Quick Notes from the GTEC Conference

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

Monday's notes
I've been attending GTEC - the Government Technology Exhibition and Conference - for four or five years now. My first public service job was (a non-IT job) in an IT branch, and I wanted to dig in. I went once, and it stuck.

The underlying, unofficial theme since I've been going is that technology leaders have to be business leaders, capable of managing people and portfolios, acting as strategic partners to CEOs. This is what I've found most interesting: how do subject matter experts become managers and leaders? How does one develop a sense of strategy?

It's these broad, business-meets-IT questions that I'm drawn to, and they form the basis of my shortlist of interesting snippets from last week at GTEC.

  • We can think of leadership in multiple ways: business leadership, thought leadership, and change leadership. The point made here was that as interesting and appealing as thought leadership is, and as necessary as change leadership is in turbulent times, 85% of what keeps organizations humming is "good, old fashioned business leadership". That which is unexciting, normalized, day-to-day, and hopefully effective.

  • Engaging all employees is not as simple as communicating to all employees, and often the best way to figure out what people want is not necessarily to ask them what they want. The quote here was to work with "the right people, in the right way" - which sounds simple but is often overlooked. If I may editorialize, there are very few skills we learn for which the intuitive approach is the most effective. Think golf swings, card games, cooking - anything. There's always some level of sophistication we eventually reach, or can be taught. The term beginner's mistake is common for a reason, yet we often apply intuitive (and wrong) approaches to management, leadership, and in this case, employee engagement.

  • Security and privacy are, and will be, the foundation of every government decision on information technology. You could tell because every other sentence was about security and privacy. Don't get me wrong: this is actually the level of importance that should be assigned, and it provides the reassurance that security and privacy sit duly highly in government's decision-making framework. But the fact that governments are taking it seriously needs to become a boring base assumption, so that government IM/IT leaders can actually talk about information and strategy instead.

That's the shortlist, but there was much more. And there are two other talks with a shared theme that I'd like to highlight, but I'll do that in a standalone post later.