 10 years.

 

According to McAfee, the global computer security software company, "Annual losses from cybercrime range from $500B to $1T and are projected to rise to $5T by 2024."

 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, "There are 4,000 ransomware attacks every day."

 

According to The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, and McAfee, "Sixty-four percent of Americans have lost personal data or had fraudulent charges due to cybercrime."

WHAT to do about it? The National Association of Corporate Directors in Cyber-Risk Oversight 2020 recommends five core principles that companies and their directors need to address:

 

Risk. Recognize cybersecurity as a strategic enterprise risk, not just an IT risk.

 

Legal. Understand that cyber risks have legal implications.

 

Expertise. Ensure there is adequate access to cybersecurity expertise and discuss risk management regularly.

 

Framework. Set expectations that management will establish an enterprise-wide, cyber-risk management framework with staffing and budget.

 

Financial Exposure. Identify and quantify the financial exposure for cyber risks and which risks to accept, mitigate, or transfer through insurance coverage and /or specific plans.

TAKE ACTION now as an Individual

 

Use complex passwords. The longer and more complex the better.

 

Update your devices so they have the latest security features and patches.

 

Don't open unsolicited emails and don't click on phishing links or buttons, no matter how realistic they may appear.

 

Back-up devices and systems regularly. When was the last time you did a back-up of your data? How much data can you afford to lose?

 

Protect your devices and Internet connections. Do you have anti-virus and anti-malware protection on your devices? Are you using two-factor authentication? Do you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

TAKE ACTION now as a Business (from Cyber-Risk Oversight 2020)

 

Do you have an Incident Response Plan? Establish one now.

 

How is personally identifiable information (PII) safeguarded domestically and internationally? What other standards (e.g., HIPAA) must you comply with in your industry and how are you addressing them?

 

Which third parties have access to your systems and what controls are placed on them?

 

How do you manage and control your core security infrastructure? What defenses do your Internet gateways have? Do you use two-factor authentication? Do you allow anything in your network to talk directly to the Internet? How are you protecting and backing up your data?

 

Do you have an insider threat program? Do you employ a data-leak prevention product?

SUMMARY

Cybercrime is a big and growing risk. To protect yourself and your business, consider people, processes, and technology. Address the core principles of risk, legal, expertise, framework, and exposure. Make sure you have the right expertise to provide oversight. Take action now to protect, defend, and deflect.

Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D.
C-Level Global Executive, Corporate Director, and Colorado CIO of the Year

Copyright 2021 Theresa Szczurek.  All rights reserved.  


Good Leadership and Science Matter in a Pandemic

In the challenging times of this pandemic, Coloradans have received the best from two leading medical doctors, both of whom happen to be female. That's why the Business and Professional Women (BPW) of Colorado just named them 2021 Women of the Year. Congratulations and thank you to:

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH, State Epidemiologist and Communicable Disease Branch Chief, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Dr. Herlihy is currently leading COVID-19 surveillance, case investigation, and outbreak response activities for the State of Colorado.
 
Dr. Michelle Barron, MD, Senior Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control at UCHealth. Dr. Barron has led the charge against infectious diseases including the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009 and Ebola in 2015. Since January 2020 and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has worked around the clock with fellow leaders to protect patients, staff and providers across UCHealth.

During a virtual celebration on April 28, 2021, these two medical doctors shared some important lessons learned and words of wisdom.

Dr. Herlihy shared:

DATA DRIVES POLICY. It's a process: ask questions, go to the data, answer questions, and use this information to drive policy. We lacked a data infrastructure. We have a patchwork of systems. With funds coming in, we can build a robust informatics / data infrastructure.
PEOPLE MATTER. This pandemic requires all hands on deck. My organization grew from 50 to 450 people in a few months. We can be very proud and trust the team. We meet every day, two times per day for 30 minutes in morning and afternoon.
TEAMS WORK HARD. We found new leaders. We built a team, which never met face-to-face. We worked remotely and found ways to come together, communicate, and share. Together we tried to reduce the stress. Good leadership is an example.
COLLEAGUES GAVE SUPPORT. Collaboration came from local public health leaders, Colorado School of Public Health, the Governor's Office and others in the state, and so many more.
VACCINES ARE TO BE TRUSTED. The vaccine trials typically have three phases. To bring the COVID-19 vaccine to market faster they overlapped the phases. They did not cut corners. This approach will be used going forward.

Dr. Barron shared:

GOOD SCIENCE MATTERS. Media wants a headline and wants you to just watch, which led to distrust of good science. Be careful of what you watch.
HAVE CONFIDENCE. Remember FDR's quote, "There is nothing to fear, but fear itself." Imagine how the world will be if we are not afraid.
WE KNOW ENOUGH TO HELP PEOPLE. We are more prepared than most knew. We did a lot right. Past pandemics, such as H1N1 and Ebola, taught us where to improve so we don't struggle with pandemics.
MENTAL HEALTH IS SO IMPORTANT. We all need access to help sometimes. Debriefing on a daily basis can release what happened. When you get home, listen to your breath.
VACCINES ARE BUILT ON DECADES OF RESEARCH. Known to colleagues as Kati, Katalin Kariko, Ph.D. has emerged as one of the heroes of COVID-19 vaccine. Her work, with her close collaborator, Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania, laid the foundation for the stunningly successful vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. "Science builds on science," Kariko says. "We always built on the people who came before us, and people will use our data. Of course, everything was important that those people did. I would hug them if I could."

Conclusion

Good leadership and good science both matter during troubled times. It is a pursuit of passionate purpose. More pandemics are forecast. People and teams are important collaborators. We are preparing the data infrastructure. Lessons learned:  We know what to do, data drives policy, mental health is important, vaccines are safe and build on decades of research, and be confident,  

by Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D.  @2021 copyright.  All rights reserved. 


A Proposal to Deliver "Technology in Government" Excellence

Excellence
We'll explore how the federal government can strengthen its own internal operations by leveraging innovation and technology lessons.

The Innovation Vision

The Biden vision is to make America the global innovation leader through steps such as:

Lead the world again in innovation by investing $300B in R&D.
Increase federal support for municipal broadband.
Fund clean energy R&D and prioritize carbon capture, utilization, and storage technology.
Insure proper technology for national cybersecurity and Health IT.
Direct entrepreneurial and commerce competitiveness.

We've already seen important actions in Biden's first days to honor science and appoint credible leaders for important technology roles.

Furthermore, discussions are underway to address ways to improve U.S. overall competitiveness. These include: valuing and funding high-speed Internet access for all; supporting Made in America 5G communications and critical infrastructure technologies; allowing international STEM students to more easily study and get work visas in the U.S.; encouraging, expanding, innovating, and enforcing Buy American; protecting our intellectual property from international pirates; and many more.

However, federal government must strengthen its own internal operations by leveraging innovation and technology. Here is a proposal which builds on some good work already underway.

Five-Pronged Proposal for 'Technology in Government' Excellence

1. DRIVE A CULTURE OF INNOVATIVE GOVERNMENT

Innovation must be nurtured and implemented. Innovation will positively impact public, as well as private, sector organizations and help build a stronger and more competitive nation. Innovation delivers extraordinary results! The 'Pursuit of Passionate Purpose' approach has proven to deliver innovative IT transformation for the State of Colorado and many other organizations. Here's how.
Find passion. The intersection of values and talents describes Passion. Discern innovation as a core value. Include innovation in our envisioned future, as Biden has done. Bring along on our journey the proper people who can support innovation.
Establish a passionate purpose of customer delight by striving to meet and exceed customers' expectations. Define who the customer is. Build customer satisfaction. Then work to improve the user experience (UX) or customer experience (CX).
Pursue the purpose with all your heart and soul persistently until you make progress. Establish a plan. The mantra must be "Focus, Finish, and Fly." Less is more.
Assess progress. Define the right measure of success. Is it the number of innovations brought to market that deliver a positive Return on Investment. Is it the speed of delivering these innovations coupled with quality? Define and track it. Reward progress, regroup, and continue the pursuit by reaffirming passion in the first step.

2. COLLABORATE AMONG AGENCIES FOR CYBERSECURITY AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMATION

Get the many agencies working together to set common goals, prioritize initiatives, establish policies, and enforce universal standards. Move from a federated model, where each agency operates independently, to more of a hybrid operating model, incorporating shared governance and economies of scale from appropriate centralized IT transformation.
Reignite the Federal CIO Council. Expand the CIO collaboration to include CIOs of smaller agencies and departments.
Collaborate between federal CIOs, state CIOs, and local CIOs. Involve NASCIO and other key organizations.

3. BUILD BACK TALENT

Focus on replenishing talent. During the prior administration, many technology experts left and were not replaced. People are the most important asset.
Build back the Office of Science of Technology Policy, the Office of the Federal CIO, as well as more expertise in the agencies.
Hire, fund, and empower Customer Experience Officers.
Stress diversity with more women and people of color.

4. FOCUS ON PROMISING TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE EMERGING NOW

GE's Global Innovation Barometer and Insights find that 95 percent of respondents say innovation is the primary way to make a nation's economy more competitive. The findings show that most leaders realize that unless they disrupt, they will be disrupted.
Explore new technologies that can provide breakthroughs in attaining government objectives and improving security. Study trends of emerging technologies that have great potential to transform. Surveys of top CIOs prioritized cybersecurity and risk management platforms; digital government frameworks with mobility, artificial intelligence (AI), and accessibility; cloud strategy; customer relationship management; data management and analytics, and more. Launch pilot programs and experiment. Succeed fast or fail fast.
Allocate budget for novel solutions and emerging technologies. Use an agile budgeting and development approach, yet include 'divide and conquer' project methodologies that can deliver valuable outcomes.
Modernize legacy platforms and applications to enhance capabilities, reduce costs, simplify support, and improve user experience and performance.
Stimulate digital transformation within all parts of the federal government and in private sectors. Use new approaches to make it easier and more efficient for people to interface with government. Learn lessons from the pandemic about turning up new systems and serving users on a fast schedule.

5. BE THE ENTREPRENEUR

An entrepreneur organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. Entrepreneurs, in the purest sense, are those who identify a need — any need — and fill it. Phil Weiser, State of Colorado Attorney General, says "a core failing of today's administrative state... is the lack of imagination as to how agencies should operate. In reality, however, effective administration depends on entrepreneurial leadership that spearheads policy experimentation and trial-and-error problem-solving, including the development of regulatory programs that use non-traditional tools." We need to:
Build into the federal IT culture the permission to imagine, experiment, and incubate.
Support and fund government technology incubators.
Hire proven entrepreneurs and train internal leaders to take on their winning traits.
Pursue strategic partnerships with entrepreneurial ventures, including public / private partnerships like the one that delivered the U.S. Digital Service.

Conclusion

There is a need to focus in order to achieve the vision of American as the global innovation leader. Five focus areas to build back better technology in government include: drive a culture of Innovative Government, collaborate at the federal, state, and local areas on cybersecurity and IT Transformation, replenish talent, focus on technologies of the future now, and be the entrepreneur. Let's play and have fun with technology. Let our creativity and imagination flow. As Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge."


Dan King's Passionate Purpose

Dan King, one of the fastest masters runners in the U.S., pursues his passionate purpose!

Dan King has a success formula — it works in both his personal and professional life. He applied this approach as the co-founder and CEO of ReadyTalk, a teleconferencing company, which was sold in 2017 to Premiere Global Services. And he uses this process now to be the all-time fastest masters runner in the U.S. over 60 years old at distances from one mile to 5000 meters.

According to Runners World, "On December 11, at the Five and Dime meet in Columbia, South Carolina, King ran the mile in 4:52.68, shaving 0.33 seconds off the existing 60-64 American record of 4:53.01, set by Nolan Shaheed in 2012." He broke the 3000- and 5000-meter American records the next day. WOW!

How Does He Do It?

It's no surprise that Dan's formula follows the four-stage "Pursuit of Passionate Purpose" process. Here's how:

1. FIND PASSION. When values are aligned with talents or gifts, one finds passion. Dan did.

Build from Values. "I always am guided by values in life. I desire to live life to the fullest and get the most out of my years. I want to make the world a better place. As an athlete, I commit to my well being through nutrition and exercise. I don't make excuses — I stay fit all the time."

Align with Talent. "Running is my favorite sport. My Dad and siblings were runners. My former coach at CU Boulder recently told me I was the most talented walk-on he had ever coached."

2. ALIGN PASSION TO A MEANINGFUL PURPOSE.

Set the Goal. "The goal must not be too easy or too big. I don't get energized by an easy goal. Or an impossible one. It must have the right discomfort level. I use goals to guide my training and give me things to aspire to. My goal entering 2020 was to be one of the few Americans over 60 years old to have ever run under a 5-minute mile."

Visualize. "I visualize my desired outcome. I use visualization to paint the picture of what success looks like, and how it will feel to achieve it."

3. PURSUE PURPOSE.

Plan. Goals must be measurable and quantifiable. That sets the stage for planning what it will take to achieve them. Examples are:
  - Find a time and place to run a USATF-sanctioned track meet at sea level with favorable conditions.
  - Create a training schedule that supports the goal. Continually research and gain knowledge about performance in the sport.
  - Stay adaptable. Cross train to manage around inevitable setbacks.

4. ASSESS PROGRESS.

Have a Growth Mindset. Discover self-limiting behaviors. Experiment with new approaches. Keep an open mind.

Adapt. "Even with my successes in 2020, I am now trying a new training approach. I love to experiment on myself and continually grow in this sport."

Be Persistent and Consistent.

Applying It to Business

Dan has used the same process in his business life with ReadyTalk. "Energy came from the belief that a company based on values and purpose will be a better place to work."

Values. "Our values included integrity, respect, accountability, high standards for excellence, and collaboration. As CEO, I made sure these were well understood and communicated regularly. We gained clarity on our values and other elements of culture. We built a hiring system based on alignment with our values."

Visualize. "We engaged our whole team with visualization exercises to paint the picture of what we wanted to create, including things like the physical location, products, reviews, and other artifacts that were part of our desired state. Weekly at our 30-minute all-company meeting, we reinforced the values, told stories and aligned them with our objectives, and recognized teammates who were living the values with their talents, and more."

By continuing to pursue its purpose using the "Pursuit of Passionate Purpose" principles, ReadyTalk found its desired exit. You can too.

Summary

So what about you? What personal records will you break? How can you make the world a better place? Find your passion. Align it with a meaningful purpose. Then pursue it persistently with a plan. Keep at it and make a difference!

copyright Theresa Szczurek 2020.  All rights reserved.  

photo credit:  Dave Albo.  lane1photos.com


More on How to Use Innovation as a Success Strategy

In my last e-newsletter (subscribe now) and in my recent blog post, I began to explore "Innovation as a Strategy for Success." Using the four-phase Pursuit of Passionate Purpose framework, we'll continue to examine how to align passion with a meaningful purpose, then pursue it persistently, and assess progress along the way.

Using my former CIO position at the State of Colorado as a case study, I presented the first two Practical Pointers last time. Here are additional Pointers 3-6.

1. DISCERN INNOVATION AS A CORE VALUE

2. ESTABLISH A MISSION AND VISION BASED ON INNOVATION

3. ATTRACT AND ALIGN PEOPLE (or TALENT)

The most important organizational asset is People. As Jim Collins explains, "First get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out where to drive it. If you have the right executives on the bus, they will do everything within their power to build a great company, not because of what they will get for it, but because they simply cannot imagine settling for anything less."

At the Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT), following the top-priority direction of Governor Polis, we worked to get the right people on the bus. Initially, I, as CIO, had eight executives reporting directly to me. After a deeper evaluation of our key challenges, I reorganized, resulting in just five Executive Staff members: the COO (Chief Operations Officer), CISO (Chief Information Security Officer), CCO (Chief Customer Officer), CSO (Chief Strategy Officer), and CTO (Chief Technology Officer). I retained, promoted from within, moved off, and hired new. We moved parts of the organization around under these leaders to improve processes and better serve our customers, who are the cabinet agencies.

A missing OIT organizational component to support an innovation culture is Marketing. Any entrepreneurial venture knows this is essential. That term does not resonate well in government, so it was named Product Management. This new group, placed in the Strategy Office, would determine what products and services we are offering and why, how we're pricing them, how we're placing them in the hands of our customers, and how we're supporting them over time.

The intersection of values and talents describes Passion. At OIT, our values together with the talents and gifts of the realigned organization became something we were passionate about.

4. DEFINE YOUR PASSIONATE PURPOSE

Next step is to align your passion with a purpose.

OIT established the wildly important passionate purpose or WIPP as Customer Delight. We worked to meet and exceed customers' expectations and build customer satisfaction. This helped build credibility and trust in OIT among all stakeholders including other executive branch agencies, legislature, vendors, employees, and all Coloradans. Using the Net Promoter Score as the measure to assess progress, we increased the agencies' NPS of OIT by 13 points in six months. Amazing!

OIT and each state agency, following the Governor's Office strategic priorities, established annual WIGs or Wildly Important Goals. To give important information to all stakeholders, we issued the OIT Playbook, a strategic and operational roadmap. As a strategy to achieve these goals, we set up an Innovation Incubator that delivered 10 technological solutions to address agency challenges. For example, after quickly assessing agency needs, we implemented multiple virtual call centers to facilitate COVID-19 communications.

5. PURSUE PASSIONATE PURPOSE

Then pursue the purpose with all your heart and soul persistently until you make progress. The pursuit included establishing a plan, as defined in our Playbook and WIGs, and pursuing it persistently with the right people.

I remember attending the NASCIO 2019 awards ceremony for state IT innovation. The State of Colorado did not receive one award, not even an honorable mention. I then set the goal that by the next year Colorado would win at least one. In 2020, OIT won two, thanks to a big team effort!

With the Governor's vision, support and legislative funding, we launched the Colorado Digital Service (CDS) as part of OIT. Modeled after the U.S. Digital Service, this small but mighty group is a private / public partnership of sorts that attracts talent from the private sector to do a 'tour of duty' in government. They bring in a user-centric design focus with agile methodologies and the ability to diffuse new team processes.

6. ASSESS PROGRESS

Through a dedicated team effort, OIT accomplished all of its WIGs in addition to dealing with COVID challenges. For example, OIT supported moving 80% of the state workforce to work remotely, innovated new solutions to expand the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment testing lab, and much more. Guided by the Governor's vision to have the agencies be accountable for their major IT solutions, we also put together an IT transformation plan to move to a reimagined hybrid operating model and set the steps to launch it.

Knowing the foundation had been set and the turn-around working, I assessed good personal progress and then moved on.

Summary

Using the Pursuit of Passionate Purpose approach, innovation can be nurtured and implemented. Innovation will positively impact public and private sector organizations and help build a stronger state, nation, and world. Innovation delivers extraordinary results!

What's Next

In the meantime, I'm seeking the right organization to make an even bigger innovative impact through a C-level position and/or board seats in the private or public sector.

Theresa M. Szczurek, Ph.D.
C-Level Global Executive, Corporate Director, and Colorado CIO of the Year

Copyright 2020 Theresa Szczurek.  All rights reserved.  (please share this blog post)


Innovation as a Strategy for Success

This is a time of great need. It's a time of great innovation. But what is innovation?

Dictionary.com defines it as something new or different. The act of introducing new things, devices, or methods. Novelty.
Influential scholar Everett Rogers, author of the classic Diffusion of Innovations book, defines innovation as "An idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption."

Why is Innovation Important?

A particular innovation alone is not enough. It needs to solve a problem or provide value. When implemented successfully, the new or novel idea delivers efficiencies, quality of life, productivity, growth, income, and/or other rewards to society and the economy. Organizations, whether they be governments, non-profit organizations, or for-profit corporations, thrive based on innovation.

The best innovation in the world is worthless if it sits on the buyer's shelf unused or, worse yet, if it sits in your garage unsold collecting dust. To make an impact and produce results, your innovations must be successfully introduced and implemented in the workplace, marketplace, and world. How do you do this?

Using the principles from my research and books, here are Practical Pointers for Innovation using my last Chief Information Officer (CIO) position as a case study.

1. DISCERN INNOVATION AS A CORE VALUE

Jim Collins, author of the best selling book Good to Great, believes that "Core values are not something people buy into. People must be predisposed to holding them." In his Mars exercise Collins explains, "One way to identify your organization's authentic core values is to form what I call the Mars group. Imagine you've been asked to recreate the very best attributes of your organization on another planet, but you only have seats on the rocketship for five to seven people. Who would you send?" Answer: a powerful, credible group that does a super job of articulating the core values precisely because they are exemplars of those values.

When I was appointed State of Colorado CIO, I led the executive team through the Mars exercise in order to discern the core values of the Governor's Office of Information Technology. In addition to five previously articulated values OIT had been living (Service, Integrity, Team Work, Respect, and Courage), we discovered that Innovation was another key, shared value. It was always there. It just needed to be articulated and honored.

We defined this value as, "Innovation: We foster new ideas. We challenge the status quo and continuously ask, How can we do this better? Then we take action and make a difference through novel processes and technology."

The intersection of values and gifts (or talents) describes what you are passionate about. Passion, intense enthusiasm, zeal, fervor, and interest determine how effectively you pursue purpose.

2. ESTABLISH A MISSION AND VISION BASED ON INNOVATION

At OIT we next ran a strategic planning process. We conducted a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. We did a thorough assessment of what was and was not working. Once the values were clarified, we drafted our Mission ("Together we enhance the lives of all Coloradans") and Vision ("Be the best public service technology organization innovating today for tomorrow").

Stay tuned. We'll continue with additional Practical Pointers for nurturing innovation next time. Using the Pursuit of Passionate Purpose framework, we'll show how to align passion with a meaningful purpose and then pursue it persistently. Innovation as a pursuit of passionate purpose delivers great rewards.

Summary

With a clear approach, innovation can be nurtured and implemented. Innovation will positively impact public and private sector organizations and help build a stronger state, nation, and world. Strategy based on innovation delivers extraordinary results.  Establish an innovation culture with the right core values, vision, and mission.

What's Next

In the meantime, I'm seeking the right organization to make an even bigger innovative and meaningful impact through the right C-level position and/or board seats in the private or public sector.


Being In-between

 

"The only permanent thing in life is change." So said a wise meditation teacher of mine, Shinzen Young. Little did I know that he was probably quoting Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, who said, "There is nothing permanent except change."

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines change as an act to make radically different, to give a different position, course, or direction, or to modify.

My News

So I just made a big change. After 21 months as the Chief Information Officer of the State of Colorado, I moved on effective September 4th. Here's part of the August 10th Governor's media release:

"We can't thank Theresa enough for her work to advance the state's IT culture and enhance virtual access to government services in Colorado. She dedicated herself to improving customer satisfaction and ensuring that these essential services are delivered effectively and efficiently to Coloradans," said Governor Polis. "Theresa has also been critical in helping the state leverage IT to weather the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic. We wish her the best as she takes the next step in her career."

"The opportunity to serve Colorado has been an extremely rewarding and meaningful journey. Information technology is essential to many state services. It has been an honor and privilege to work on behalf of the Governor and his administration as a catalyst for change, side-by-side with my team of employees who are passionately committed to serving the people in this beautiful state we call home. I came in to pursue a passionate purpose, did what needed to be done, and now am ready to move on to the next opportunity," Szczurek said.

Szczurek, who was one of the few female state CIOs in the nation and recently received the first-ever 2020 Colorado CIO of the Year® ORBIE® Award in the public sector category, led digital transformation in the state with the launch of the historic Colorado Digital ID™ in the myColorado™ mobile app. Szczurek was instrumental in working with the Colorado Department of Revenue on the Sales and Use Tax Simplification (SUTS) system, launched in May 2020 ahead of schedule and under budget.

More...

What's Next?

I am being an In-between'er to take time between pursuits.

As I wrote in Chapter 2 of Pursuit of Passionate Purpose, an in-between'er has known and pursued passionate purpose. Yet, the time came to let go and take a break. Being on the sideline, instead of in active play, presents opportunities to reorient and rejuvenate. This is the time to get to know and nurture yourself. After the right amount of space in this neutral zone, which only you can define, you will once again be ready to move on to the next stage of your life's overall purpose. And you don't have to be in-between purposes — you can just be resting in-between significant pieces of the same purpose.

An in-between time represents an important part of the cycle of life. Each day is a metaphor for life with a comparable cycle of dawn, day, sunset, and night. In every 24-hour sequence, you need to find time to rest and nourish. And so it is with passionate purposes. There is a time in-between to replenish and feed the soul.

Too often, we do not honor this downtime. We might even beat ourselves up for not having a clear purpose and energy. Have you ever asked, "What's wrong with me?" Perhaps nothing is wrong. It may just be the natural cycle of life seeking the necessary downtime for rejuvenation.

Using the principles of my own work and book, I am:

Taking time to relax, rest, and recharge. I just came back from an outdoor vacation with my family. Among other wild adventures, we hiked with llamas up to the continental divide.
 
Cleaning out by getting rid of the old in order to welcome in the new.
Getting to know and nurture myself again. Among other things, I'm learning Qi Gong, a centuries-old system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for purposes of health, spirituality, and martial-arts training. Here is the perfect way to unify aspects of myself — head, heart, and hands — into a balanced whole.
Preparing for the possibilities. I am now in the BoardBound program, offered by the Women's Leadership Foundation, which helps women attain board seats. I am also seeking C-level executive positions, especially in technology.
Allowing. This is one of my life-long lessons to learn. This is a time to let go and go with the flow. It's a time to delight in the unknown and yet it's also uncomfortable.

Summary

Change is an important part of life, and so is being in the neutral zone. Rather than in active play, being in-between presents opportunities to reorient and rejuvenate, clean out, know yourself, prepare, and allow. This in-between phase represents an important part of the cycle of life. Give it a try sometime.


IT in the Time of COVID-19

Information Technology (IT) has never been more important. Consider how IT is helping us all survive and function in this challenging time of COVID-19. Let me share just a few ways the Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT) in the State of Colorado is helping YOU — residents, businesses, and employees — stay connected.

RESIDENTS

Assistance. Major IT state applications are in great demand. Examples are Unemployment Insurance (UI) and the Colorado Benefits Management System (online at Colorado PEAK) which provides food, cash, and early childhood and medical assistance to the needy. Residents who have lost their job are applying for benefits at an all-time record rate. IT systems like these are seeing 10x the maximum load they were designed to encounter. To support the new Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Assistance program and the CARES Act, the systems were quickly upgraded, and millions of claims have been processed in less than a week since go-live.

myColorado. The myColorado mobile app provides residents with secure and convenient access to state services anytime, anywhere. The app's Colorado Digital ID™ enables you to create a secure electronic version of your Colorado driver license or state identification (ID) card on your smartphone for proof of identification, age, and address within Colorado. The app allows all Coloradans to view COVID-19 information in one place. Residents who are facing hardship can use the app to access benefits on Colorado PEAK. Coloradans can also sign up to receive helpful COVID-19 text and email alerts within the myColorado app. Download myColorado from the Apple App Store or Google Play today! 

Do You Have Symptoms? Learn more about what to do. An important step in reducing the spread of COVID-19 is to report your symptoms using the Colorado Community COVID Symptom Tracker. It collects data so that COVID-19 can be tracked among people who may not be able to or need to get tested for the virus. It helps public health experts and policymakers to map and identify potential hotspots not captured by testing. And by filling out the symptom tracker, the system can connect you with resources that can help with any physical or behavioral health symptoms you may experience during this time.

Hotlines. The state's objective is to route all COVID-19 public health questions through one trusted channel, and then connect callers to the appropriate experts for help. To quickly build up this capability, OIT has utilized Virtual Call Centers and Virtual Automated Agents. We're also providing the technology to allow remote call center workers to receive office calls on their personal phones. The impact has been so great that the concept has spread quickly — first to specialized OIT service desks such as myColorado and next to many other departments.

Other Resources. Stay informed at covid19.colorado.gov which provides access to important information and services, including how you can join others in #DoingMyPartCO. Stay Secure. Be vigilant. Watch out for the many COVID-19 scammers who are phishing to steal your personal information or trick you.

Stay Secure. Be vigilant and watch out for the many COVID-19 scammers who are phishing to steal your personal information or trick you. Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, phone calls, texts, or visits. Check out these tips that we have made available on our Cybersecurity Help webpage.

 

BUSINESSES

Help. Get the latest in COVID-19 economic recovery resources at choosecolorado.com. Resources are available to support small businesses, nonprofits, freelancers, and independent contractors.

Safer at the Office. Offices can begin opening with restrictions in Colorado beginning May 4. Find recommendations for protecting your staff and customers at Safer at Home: Office-Based Business.  Local governments may have established other dates.

EMPLOYEES  (This is what Colorado is doing for our employees, perhaps it is relevant for those outside the state too.)

Telecommuting Is In. More than 80% of Colorado's 33,000 employees are working remotely, along with many other Coloradans. IT is allowing them to do so. It requires the right equipment (a computer, Internet access, and a phone), sufficient data and voice capacity, and secure access into state or corporate networks. Telecommuting help is provided through self-service and remote technical support, online training, and a "tech kit" offering written instructions.

Virtual Connections. Using audio, web, and video conferencing, we're staying connected virtually. Other means are internal organizational chats, texts, emails, and plain old phone calls. And to have fun with it, we have theme days where we wear hats, cool sunglasses, or school colors.

SUMMARY

Recall Viktor Frankl's quote from Man's Search for Meaning, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”

Have hope. You are not alone. Help is here for individuals, businesses, and telecommuters. Even as we move into the "Safer at Home" phase, stay at home as much as possible. Always wear a cloth facial covering when leaving the house. Remember, you are resilient. You are strong. This too shall pass, and we will get through it together.  Let's be grateful for all we have and let's stay connected. Choose optimism.


Being Fearless in the COVID World

“...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,”
said Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural address. 


These are challenging times in Colorado and around the world with the onset of COVID-19. The degree of uncertainty that exists can understandably breed anxiety, and messages that intend to inform and help can make people more afraid. However, we can and will get through this together! 

In my research study about factors that help and hurt in successfully pursuing a passionate purpose, I asked people what holds them back and what encourages them in their pursuit. One of the biggest hindrances is FEAR. Fear causes self-doubt, anxiety, and anger; fear is a heavy burden. What would your life be like right now if you could cast out that fear?

Sometimes fear can help you to take action and avoid danger. For example during the COVID-19 pandemic that means enacting social distancing, practicing self-isolation, and thoroughly washing your hands. It can stop you from crossing a dangerous road or from getting hurt. However, so often fear is NOT rational. It can turn into obsessiveness - thinking about something over and over until you are immobilized and cannot take needed action. Fear can block effective movement.

Once you are aware of the potential negative impacts of fear, the next step is to take appropriate action. Use the “Pack Strategy" to unpack hindrances and pack energizers for your journey.

Here are some practical pointers:

  1. Lead. Take positive action, be calm, and be strong. Often this means focusing less on yourself and more on helping others. Work on being fearless.
  2. Select. Get in touch with what triggers you and be selective in what and who you listen, watch, surf, invest time in, and talk with.
  3. Use good judgment. Determine whether your fear is rational or irrational. If irrational, force yourself to quiet your mind and focus on positive aspects of life. When there is real danger, your body reflexively mobilizes to avoid it, minimize it, or fight through it.
  4. Be optimistic. Carry a hopeful, upbeat disposition and believe that good prevails. Repeat positive affirmations. Think of the good work being done by so many government employees, medical personnel, public health workers, non-profits, and businesses to proactively address the current challenges and ensure your safety.
  5. Surround. Circle yourself with less fearful people. Surround yourself with people who are not afraid. A recent research study showed that happiness is contagious. If you are around happy people, you will be more happy. If you are around fearful people, you will be more fearful. So find happy, kind, unafraid people with whom to associate.

Summary.
We human beings are strong and resilient, perhaps stronger than we even know. Unpack fear itself from your life. Strive to appropriate action, be aware of fear triggers, use good judgment, stay positive, and surround yourself with unafraid people.