Fueling growth by leaps and bounds

FCW's Dot-Gov Thursday column presents a unifying theme for federal managers to guide their growth as leaders

It was a stunning moment. Two college teams were at the gymnastics training center where I work out. A boys' high school team arrived and started doing floor exercises. Everything in the gym came to a complete stop as everyone watched a young gymnast perform — in sequence without stopping and no intermediate steps — a double twisting back flip, followed by a back flip, followed by a one-and-a-half twisting back flip, followed by a front flip. Just as amazing, the other high school team members were performing sets just as stunning. I experienced a profound paradigm shift in that moment.

But first, some perspective. In writing the Dot-Gov columns for FCW, I try to think of one key principle: What can I do to contribute to other people's success?

A vast number of activities, practices, principles, policies, methodologies and guidelines shape the federal Web environment. On top of this complexity, the Web has pushed us to evolve from "just" technology responsibilities to business and management responsibilities as well.

My own organization has gone through several stages of trying to define the essentials of what you need to know to be successful. The first stage was an exhaustive taxonomy for conducting business in the federal context. The complexity of this taxonomy led to the need to categorize the various issues. This led to a seven-dimension model for thinking about how to solve IT problems: leadership and culture, architectures, business, management, policy, technology and e-relationships.

The complexity of those seven components led to the development of a simpler model focusing on the top 10 or so things to know. The "top 10-ish" list of key things to know also identified a set of recommended training objectives (project management, budgeting, etc.). Still, this "stovepiping" of learning in key categories does not provide the unifying themes necessary to guide the day-to-day actions of Webmasters.

Our next step was to view organizational maturity principles as unifying themes. Basically, organizational maturity is about building organizations that can repeatedly deliver high-quality products and services. But there are already at least four or five federal spins to organizational maturity models, each addressing a specific area. I do recommend reviewing these models, but more with the thought of the principles behind them.

This is where we return to the stunning gymnastics display mentioned in the opening of this column.

The paradigm shift that I experienced that day was that our unifying theme and guiding principle should be this: We must extend ourselves each day to learn and to try something new in our work, home and play experience that broadens our understanding of organizations, people and ourselves.

The wording "to try something new" is meant to emphasize that learning and participating go hand-in-hand.

One cannot become a golfer by reading about golf. "To try something new" is not about competing either. At the training center, just about everyone 12 and older can tumble on the floor better than I can. But at work, I am most likely the only person in the building who can do a standing back flip.

Nor does it matter if someone else has done it before. It is about growing your set of experiences and knowledge. For example, there are many photos of the planets and stars, but there is nothing like seeing with your own eyes the moons of Jupiter or the rings of Saturn through your own amateur telescope. For a few moments, I am Galileo experiencing the night sky for the first time. No one else's photograph can duplicate what it means to participate - or express the understanding that comes with participating.

The guiding principle suggested here is about your growth—by continually trying new things in your work, home and play experiences that broaden your understanding of organizations, people and yourself. The new activities could range from taking on a new project to putting live flowers on your desk.

There will always be a continuous parade of new products, services, models, methodologies, principles and theories to learn. All the guidance issued by the government helps, but the central focus is you. No one can speak directly to your current environment and circumstances.

This unifying theme is the reason I volunteer for speaking engagements, articles, details and other projects because each one is a developmental experience. I get to be around people who are the best in their areas, and with each interaction I have a growth experience that makes life more real and meaningful for me. I suggest seeking out broadening experiences by volunteering for or creating new activities.

The following links are provided to assist you with many concepts that deal with organizational issues:

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