by Eva Marer
In the constant flux of whirling days and careening years, it's hard to conceive of that aspect of time that the major religions define as one continuous purpose. That may be one reason why, of all of the leadership functions, executives most frequently neglect that aspect of planning known as direction setting.
Many traditions are celebrating important dates in the next two weeks. This year, the last day of Ramadan fell close to Christmas Eve, the final lighting of the menorah, even Buddha's Enlightenment Day. Because they fall on a regular cycle, the holidays are a good time to institute the yearly audit, a direction-setting exercise in which executives survey their major accomplishments and mistakes for the year, analyze whether or not they've met their goals and obligations, and determine what they should do now to prepare for the future. For observant executives, linking personal planning with important religious dates not only serves as a reminder, but also opens up the spiritual dimensions of an examined life. Of course, regardless of religious inclinations, the period around the New Year tends to be slower with more time focused on family, friends, and reflection, all good motivations for long-term planning.
This holiday season, several CIN members allowed us to peek into their personal diaries as they evaluated their major accomplishments for the year and looked forward to building on those successes in 2001.
Winning the Budget Battle
|IT Manager, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Trenton, N.J.|
|Major accomplishment: Getting his capital request for network improvements approved by the state|
|Goal 2001: Determine feasibility of voice over IP|
It would be easy for Gary Zayas to become complacent. After all, he has worked for the state for 15 years and has been with the Department of Agriculture for eight. He feels a lot of support and goodwill in his department of six operating on a modest $21 million budget. "People like the flexibility, training, support from the administration, and the fact that they have a family life," says Zayas.
Despite the laid-back nature of his department, however, government poses its own set of challenges. Besides the bureaucracy and red tape, Zayas says, people and funding are perennial concerns. Although he is very satisfied with his own staff, he acknowledges that the best people are often drawn to the private sector, where salaries are higher and there are fewer barriers to pushing initiatives through. In addition, he says, "it's difficult to make the ROI argument in a sector that cannot show a profit." Getting funding requires showing exactly how proposed changes would benefit constituents, he says, "and that depends a lot on the mood of elected officials and voters."
Because of the difficulty involved, Zayas is particularly proud of one accomplishment: winning the funding to upgrade from shared Ethernet to a switched fiber network over ATM. "The GIS and Oracle applications really chewed up a lot of bandwidth, affecting the entire department.