Skip to main content

Lessons in IT Leadership: Doing Less with Less and Failing for Success

| January 4, 2011

by Jim Bruce

This Tuesday’s Reading “Lessons in IT Leadership:  Doing Less with Less and Failing for Success” is from Mark Katsouros, Director of Telecommunications and Network Services at the University of Iowa.*

In Katsouros’ view, the combination of expanding IT demands and customer expectations in concert with dwindling resources have meant that doing more with less has been taken to such an extreme that many IT organizations have become “ticking time bombs,” way beyond lean and mean to “anorexic and vicious.”  Additionally, he reminds us to explore lessons from, rather than casting blame for, failure.  This will encourage innovative approaches towards greater efficiencies and effectiveness that lean times demand.

Katsouros argues that it is time for:

1.  Doing less with less:  Through thoughtful planning and prioritization.  He observes that finite resources inevitably have to translate into finite service offerings with realistic plans and resources from provisioning to support.  This means:

– prioritizing services to align with the institution’s mission

– keeping services simple, focusing on meeting needs of the many while sacrificing less frequently used features

– documenting dependencies to fully understand dependencies between services

– leveraging the browser as the client

– documenting your vision and aligning the service’s community to the vision

– separating engineering and operations 

2.  Failing for Success:  Coaching vs. Persecuting.  Katsouros argues that at some point everyone fails and that these failures provide valuable opportunities for the supervisor/coach and staff member(s) to explore lessons growing from the failure.  Approaching these lessons constructively and with support, rather than playing the blame game, will encourage employees to innovate, to take reasonable risks, and to leverage their creativity. Great leaders maximize such opportunities for learning.

3.  Learning from the Leaders of Your Past (and Present).  Just as we can learn from our past experiences, we have had, and continue to have, opportunities to learn from the great, and the not-so-great, leaders around us.  Observe these leadership behaviors and note both those you want to incorporate into into your repertoire and begin practicing these, and those that you want to avoid and be alert to your behavior and avoid these.

In closing, Katsouros summarizes his advice:  “plan, prioritize, forgive, learn, and relate.”  Good advice to all of us.


.  .  .  .     jim