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leading and migrating

June 27, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Changing spaces is hard. When you are at a brick and mortar campus, it means there’s a ton of dust and stairwells are blocked off and hard-hat wearing construction workers outnumber your team members. And then things like your office space change and your live out of boxes and it’s just an all around messy process.

It turns out, changing spaces in an online campus is just as messy but in a super sanitary manner (if that dichotomy is even possible.) At the school I work for, we’re in the process of doing a massive migration where over the course of four weeks everything from our LMS to our lecture delivery system to our student records database is changing. The first three weeks were manageable and I was able to assume a zen-like sense of calm as I did bite-sized chunks of work each day but never let myself get overwhelmed. This week (aka final week before we go live)…not so much. It seems the closer the deadline gets the more everything seems to fall apart, go down, or just get janky. The only thing zen in my life this past week has been the calming chant music I’ve been listening to and even that is beginning to wear thin.

That said, it has been interesting through this process to see how my team has reacted to the upheaval and especially how I’ve reacted as their leader. I never realized just how totally non-linear I am in project management until I have to work with a curriculum developer who wants all my changes in a prescribed order, wants daily updates on my teams progress, and has a number of handy progress mapping charts that I’m supposed to be filling out with great diligence.

Needless to say, it’s all been a tough challenge for me to get my head around these things that are supposed to streamline the process but have just caused me a high level of angst as I try to figure out what fact and what date go into what cell of a spreadsheet. Do I think the team will get it done? For sure. Will it be tracked appropriately…anyone’s guess!

Regarding my team and our students…the key phrase has been “framing”. What we’re doing and the massive changes we’re making could be brilliant or they could be a massive debacle.  Right now it’s anyone’s guess and really only time will tell how it pans out. That said, by virtue of my position, I have a whole posse of people who are watching me with eagle eyes and gauging their reactions accordingly. Am I feeling okay and communicating in positive ways about the change? Everyone feels like it’s almost Christmas Eve and is giddy with excitement! Do I begin to panic? (Which I’ve only done a little bit…apparently working 14+ hour days while subsisting almost exclusively on cheese puffs, coffee, and tequila isn’t always a proven recipe for mental health…who knew?) Suddenly everyone is complaining and affirming my negative energy about how this all is the worst thing ever to happen. It’s been an interesting balance to be both truthful and positive…be real with some of them about my own fears and how I do feel we’re walking a tightrope above chaos and yet also that I’m totally thrilled with the high level of risk that’s currently happening.

Overall, I’m looking forward to all of this being finished—the migration to land us all firmly on the shores of a warm beach like birds in winter. But I will say too that I am glad to be in this position at this time because it’s awesome experience and even more it’s awesome confidence building in me. Who knew this level of leadership was possible from an introvert who is fiercely independent, and dare I say quite self-centered? Pretty amazing indeed. And, it makes me yet more hopeful for my own dissertation journey…if I can handle massive migration, I’m pretty sure a dissertation won’t get the best of me.

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