In the Fall of 2003 I launched an initiative at the University of Chicago known as START – Support for Technology & Applications in Research & Teaching. The initiative embraced five principles that I believe should be the foundation stones of any successful information technology organization and represent a set of core ideals that I adhere to. Over the years, they’ve been revised and updated to what they are today:

  • Principle of Structure: The outcome is what matters, not the structure that leads to it.
  • Principle of Collaboration: By working collaboratively in dynamic teams, anything can be possible.
  • Principle of Trust: Trust staff to do best they can to the best of their knowledge and ability.
  • Principle of Responsibility: The responsibility falls on staff to help others understand what can be done.
  • Principle of Technology: Use technologies we ask others to use.

If these five principles of START are the foundation stones of a successful organization, what is built upon that foundation will define it. That leads to a core operational principle that was the vision of my academic computing organization at the University of Chicago:

  • Core Principle: Balance stability with innovation.

Today, no IT organization can be successful only keeping the “trains running on time” nor can it achieve success by concentrating solely on invention. An organization that brings value to a college or university must strike a balance and protect what is essential and innovate to keep moving forward. Finally, what keeps me going every day is a simple idea:

  • Set the standard to which others are judged.

One shouldn’t strive to be above the bar or fixate on being below it — one should set the bar and let others worry about such things. To set a standard, one needs confidence in abilities, an acute awareness of limitations, and know when and where to take measured risks.

In the end, I firmly believe that people – not technology – make a great organization, and leading the team and the people they support to better options and opportunities are the best challenges and individual rewards any leader can ask for.