Accessibility Matters

Accessibility Icons

Is your business and your technology accessible? Accessibility is a hot topic. So much so that the State of Colorado legislature passed and Governor Polis signed HB21-1110 into law in 2021. Most all accessibility guidelines relate to web content or documents. They assume people will start at a website. But what about people who start with a phone call? Learn more in this newsletter.

CODA won the best picture Oscar in 2022. The acronym CODA means 'child of deaf adult.' This touching movie raises awareness of the challenges faced by people with hearing disabilities, as well as CODA family members. The question we need to ask is, what are we doing to support people with hearing loss or other disabilities, and improve their accessibility?

Why Should You Care?

NEGATIVE IMPACT. Hearing loss has been shown to negatively impact nearly every dimension of the human experience, including physical health, emotional and mental health, perceptions of mental acuity, social skills, family relationships, and self esteem, as well as work and school performance.
FINANCIAL IMPACT. Those with unaided hearing loss earned on average $20,000 less annually than those who used hearing aids or cochlear implants.
PEOPLE IMPACT. About 15% of the world's population, or over 1 billion people, live with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning. They are the world's largest minority.
IT'S THE LAW. U.S laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), require that accommodations be made to improve accessibility to those with hearing and other disabilities. In Colorado, HB21-1110 makes it a state civil rights violation for a government agency to exclude people with disabilities from receiving services or benefits because of lack of accessibility. All state agencies and local governments must be compliant with state standards by July 1, 2024. The United Nations adopted in 2006 a Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Practical Pointers for Coping with Hearing Loss

GET EDUCATED. Learn about hearing loss and other disabilities and what you can do to accommodate the situation.
SEEK MEDICAL HELP and get tested. People with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help.
COPE AND SUPPORT. The Mayo Clinic offers tips to help you communicate more easily despite your hearing loss. Tell your friends and family that you have some hearing loss. Position yourself to hear by facing the person you’re talking to. Turn off background noise. For example, noise from a television may interfere with conversation. See the complete list.
TURN ON CAPTIONS. During virtual meetings and while watching TV, turn on captioning so audio is represented in text format. In this way, people can leverage visual as well as audible information sources.
TAKE ACTION. Government and businesses must consider the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide technological and other solutions that can help people accommodate hearing loss.
USE 'VOICE WITH VISUALS' COMMUNICATIONS. According to Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, when you see and hear information you are 600% more likely to understand. Radish System's ChoiceView® addresses this market with a new kind of voice-and-visual phone call positioned between a voice-only call and a videoconference. ChoiceView improves phone accessibility for users with sensory, cognitive, or mobility disabilities. It helps businesses make and save money while preserving compatibility with their existing phone systems. ChoiceView provides a realistic alternative for users who want to reach businesses via a phone call but need to engage beyond voice only. Learn more.

Summary

Accessibility matters. Over 1 billion people in the world live with disability. You should care because of the large negative impact on people and the economy and because it's now the law. Use these tips: get educated, seek medical help, cope, provide support, and take action. Consider how to expand from voice-only to 'voice with visuals' communications.

Theresa M. Szczurek  copyright 2022.  All rights reserved.  


Something Completely Different is Good

 

And now...

When something is not working out or has not yet delivered, we often try harder. Is that your typical approach? Martha Beck, bestselling author of Way of Integrity, says, "Most of my clients, once they've admitted that their lives aren't really working, try to fix the problem by doing everything they've always done, but harder."

I know that when I set a goal, I persistently pursue it. Relentlessly! I buckle down and work harder, longer, and hopefully more creatively. Most times it delivers. But what if it doesn't?

Consider the mantra, "And now for something completely different." It's from Monty Python, the British surreal comedy troupe that created the sketch comedy television show, Monty Python's Flying Circus. What is the 'completely different' for you?

Assess Progress

This is the time to Assess Progress. During this state of the four-phase Pursuit of Passionate Purpose process, you assess how things are going and, depending on the answer, you determine what's next. You may continue pursuing a passionate purpose, with or without mid-course adjustments. Alternatively, you may determine, with or without making the goal, to move on.

My Path

I recall pursuing my first entrepreneurial venture, Radish 1.0. There came a time when our original business model was not delivering big enough or fast enough. We pivoted to a new approach. This allowed us to attract significant partners and eventually set the stage for a good exit.

However, as the co-founder, I began to experience personal challenges in this new environment. I felt I couldn't live true to my own highest convictions anymore. I perceived that my core value of integrity was being compromised. I tried to change the situation, but couldn't. I tried to live with the situation, but couldn't. I finally made the difficult decision to leave my Radish baby and move on. I did not die. Radish did not die. Rather in the end, it opened the opportunity for me to finally get pregnant and deliver on the Baby Plan. It brought our true baby, Annie. Oh joy!

And more recently, since leaving the State of Colorado CIO position, I've been consulting, speaking, helping Radish 2.0, volunteering with US Digital Response, and serving as a Trustee for Western Colorado University — while still being open to other opportunities to contribute. My sense, however, is that now may be time for something completely different. Stay tuned.

Practical Pointers

ASSESS. Use your favorite assessment method to determine how things are going. One of the simple measures is pleasure versus pain. Are you smiling or are you sighing?
APPRECIATE. Once you recognize some progress or a successful step, then appreciate it. Rewards, recognition, and celebration are ways to be grateful. Thank yourself, other people, and spiritual forces that are helping you along the way.
ALLOW. Consider the surrender suggestions from Martha Beck's Way of Integrity, which I realize are so consistent with the Allowing Strategy in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. Realize that you have no control over anything. Focus on the present. Just be. Try saying these affirmations while you breathe in and out: "I allow everything in the universe to be as it is in this moment. I surrender all resistance to the universe being as it is in this moment."
MOVE ON. Every pursuit has a beginning, middle, and end — just like the cycles of life. Sometimes it's necessary, albeit difficult, to stop, be present, go in-between, or try something completely different. That difference could be just a mid-course correction, an adjustment, or a broader change. It could involve moving on.

Summary

When things are not working (or even when they are), stop, be present, breathe, and surrender. Appreciate, adjust, and perhaps move on. It may be time to try something completely different!

 

Theresa Szczurek copyright 2022.  All rights reserved.  


The Courage to Continue

Winston Churchill

Given the current state of the world with war, climate change, pandemic, and economic turmoil, the courage to continue in these 'worst of times' is paramount for all of us. The movie, Darkest Hour, portrays the extreme challenges faced by Winston Churchill, the newly elected Prime Minister, as Hitler aimed his war machine on England. His personal approach in meeting these challenges was, "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."

I believe that to survive and thrive in these times — to find the courage to continue — represents a pursuit of passionate purpose. "The pursuit of passionate purpose, as well as its attainment, and relationships along the way bring the real rewards in life," from my book, Pursuit of Passionate Purpose.

Practical Pointers

CLARIFY YOUR PASSIONATE PURPOSE. Passionate purpose is an intention or goal pursued with passion, intense enthusiasm, zeal, fervor, and interest. What is your purpose? Why is attainment of this goal meaningful? The more meaningful the purpose, the more intense is the passion, and the more noteworthy is the impact. In the case of the Darkest Hour, the survival of the U.K. and the free world was at stake. On a personal level, purpose can relate to health, finances, job, relationships, and many other aspects of life.
FIND COURAGE. Once you know the purpose is right, it's time to commit to it wholly. The word courage comes from the French root, corage, which means "having heart". If you are clear on your values and the idea serves your spirit and values, then courage comes. With courage to commit comes more passion, zeal, and fervor. This is the energy essential for successful pursuit. In the case of the Darkest Hour, the British people said they would never, never, never stop fighting against Hitler. We feel that same passion coming from Ukraine now. They have great courage. It is contagious and inspires others to help.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE. Help and serve others. The most effective Passionate Pursuers realize that it's vital to build relationships with and bring along on life's journey the proper people and support network and also lessen the impact of improper ones. Don't do it alone. In helping others, you help yourself. Recently a massive wildfire suddenly engulfed 1000 homes close to where I live and the community rose up to help. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, other natural disasters, and war are impacting our nation and the world, but people are coming forth to help. We must be allies.
PERSIST. Effective Passionate Pursuers use the Persistence Strategy to mindfully persevere with focused determination using a divide-and-conquer tactic and never giving up. The approach is to: (1) commit to a clear purpose, (2) divide the whole purpose into parts, (3) conquer the whole, piece by piece, and persevere with unremitting will to accomplish each part, and (4) seek feedback to assess progress, build confidence, and adjust the action plan.

Summary

M. Scott Peck, in his landmark book The Road Less Travelled, reminds us that "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it."

Use the four Practical Pointers above to find the courage to continue, even in the worst of times. Never give up. It is the pursuit of passionate purpose, as well as its attainment, and relationships along the way that bring the real rewards in life.

copyright @2022 Theresa M. Szczurek.  All rights reserved.  


How to Cope with Uncertainty

Fires in Boulder County

A house is destroyed in the Marshall Fire.

The winds of change and uncertainty are blowing, constantly. As I write this post, monstrous wildfires have suddenly struck and are destroying neighborhoods in our community. Luckily my family and I are safe, yet it makes me realize how quickly things can change.

Without warning and in areas considered safe, 100 mph wind gusts brought power lines crashing down onto drought dried grass. Fires exploded. More than six hundred homes were gone in a matter of hours. People had seconds to evacuate. Some lost everything.

You Can Help! Community support will be needed by many people in the near and long-term. Already, over 35,000 individuals have been evacuated by the Marshall and Middle Fork Fires and hundreds of homes and many businesses have been devastated. Our partners at The Community Foundation serving Boulder County have activated the Boulder County Wildfire Fund in order to address the needs of the community.

Uncertainty Causes Stress

We live in a world of uncertainty. While this has always been the case, these last few years seem even more unstable with the pandemic, social conflicts, political unrest, financial fluctuations, and more. Uncertainty is the state of being uncertain. It's defined as not known or definite, not able to be relied on, not completely confident or sure of something.

The Stress in America survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychology Association, found that "63% of adults agreed that uncertainty about what the next few months will be like causes them stress, and about half (49%) said that the coronavirus pandemic has made planning for their future feel impossible. Research shows that people react differently to uncertainty, and those with a higher intolerance for uncertainty may be less resilient and more prone to low mood, negative or down feelings, and anxiety."

Practical Pointers on How to Cope with Uncertainty

1. KNOW AND NURTURE YOURSELF. Determine and reconfirm "Who am I?" by looking at your values, gifts, and traits. Start with who you are now. Answers to that question help you define what you're passionate about. By nurturing yourself, you strengthen your sense of self and become the whole person you want to be. This can be your core foundation, even in times of uncertainty, and provide resilience. Engage in self-care. Make efforts to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, drink water, breathe, and reduce stress through meditation, affirmations, yoga, and prayer.

2. ALLOW. Do not resist. Use the 'Allowing Strategy' as explained in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. Allowing is also called surrender, nonresistance, lack of control, acceptance, or equanimity. Be clear on what you want and allow how you get it to unfold. Effective Passionate Pursuers are flexible, open to the possibilities, and receptive to options along the way, yet hold firm to the broad intention and pursue it persistently. The Allowing Strategy is about surrendering with equanimity to the natural flow instead of struggling and resisting.

3. BE SELECTIVE. Limit the amount of exposure you have to the media and be selective in what you listen and watch. Avoid dwelling on things you can't control. Say NO to many things, in order to say YES to your passionate purpose.

4. REFLECT ON PAST SUCCESSES. Somehow you survived past unknowns and stress. This knowledge can build your confidence that you will get through this time of uncertainty. What helped you then? What might you do differently this time? Make a list of what to 'Start, Stop, and Continue' doing and then take action.

5. CONNECT AND ASK FOR HELP. Use the 'Connections Strategy' as explained in Pursuit of Passionate Purpose. The most effective Passionate Pursuers realize that it's vital to build relationships with the proper people and support network, and correspondingly to lessen the impact of improper ones. This includes you. Ask yourself what you would tell a friend in this situation. Reach out to family and friends whom you trust. You don't have to isolate or go it alone.

6. PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE. When you know your passionate purpose and direct your energies toward achieving it, you can more easily weather uncertainties. Develop a plan. Pivots will likely be needed along the way. Be creative and resilient. Keep going and persist. Take action. Don't give up.

Summary

We live in uncertain times which can cause stress. Use these proven coping mechanisms including: know and nurture yourself, allow, connect, be selective, reflect on past successes, and pursue your purpose.

 

By Theresa Szczurek, copyright 2021-2022.  All rights reserved.


Forgiveness as your Superpower

Whether you work in the public or private sector, there's a need for forgiveness. Forgiveness can help you both personally and professionally. Forgiveness Advocate, Lyndon Harris, gave an inspiring keynote at the US Servas 2021 Conference on "Forgiveness is my Superpower." Excerpts and additional material are below.

What is Forgiveness?

"Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness," says the Greater Good Magazine. Additionally, Lyndon Harris says, "It is about taking back your power, feeling at peace, healing yourself, and learning a skill."

According to Dr. Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project and author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, it is not forgetting, not excusing poor behavior, not denying the hurt, and not reconciling with the offender.

Benefits of Forgiveness from Mayo Clinic and Other Sources

FORGIVENESS SETS YOU FREE. " Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That's why it's such a powerful weapon. Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies," said Nelson Mandela.
IT PROMOTES HEALTH. It lowers your blood pressure. It improves your mental and physical health as much as stopping smoking.
IT REDUCES ANXIETY AND STRESS.
IT FOSTERS HEALTHIER RELATIONSHIPS.
IT BRINGS PEACE AND JOY.
IT BUILDS A BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE. It is the means to break the cycle of violence and revenge. You become a better guide for your children and those around you.
IT IMPROVES PURPOSE AND PRODUCTIVITY. With the release from grudges and burdens, you can focus on making a meaningful difference in your life and the lives of others. Life becomes easier.

Forgiveness in Action

The journey of Lyndon Harris to forgiveness began at Ground Zero on the morning of 9/11/2001. Serving as the priest in charge of St. Paul's Chapel, he initiated a volunteer force that rose to over 15,000, serving meals, offering supplies and giving encouragement to the rescue workers. Then came conflict with the church elders, who thought Harris overstepped without church leadership approval. Harris resigned and his life fell apart with PTSD, depression, bankruptcy, and a failed marriage. He eventually began working with Dr. Fred Luskin and other forgiveness experts. Forgiveness set him free. Now he helps others. Learn more.

"After being imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years, simply for his protest of Apartheid, one might expect that Nelson Mandela would hold at least a small grudge. But, as he so eloquently said himself, 'As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.'" As he wrote in his book, Long Walk to Freedom, "In my country, we go to prison first and then become President." Learn more.

Practical Pointers to Embrace Forgiveness

BE AWARE. Recognize that lack of forgiveness is holding you a prisoner. It is hurting you. Become aware of the benefits of forgiveness.
SET A PURPOSE AND INTENTION. As Dr. Luskin says, "Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else." Establish a passionate purpose to move beyond the resentment and pain. Set a goal to forgive.
REFRAME. "Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes — or ten years — ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings," says Dr. Luskin. Reframe the situation by changing the assumptions.
PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE. "Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, seek out new ways to get what you want," says Dr. Luskin. Those new ways may include taking care of you through being kind to yourself, being present now, learning stress management, relaxation, and breathing techniques, saying positive affirmations, playing, spending time in nature, and taking on new meaningful pursuits. Be the change.
SURROUND YOURSELF with Proper People. Improper people can hurt you. Proper people, animals, and spiritual forces can help you. Spend more time with them. Use the Connections Strategy. Join a support group or find a counselor.
LET GO. Use the Allowing Strategy. Choose to forgive and move on.

Summary

Anger and resentment can over take your personal and professional life. Set yourself free through forgiveness. Here's how: become aware, set the intention to forgive, reframe the situation, pursue forgiveness by taking care of yourself, surround yourself with proper people, and let go.

P.S.  Sign up for the free "Szczurek Success Strategies" e-newsletter now.

copyright 2021 Theresa M. Szczurek.  All rights reserved.


Does Technology Improve Work-Life Balance?

Information technology is a double-edged sword offering a mixed bag. There are pros and cons.

"Current generations coming into the workforce are much more concerned about work-life balance and flexibility. How will technology address these concerns?" asked Jill Tietjen, P.E., moderator of the panel discussion on Powering Up the New Economy through Technology and Inclusivity at the recent conference of the International Women's Forum of Colorado.

I was honored to speak on the panel along with Dr. Janet Kavandi, astronaut and SVP at Sierra Nevada Corporation. Note that I love to speak. I'd be pleased to speak at your next meeting on this or other topics.

THE PROS — Some Ways Technology Encourages Work-Life Balance

SAVES TIME. The use of technology can save time, so you can spend it how you like. I recall how my grandmother washed clothes over 50 years ago. It took most of a day using a ringer washer first and then hanging the clothes on a line to dry. Now with modern washing machines and dryers, clean clothes are achieved in a fraction of the time. Think of how the pandemic changed grocery shopping for many of us. Rather than driving to / from the store, spending time walking the aisles, and then checking out, online shopping reduces the process to a few clicks on a computer or smartphone followed by delivery or pickup.

ENABLES REMOTE WORK. Thanks to computers, Internet access, and collaboration software, many people can work from home or in remote locations. This can save commute time and expense, reduce pollution, improve productivity, and increase flexibility. Of course, employers need to agree. I remember running our company Radish Systems virtually. This allowed us to hire the best people from around the country who would not have otherwise relocated. I was the State of Colorado Chief Information Officer when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and my Information Technology team quickly — in a matter of a few weeks — enabled 80% of the 30,000 state employees to work remotely. We found employees were less stressed and more productive, while working longer hours and staying healthier.

REDUCES MUNDANE WORK THROUGH INCREASED AUTOMATION. With artificial intelligence (AI), more and more mundane and repetitive work is being automated. Especially when there's a workforce shortage, automation allows workers to focus on the most challenging problems. Amazon, for example, has stated a goal for their warehouses to eventually run completely with robots. The future of much work is white collar, and people need the proper training to have the digital skills to succeed. Of course, rather than work-life balance, we must realize that increased automation may take the "spirit" out of work and leave a jobless underclass.

THE CONS — Some Ways Technology Discourages Work-Life Balance

INCREASES STRESS. Many people are always plugged in. They are therefore always on call. Since employers know this, they may put 24/7 demands with unrealistic response times on their staff. Rather than turn off and relax, people 'waste' time by surfing the internet, playing games, or mindlessly scanning social media.

HURTS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND CAN BE MANIPULATIVE. Watch the movie The Social Dilemma and learn from the tech experts in Silicon Valley on the dangerous impact of social networking, which technology firms use in an attempt to manipulate and influence. The Social Dilemma points out that many social networks exploit human weakness by designing with something called "positive intermittent reinforcement" in mind. This has been linked, especially in youth, to increased mental health challenges. Many of these tech gurus do not let their children use social media.

IMPACTS BRAIN FUNCTION. Research has shown that frequent digital technology use has a significant impact — both negative and positive — on brain function and behavior. Potential harmful effects include heightened attention-deficit symptoms, impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep. This is especially impactful for the young. That's why we chose to have our daughter participate in a Waldorf-influenced elementary school. Waldorf Schools are very careful in structuring the environment for children so that wonder and imagination thrive. They suggest limiting media exposure for children, especially before 4th grade.

INCREASES CYBERCRIME RISK. As discussed in my May 2021 Szczurek Success Strategies newsletter, cybercrime is a big and growing risk. To protect yourself and your business, consider people, processes, and technology, and take action. Otherwise you may lose your identity or lose precious data and have your business shut down. A cybercrime attack can take enormous time to recover from, create stress, and cause financial harm — the opposite of work-life balance.

Summary

Technology can both encourage and discourage work-life balance. Be aware. Know how important it is to take action. Set the intention to be on top of it. Encourage children, at the proper age, to pursue STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) careers so they can be part of the solution.

copyright @2021 Theresa M. Szczurek.  All rights reserved.  


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.]


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."


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.