My wife, Carmen, and I love cop shows, from the iconic Hill Street Blues and Law and Order to our favorite today, Blue Bloods. We get engaged with the characters, always trying to solve the crime before they do, sometimes wondering why they don’t see the obvious killer right in front of them. Blue Bloods is great because it goes beyond the typical crime drama by following the lives of the New York’s first family of crime fighting the Reagans. We do not miss an episode.

As I explore #RooseveltRiver, I am struck by two things. The first, the countless ways that Roosevelt pops up in my life. Shortly after embarking on the #RooseveltRiver exploration, I was in a meeting regarding the implementation of our new HR system. Each participant in the meeting was given a profile of a new employee to enter to help test the functionality. Me? I was given the new employee Theodore Roosevelt. Hmmmm…several months later, I was at an offsite meeting…sitting in a conference room…the name of the room? The Roosevelt Room, of course. I can’t count the number of times this happens.

business, leadership, history, #RooseveltRiverPresident_Theodore_Roosevelt,_1904So, have you seen it? Blue Bloods’ Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) and his striking resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt? His look, his mannerisms? His trait of always trying to do the “right” thing? The picture of Roosevelt hanging in his office? Honestly, I don’t know if I would have seen it, if it weren’t for my exploration (hey there is a reason I am a CIO and not a detective!). So what is the strong relationship between the fictional Frank Reagan and the very real Theodore Roosevelt? If you aren’t familiar with the show, Selleck’s character is the New York City Police Commissioner, an office once held by Roosevelt himself.

In a recent episode, Reagan feared he was losing touch with the officer on the beat, to help connect, he left his office and his security detail behind and hit the streets to observe, connect and yes, even hold some of the beat cops accountable to the standards of the New York City Police Department. It was an excellent episode.

Do you want to know where Reagan (or at least the writers) got the idea? Ok, you guessed it…from Roosevelt. When Roosevelt became Police Commissioner, he wanted to clean up the department and to hold the officers accountable to a higher standard. How did he do it? He hit the streets. (In fact, Roosevelt was known for trying to clean up things…like politics. His first appointment, by President Benjamin Harrison, was to help clean up civil service. His first step? Clean up civil service in Indianapolis, Harrison’s backyard!)

The second thing that strikes me on the #Roosevelt River, is how I gain new insights and perspectives every time I review Dan’s Guidebooks and my notes. The words jumped of the page, “Your direct presence sends a message”. Roosevelt could have commanded new expectations of behaviors with a stroke of the pen. He then could have relied on the chain of command to implement the changes and hold the officers accountable. Instead, he hit the streets. He knew the mere presence of the Police Commissioner would send a message to the rank and file that a memorandum could never send. His presence said “this is serious”, “he means business”, “you better toe the line”, perhaps even, “I care enough about this message and about you to deliver it myself”.

As a leader, it is important to remember this lesson and how to use it. “Your direct presence sends a message.” It does change the dynamic in the room, the mere presence of the boss or leader does change the dialogue and the tone…and that’s OK…in fact, sometimes it is not only desired, it is necessary to affect the change needed to meet the goals and objectives.

Copyright Terri Heisele

Copyright Terri Heisele

Think about the last time you assumed a new role. What were the first steps you took? Did you use the lesson of Roosevelt and have a direct presence? Would you do it differently the next time? If so, what steps would you change?

#RooseveltRiver is my year long exploration with Dan Miller of Historical Solutions into leadership using the backdrop of history and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. To read more in this series, select “Roosevelt River” from the Category drop down on the right. 

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

His journal entry was simple.

           X

the light has gone out of my life

What event would evoke such a dismal comment from a future President of the United States? It was February 14, 1884,  Theodore Roosevelt was hard at work in Albany, miles away from home, when word reached him about the deaths of his mother and his wife just hours apart. The day brought this section of the #RooseveltRiver to a close, the culmination of six crucial years in the life of Roosevelt.business, leadership, history #rooseveltriver

These six years saw Roosevelt deal with the death of his father (his foundational relationship), drop out of Harvard, re-enroll and then graduate from Harvard, become engaged to and marry his wife Alice, finish his critically acclaimed book on the Navy in the War 1812, receive word from doctors that his health would severely limit his life, discover his life’s calling in politics, find his soul in the Dakotas and the Badlands, and experience the birth of his first child. The lessons he learned in these years would help him deal with the darkest day of his life and develop into leader we remember today.

When I think back on those years in my life, they were quite a whirlwind as well, though I didn’t face anything as dark as the death of both parents and a spouse. During those same years (19 – 25), I got married, had two kids, started college, transferred schools (twice), got a job, discovered computers, moved to Chicago, moved to Indianapolis, moved to Lebanon (the city in Indiana, not the country in the Middle East), started a spiritual journey with a seagull and a barnstormer (that’s for you Jay), and watched my mom deal with the recovery from a near fatal fire.

Some people like to live on the edge, challenging life at every turn. Roosevelt did enjoy a physical challenge like dude ranching out west in the Dakotas or canoeing in the Amazon. In fact he would rely on these adventures to get him through tough times in life. But more than these extreme adventures, Roosevelt found him self on the edge in every day life, challenging himself and others not to be pulled into the center, not to accept the status quo. Roosevelt exemplified this living on the edge style early in his career by focusing on “cleaning up” politics and government.

After spending 30 years in IT, I can’t think of another career I could have chosen that would have been more on the edge…and the edge continues to move outward at an every increasing pace, yet even in IT there is a center, a status quo. The old days of being able to lock everything behind closed doors are gone. No longer can we “command and control”, block Facebook and employees will just use their phones. Instead, we must embrace but protect. Today the edge is cloud, mobile, gamification, crowdsourcing, the internet of things, and much more.

business, leadership, history, #rooseveltriverIsn’t that the definition of being a leader, though? Living on the edge, continually pulling those around you out of the center? It is difficult, like being caught in a whirlpool above a rapids (hey this is a series about a RIVER), the closer to the center you are the harder and harder it pulls you in. The further and further away from the center, the swimming gets easier, but you can’t pull anyone with you. If you get too far on the edge you run the risk of being thrashed about in the rapids.

Where do you spend your time? In the center? On the edge? Beyond the edge?

#RooseveltRiver is my year long exploration with Dan Miller of Historical Solutions into leadership using the backdrop of history and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. To read more in this series, select “Roosevelt River” from the Category drop down on the right. 

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

With sincerest apologies to The Kinks and the great Lou Reed (RIP) sometimes lessons on the #RooseveltRiver come from the most unusual places.

business, leadership, #rooseveltriver

My brother “came out” over 30 years ago. It was a much different time and being the son of the Baptist minister in Southern Indiana could not have made an incredibly difficult announcement any easier. I have to admit (and I think he would too) my brother and I had a rocky relationship for most of our childhood and young adulthood. He was (much 😉 ) older than me, liked to tease me incessantly, and sometimes would beat the crap out of me. I can, however, remember two occasions that made a huge impression on me. The first was when he filed as a Conscientious Objector for the Vietnam War draft. What an incredible stand for what you believe in. The pressure he was put under from the interviews, the filings, the name calling. I gained an incredible amount of respect for him during that year or so.

The second was when he announced he was gay and occasionally dressed in drag. I think the pressure of the CO filing was nothing compared to making this announcement. I am sure I was not supportive at the time (I had a lot of growing up to do) however, I was secretly very proud of him again…for making a stand for what he felt and what he believed.  My wife and three year old son went to visit him a few months after, I can remember touring his house and my son tugging on my hand and looking up at me and asking “Why does Uncle Jack have dresses in his closet?” and later my wife admiring the photos of beautiful women on his mantel (uh…they weren’t).

As our rivers flowed on and the decades passed, he and I met up for beers one evening last year. Our conversation turned to our jobs. I was now an executive and he had made is living in front-line retail. I remarked how good he was at his job. Everyone loved walking into the store and being waited on by him. There were times, that customers would ask for him and if he wasn’t in, they would leave. Everyone in the area knew him, from the office secretaries, to the politicians and business leaders. I likened his skill to that of my dad, the now retired minister that still “works the room” every chance he gets. He laughed and said, “but you get up in front of large groups all the time and speak, talking one-on-one is easy”.

I told him I was serious and was very impressed. I asked how he does it, how is he that comfortable with meeting newbusiness, leadership, #rooseveltriver people all the time. “Its not me,” was his reply, “its my persona. Just like when I was a dancer, I put on my persona and hide myself inside it”. BAM! Another lesson on the #RooseveltRiver hits me like a rock in the rapids. Sometimes the more obvious the lesson, the harder it smacks you. Its like the preparation my son does before he gets on stage, the preparation my dad did prior to a sermon, its like the preparation I do before a big presentation. We may not have described it as a persona…but its a perfect  way of looking at it. THAT’s how you work a room…prepare and put on your persona.

So next time you see me at a networking event, if I have a strange smile on my face, I am not being rude, I’m just singing “Lola, L-O-L-A, Lola” or “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo” to myself.

#RooseveltRiver is my year long exploration with Dan Miller of Historical Solutions into leadership using the backdrop of history and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. To read more in this series, select “Roosevelt River” from the Category drop down on the right. 

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Theodore Roosevelt? That Theodore Roosevelt? The one that was president like a hundred years ago? Yep, THAT Theodore Roosevelt. I spent 10 months canoeing with Teddy Roosevelt, dead about 100 years.

Copyright Grasmere Lodge

Copyright Grasmere Lodge

How is that possible, you ask? Bear with me, and I will explain, and then I will begin to tell you about the adventure! It was late fall 2012, the executive team and spouses were getting together for a dinner prior to the holiday season. There was to be a guest speaker that evening, Dr. Dan Miller of Historical Solutions. Dr. Miller wrote the book on Goodwill, literally, he is the author of “A Life of Goodwill: Three Leaders and Their Impact on an Organization”, a leadership story of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. It was one of those coincidences that I love….several people had been telling me I needed to meet Dan because of my love of history (thanks Angelo!). So, after dinner, I introduced myself and we agreed to meet for coffee a few weeks later.

It was at the coffee that I learned in addition to being a prolific author and speaker, he also does executive coaching (he calls it Creative Conversations) and various types of workshops. As he explained Creative Conversations, he meets with the individual, gets to know them, and selects a person from history. Then throughout eight to ten sessions, he maps out that person’s life and looks for correlations to yours. The kicker to me was that he equates the person’s life to a river, an allegory I have always used as well. As many of you know, I am a river rat. I would rather be on a river than just about any place on the planet.  He promised to have my historical figure at our first session; my assignment was to have a competency or trait upon which to focus our development time.

By now you have probably guessed the river I was going to travel was the Theodore Roosevelt River. You are quickerBusiness, Leadership, Management than I, I assumed it would have been either Lewis or Clark, at the very least, one of the men that accompanied them on their adventure. I knew very little about Roosevelt, but I was game. So I threw my canoe in the river and began my journey.

In our first session, he laid out the format that we were to follow. Each session starts with a review of what’s been happening in my life both professionally and personally since our last session. Next is a dive into a specific span of time in Roosevelt’s life (this was done chronologically throughout the 10 sessions). The session concludes with a discussion of three “Paddles” or three questions to ponder. A week or so after each session, Dan provides a copy of the slide deck and a “Guidebook”, or notes of the session, his reflection on our discussion and an assignment for the next session.

To go through each session would take a book…hmmm, I can add THAT to the list of books I am going to write! Instead, let me give you a couple of the highlights of my trip down Roosevelt River. I will explore others in future posts.

Our journey started with looking at Roosevelt in the years 1858 to 1878, ages birth to 19. The first thing that struck me is that Roosevelt was born in 1858, I was born in 1958. As he went through life, our ages would be parallel. He loved to read, was physically active, and had written a book by the time he reached age 19 and entered Harvard. As a child, I also loved to read, played football, baseball and ran track. While I hadn’t written a book, I did want to be a rock star so I had written the lyrics to a couple of hundred songs by the time I was 19. Me? No, I did not go to Harvard, I attended Indiana State and did not fare as well as Roosevelt in my studies.

As would be the norm, Dan challenged me with three paddles. The first would turn out to be somewhat prophetic. Paddle One: A foundational relationship leaves a lasting mark on your approach to communicating with authority. For Roosevelt that foundational relationship was his father Theodore Sr., for me that relationship was my mother (no surprise there). Dan’s analysis would fill pages, but one point stands out.

“There is no question that your mother is a major influence in your approach toward communicating with authority. You learned, and not all that badly, in my view, that you should be modest and unassuming in your communication with authority. You defer in communication. Her experience with and after the fire also opened the way for you to be more expressive in group or audience settings.”

Man, talk about spot on! The assignment based on this paddle, was to write a short paragraph about a step forward taken by my followers. One paragraph about what they did right. Dan stated change was was a gift given to me by my mother through her experience of change and its possibilities.

Believe it or not, the next highlight of my adventure was in the second session. Roosevelt was in his early twenties (age 19 – 25 to be exact). During this time he discovered his love for the west at about the same time he became interested and involved in politics. Because he took to dressing like a cowboy, in Albany he was given the label “the Dude”. Now, this was not meant to be hip and cool like Jeff Bridges’ the Dude in the Big Lebowski, no, this label was a slam.

One of Dan’s paddle went right to the core of a label. “Externally, a label may take control of your communication, for Roosevelt, it, of course, ‘the Dude’. What label applies to you? How does it affect your communication?”

BAM! Another one hits the mark. For me, its the “IT Guy” label. I have been in IT for over 30 years. At times, that label can get in the way. I would rather be seen as a “Business Guy” with an IT expertise. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a meeting and the phone, projector, or microphone doesn’t work. What happens? All eyes turn to me…the IT Guy! Hell, I can’t fix it! When my technology doesn’t work, I call one of our outstanding support technicians!

My assignment was to write two lists. The first was a list of things about me as person that have nothing to do with IT. The second was a list of the things a CIO does beyond being the IT Chief. The next step was to match up the two lists and look for ways in which I, as more than IT, blends with CIO, as more than IT.

OK, I am in danger of getting a DR;TL comment (Did not Read; Too Long)…throughout upcoming posts, I will explore sections of the Roosevelt River and dive deeper into the lessons I learned through this journey. In the mean time, I highly recommend Dr. Miller’s Creative Conversations to anyone that is looking to learn more about themselves and to grow professionally and personally.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

It had been over 20 years since I had been on a hay ride. I daresay, that probably holds true for the majority of the participants at the recent #GWTS2014Summit…but let me start at the beginning. Leadership, Business, Management

A year ago, we put a twist in our annual budget and planning cycle. Many companies and departments conduct offsite planning “summits” and we had always done much the same. In 2012 we added something I had talked about doing for years. We invited some of our vendors to participate. To be invited, the vendor had to be a “strategic partner” (see “Three Keys to a Lasting Relationship“). So, after my management team had spent a day and a half reviewing business plans, trends in the industry, and trends in technology, our vendors arrived. We spent the remainder of the second day reviewing those plans with them, asking for feedback, and asking for general questions.  For the inaugural event, the feedback we received afterward was very positive, enough so to repeat in 2013.

Always looking to improve and listening to the feedback from the that first event, we made some changes to the format.

First of the changes…Twitter and the hashtags. As I talked about in a previous post, Twitter is my new way of taking notes at conferences (see I will never take notes again). I thought…”why not”. So, I created the hashtag and began tweeting first thing in the morning of day one. I encouraged my team to join in (though I must say NO ONE DID, ahem, are you listening?). I also sent a note to the entire department and our vendor partners suggesting they follow along with the activities through Twitter. Our day began in the Roosevelt Room at Fort Harrison State Park (ok, that is significant, but to find out why, you have to read a future post about my journey with Theodore Roosevelt).

Day one was focused on internal discussions with our management team. We reviewed business and infrastructure plans, however, we dedicated the meat of the day to open discussion, about the department, our company, and where we are versus where we want to be. Believe it or not we ran out of time!

As day one of discussions came to a close, it was time for another departure from the prior year. As I mentioned, last year the partners came at the end of day two. While the conversation was good, I believed it could have been better. So, this year, we had the partners join us for dinner at the end of day one (now before anyone reading this panics and thinks we bought dinner for 35 vendors, we did not, we asked that each vendor attending pay for their own meal. There, feel better?). The dinner was catered by the park at one of their shelter houses.

My team and I headed down to the shelter house while our guests began to arrive. Many had met the year before, or had been involved in joint meetings with us. However, there were some new faces to introduce to each other. This was one of the reasons for the shift to the end of day one…to get the introductions out of the way. Keep in mind, some of these vendors represented companies that were competitors of each other (not on our account mind you, but competitors in the market just the same). We had warned them all to put on their big boy and big girl pants for the event; it was after all about transparency and dialogue.

Gradually, the conversation began to shift from introductions into curiosity. Why HAD they been instructed to dress casually and wear outdoor shoes? Where we going to hike? Where we going to have a scavenger hunt? Maybe, a “vendor challenge”? (btw nice tennies, Steve!) Soon the sound of a large tractor could be heard in the distance. Since only two of knew what was happening, no one noticed. Moments later a large John Deere (Dave, picture our John Deere salute here!) tractor pulled into the parking lot next to the shelter house. It was pulling two large wagons filled with hay. Still, not many noticed.

I stood up on one the picnic tables to get everyone’s attention and announced, “Before dinner, we have a surprise for all of you! You may notice the two wagons behind me, everybody…follow me and pile in, we are going on a hayride”. At first the crowd didn’t move, as if they thought I was kidding. Me? Kid? I don’t think so…let’s go folks EVERYBODY IN!  Finally, 40+ of Indianapolis’ finest business people were piled in the two wagons and we headed out for a 45 minute tour of Fort Harrison State Park.

Business, Management, LeadershipAt first there was some awkward chit-chat and bemusement, I don’t think many of them could believe we were actually on a hay ride. The further along the pathways we traveled, the polite chit-chat gave way to laughter, spirited conversation and picture taking.  You could sit and watch the inner child come out. By the time, we were halfway done, there was debate about which wagon was the “cool, more fun wagon”. (Personally, I think the one I was in was the cool wagon!).

After the adventure, the dinner was served. I think the hay ride dominated the conversation at most of the tables.

The next morning as we gathered in the Roosevelt Room, the evenings activities had the exact effect we were looking to achieve. The greetings were boisterous, the conversation lively, and…the ice had been broken. We kicked off the meeting with a special guest and a dear friend of mine, Dr. Dan Miller of Historical Solutions (www.historicalsolutions.com). Dan provides leadership training, team building, and executive coaching, all in the context of exploring history. Those of you who know my passion for Lewis and Clark would think we were twins separated at birth. Dan provided us with an historical perspective of our surroundings, in the Roosevelt room of For Harrison, the relationship between Teddy Roosevelt and Benjamin Harrison and an approach to planning, preparation and execution. There could not have been a more appropriate start to our day.

Next up, we reviewed the business and technology plans and highlighted our discussions of the day before with our partners. We then asked each partner to present their views on the trends they are seeing in their slice of the industry. I am sure it was tough, ask a bunch of business development people to get up in front of a room of 45 people and NOT SELL and only give them FIVE MINUTES, it had to be tough! (Ok, to be honest, next year, I am going to edit their slides beforehand and remove any of those “here is who we are, how much we sell, and who our customers are” slides!) Check out the Twitter hashtag (#GWTS2014Summit) to see some of the highlights from the round-robin presentations.

We spent the remainder of the morning in a group discussion of our projects, the trends, business issues, and our direction. In addition to some great thoughts, I believe there were several business connections made within the group and some ideas for additional areas of partnership with us were formulated.

Our partners left at the end of the morning discussion, we were then joined by our newly formed architecture team. We spent the next couple of hours diving into discussion topics specific to our technology architecture. By mid-afternoon, we were joined by the remainder of the team and we jumped into topics about process, team dynamics, and communication.

Overall, it was a very successful summit. We learned a a lot from each segment, solidified our roadmap, and potentially made some connections for business. We are already planning next year’s event and how to make it even better…hmmmmm, something like “Vendor Wipe Out” comes to mind….

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

business, leadership, managementRecently Seth Godin posted his 5000th blog post. Well, I am no Seth Godin, not nearly as prolific and far from as talented, but my blog just passed a milestone as well! Rivers of Thought just surpassed 5,000 views! 5,000 views – those can’t all be from my mom, either!

I started blogging over four and a half years ago (from People, Planet, Profit through One bourbon, One shot, One beer). I have learned a lot, not only about blogging (thanks Rachel!) but also about the various topics I’ve covered. Its been fun, its been challenging and its been rewarding.

The two posts that have drawn the most readers were Mow Your Lawn with a Lizard, describing my excitement over my new Neuton lawnmower and Living in a Virtual World, providing a recap of my experiences in an MIT Executive Learning Course. Both of these prove the value of having others link to your blog to drive traffic. While I am at it, you should know the posts that received the fewest views were It’s All Related , a post about how interconnected things are in the environment and The Lesser of Two Evils, about the dumping of gold mine waste (I don’t even think my mother read that one, it shows only one view, thanks honey!).

The theory that provocative titles drawn in readers can be seen in the hits on Do This in Remembrance of Me, Shades of Grey, and Jim Morrison – Environmentalist, all showing up in the most often read posts.

Trying to promote my eBook “Everything I Learned About Leadership, I Learned from Lewis and Clark” using my blog only showed mild success as it stands at the middle of the pack of readership.

Over the four and half years, I have written about my passions, including Information Technology (T Minus 12 Hours, 5 Things that Keep Me Up at Night), music (The Soundtrack of Our Lives, The World of Hip Hop), and the environment (Black Liquor, Put Your Hands Behind Your Head).

To all of you who have commented, thank you so much for your thoughts! To all of you who have read, thank you, I hope you found some useful tidbits. I am looking forward to continuing to share thoughts, ideas, and diatribes! As always…

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Bet you thought this was going to be about something other than leadership, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint!

I awoke this morning to one of nature’s most beautiful landscapes. After a freshbusiness, leadership, connectivity, technology, marketing snowfall, the Mud Creek valley was a winter wonderland. At first glance it is a world of black and white. However if you look closely it is a palette of dozens of shades of black:  charcoal, ebony, midnight blue, onyx, noir, and jet; dozens of shades of white: snow, ivory, cornsilk, powder, cream, and antique; and yes, dozens (though I didn’t count to 50) shades of grey: light grey, silver, Davy’s grey, ash, slate and Xanadu. There are even shades of greens and browns.

It struck me as I drove my morning commute through the Mud Creek and Fall Creek Valleys that leadership is a lot like a winter landscape. At first glance, many of decisions, opportunities and challenges appear to be black and white, but as we grow as leaders we realize we are really operating in a world of shades of grey. The successful leader slows down to appreciate the landscape and makes thoughtful decisions based on the nuances of a very complex palette.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Bet you thought this was going to be about something other than leadership, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint!

I awoke this morning to one of nature’s most beautiful landscapes. After a freshbusiness, leadership, connectivity, technology, marketing snowfall, the Mud Creek valley was a winter wonderland. At first glance it is a world of black and white. However if you look closely it is a palette of dozens of shades of black:  charcoal, ebony, midnight blue, onyx, noir, and jet; dozens of shades of white: snow, ivory, cornsilk, powder, cream, and antique; and yes, dozens (though I didn’t count to 50) shades of grey: light grey, silver, Davy’s grey, ash, slate and Xanadu. There are even shades of greens and browns.

It struck me as I drove my morning commute through the Mud Creek and Fall Creek Valleys that leadership is a lot like a winter landscape. At first glance, many of decisions, opportunities and challenges appear to be black and white, but as we grow as leaders we realize we are really operating in a world of shades of grey. The successful leader slows down to appreciate the landscape and makes thoughtful decisions based on the nuances of a very complex palette.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

No, this is not about some crime new drama (though people say I do look a lot like Mark Harmon…NOT!), this is about socialmicroscope-pictures6 organizations, mass collaboration, big data, the future of work, and some technology thrown in for good measure!

We recently announced a re-organization within Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. This re-organization included the creation of a new position, Senior Vice President of Corporate Connectivity. When I’m asked what this means, it would be easy to respond, “Well, it means that both Technology Solutions (Information Technology) and Marketing report to the same person.” But that would be a simplistic view of what is, really, a very progressive and complex organizational move.

I really need to work on my elevator speech! So, then, what does it mean to have both Marketing and IT report to the SVP of Corporate Connectivity? Why would we do this? What are we going to accomplish? What is Corporate Connectivity anyway?

Corporate Connectivity is the confluence (“Confluence” is a very carefully chosen word to describe this convergence. The science of fluid dynamics finds that when rivers come together at a confluence, the resulting power of the water downstream is not additive; rather, it’s compounded exponentially) of Networks, Communication and Collaboration, Information and Systems (ahem, N.C.I.S.; after all, I have been an IT guy for 30 years; everything can be boiled down to an acronym). Over the next several posts we will explore each of these streams and what impact they will have on our company.

Next up: N – Networks

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

New store openings in retail are a big deal (hello, Mr. Obvious)! Let me restate, new store openings in retail are a VERY big deal! I don’t know if we have ever had to delay a store opening in our history, I certainly know it has never happened during my tenure. So when we were 12 hours away from a grand opening and still didn’t have network connectivity to the store I was sweating bullets…big time!

How we came to be in this position is not the point, but I will give a little context. We are in the midst of a redesign of our WAN (wide area network for those that hate acronyms). Rather than going with our current platform, we made the decision to go with a new platform (ok, when I say “we made the decision”…I really mean “I made the decision”). There was some confusion in placing the initial order that caused a delay. We then learned the build out would take six weeks (did I mention we were now three weeks out from opening?)! Never fear, our new platform included redundancy in the form of a 4G failover. We would just use that as our primary until the permanent connection was established. With Plan B firmly in hand we (again, I mean I) decided to move forward.

But, this is not a story about network connectivity, per se, this is a story about how a team of vendor partners came to our aid and saved our bacon! In a recent post, I wrote about the keys to a long lasting vendor relationship. These partners truly exhibited those keys and then some!

T minus 96 hours – no network connection

The signal for the 4G connection was not strong enough inside the building. Stringing a 100 foot coax across the floor and out the back door, we were able to get a solid signal. We called one of our partners to ask them to mount an external antennae. They dropped everything to come out and do a site survey (late on a Friday afternoon, mind you) and order the parts. However, they took it a step further. They took it upon themselves to contact one of THEIR partners to implement a Plan C, dropping a high speed DSL line in as a temporary solution in case Plan B did not work out. Have you ever contacted a telecom supplier and requested service in under 48 hours? Amazingly, with several strings pulled, installation was scheduled for that Monday morning.

T minus 24 hours – still no network connection

Monday morning dawned and the parts needed for the antennae installation arrived and our partner went about drilling holes in concrete walls and installing the antennae. Mid morning the telecom vendor arrived to install Plan C, the DSL line. About this same time, I was assuring my boss that we would have connectivity and the store WOULD open on time.

T minus 18 hours – STILL no network connection

I (and several other VPs and my boss) arrived on-site for the customary grand opening open house for employees and families. I made may way back to the telecom closet where I found half my team, our cabling partner, the telecom technician, and two or three others. Tensions were high! The antennae was mounted, but we were still unable to get the connection stable. The 100 foot coax was still strung out across the floor , out the door to an antennae duct-taped to a traffic pole (no I am not kidding!). Everyone was concentrating on getting the DSL (remember, that is plan C) connection established.

Time for Plan D – call our existing partner to see if the line from our old location could be swung to this one. (a week minium, that would not do). Plan E – establish a line of site connection to one of our other locations (nope – believe it or not there is a 200 foot elevation difference…who knew there was a hill in central Indiana?). Plan F – ride on the wireless of another retailer in the area – with permission of course (so what are the odds Walmart would agree to THAT request?)

T minus 16 hours – the sweat is rolling

At this point, I took a risk. I texted one of the vendors that had been courting us for a year. We had done a little business (one other time when we got in a jam) but nothing that you would write home about. (did I mention it is 5pm?…I should also mention the telecom technician was still there lending a hand, incredible service above and beyond his normal duties). Within seconds, I had an answer back from my text. We jumped on a call. He rallied a couple of his senior engineers and they jumped on a call with our engineers.

T minus 12 hours – time to brush off the resume

T minus 11 hours – 

T minus 10 hours – 

T minus 9 hours 47 minutes – WE HAVE LIFT OFF! (Well we have a network connection, at any rate)

Man that was too close! Working through all the issues together we were finally able (we in this case does not mean ME) to establish the connection and begin testing the store configurations. All was well with the world…until the next morning when Murphy struck (man, we have to fire that guy) and unrelated to the store opening, our wireless controller crashed. One of the team, installed a personal wireless router to enable the store to open on time, while others got back on the phone with the same engineers that had worked through the evening the night before to troubleshoot and resolve the issue.

Without our partners (and in some cases, their partners) we would have faced disaster. If you will bear with me on this day before Thanksgiving, I would like to thank them here: Thanks to Patrick at TWTelecom, Thanks to Scott, Tim and others at BD Managed Services, Thanks to Kelly at Lingotek, Thanks to Dwight, Cale, Tom, Greg and Richard at Sinewave, thanks to the technician from AT&T (I failed to even get his name). I would also like to thank my team for their incredible efforts under pressure: Ed, Kelvin, Jeff and Patrick THANKS GUYS!!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.