Leadership

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Technical and Interpersonal Skills are Equally Important

 

Jeff Gorman Keller Schroeder PresidentJeff Gorman  – [President]

As an IT professional, knowing your strengths and learning to recognize how to best interact with others is not viewed as a technical aptitude, but it does allow each of us to perform better in terms of providing desired services to business areas who need technical resources to achieve their goals.

Learning how to communicate effectively among people is equally important with knowing how to make technical systems communicate with each other.  There are plenty of stories from business units about projects failing because IT did not understand requirements.  There are also countless stories from IT about projects failing because the business units do not understand the technical implications behind their requests and actions.

At its most effective level, good Information Technology is about providing service to others to help improve business performance. Efficiently performing Information Technology takes both technical and interpersonal skills in equal parts. Beyond interactions with the rest of the business, even within IT there are frequently opposing objectives, which are not based on technical requirements but are critical to navigate successfully.

For example:

  • Security administrators want to keep systems patched at all times.
  • System administrators want to keep systems up at all times.

In most cases, it’s not possible to achieve both of those divergent objectives.  Common technical architecture principles say you get three choices among “good, fast, and cheap,” which inherently means as IT architects it is imperative you understand how to balance different needs and collaborate with others to determine the best courses of action.

The best administrators have to be effective communicators; listening with empathy, asking questions to seek context, establishing clarity on objectives and intentions, understanding a ‘big-picture’ outside of the tasks or systems they are responsible for to ensure their actions match the true ‘best case’ for the organization.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Thanks For Trusting Us Nashville

 

Rob Wilson- Keller Schroeder Leadership Team

Rob Wilson  – [Principal Consultant – Greater Nashville Area]

As we approach the two year anniversary of when we started to emphasize growing our business in the Greater Nashville Area, I wanted to give an update on how things are progressing. Road warriors no more, Lee Barron and I have both moved into the region as of earlier this year. In 2018, we more than doubled the number of clients we serve in Nashville. In the past twelve months, over one-third of our employee-owners have been engaged on projects for our Nashville area clients. There is much to be thankful for, but nothing more than the trust our new and existing clients have given us.

Trust is an interesting thing. We often think of it as something we must earn, when in fact it is something one must choose to give in advance. That’s why we don’t take trust for granted. It is the hardest thing for you to let go of. It is said that people do business with those they know, like, and trust. We can help you know us by making you more aware of who we are and what we do. We can help you like us by being likable. And, of course, we can influence your trust proving ourselves trustworthy. But it isn’t enough just to share how others trusted us and how we delivered for them, or even to tell you of the times we messed up and how we made it right. In fact, our trustworthiness is not something we can prove to you personally at all until first you give us your trust. Once you give it, the onus is on us to prove you right.

We’re very grateful for those who have trusted us, and then gave us the highest of compliments by trusting us again. It’s a big step, putting your personal seal on a relationship recommendation, and we know it. You have business objectives you are trying to achieve, and you need to make sure the right technology partnerships are in place to achieve them. Once you trust us on an endeavor, we share the responsibility of making it a success. We own that responsibility, and we care deeply about your success.

Another interesting thing about trust – it goes both ways. We have expressed our trust in the Nashville community through our investments of many types. Of course, you have delivered on your end. As we continue to strive to make positive, personal impacts on the businesses and communities in the Nashville area, through technology and other meaningful ways, we look forward to continuing to build upon that mutual trust.

In future posts, I’ll share more about the type of work we’re doing here and ways we are getting involved. For now, we just wanted to say thank you again to our clients and partners here for your warm welcome and for proving your trustworthiness to us.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Square Peg in a Round Hole

 

Jeff Gorman Keller Schroeder PresidentJeff Gorman  – [President]

Years ago, a commercial aired with two mechanics pounding on an obviously incorrectly sized car part saying, “It will fit, we’ll make it fit.”  The advertisement worked because the concept of forcing the wrong solution onto a problem was relatable.  Common sense tells us square pegs do not belong in round holes.  If the problem you are trying to solve is filling in a round hole, and someone offers to assist by giving you a square peg, you will likely suggest they help someone else instead.

Square Peg in A Round HoleAs simple as that concept is for people to understand, somehow it frequently gets lost in the world of technology.   People become infatuated with the newest “square peg” technology and become fixated on pounding it into a “round hole” issue just to have the privilege of using the latest and greatest.  As a technology company in the performance improvement business, Keller Schroeder firmly believes the role of Information Technology is to make businesses perform better.  Information Technology companies and departments should serve the business functions, not vice versa.  IT professionals should have a box full of different shaped pegs, and when they collaborate with business units, should be able to identify solutions that specifically address business needs and improve overall performance.

Business units should not play the role of being a showcase for technology; technology should be used to better showcase and empower business units.  Your company and companies you partner with for technology must understand and perform in a manner which makes it clear everyone agrees with that intent.  If not, you may end up with some really cool “square pegs,” having made no progress in filling your company’s “round hole” issues.

Look for our newsletters this year to follow this theme.  We will talk more about the issues affecting different industries and how to apply technology to solve specific problems.  For more than forty years, we have grown relationships by first seeking to understand the business of our partners and then leveraging technology to improve their business’ performance.  If you want to talk more with us about how technology might be able to solve a business problem you are experiencing, we would love the opportunity to meet with you.

 

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

The Definition of Success

Jeff Gorman - Keller Schroeder PresidentJeff Gorman  – [President]

Quickly, name someone you consider highly successful.  Success is such an abstract concept, with wildly different definitions even within the same culture, that it is really challenging to get consistent answers to that prompt.  Some people will quickly conjure up names of leaders of large businesses.  Some people will default to celebrities from the entertainment or athletic world.  Still others will lead with a family member that has no exceptional level of wealth or celebrity status but had a profound impact on them.  While the word ‘success’ is readily understood, it’s scored abstractly for everyone based on what is most important to us personally.

If asking people to name someone successful can lead to answers that diverse, it stands to follow that asking employees if their team or business is ‘successful’ at a given point in time is likely to have a myriad of answers as well.  Successful teams, and therefore businesses, require clarity.  Part of clarity means success criteria are defined and leaders generate ‘buy-in’ on that vision.  If the business is not taking time to generate clarity and ‘buy-in’ on what it considers success to look like for the company, it can assume people are applying their own interpretation of success – and those views are not going to be consistent, which will lead to breakdowns in commitment and accountability.  The process of defining and reiterating that clarity is a critical task in the process of getting employees engaged in a common pursuit.  Those engaged employees, and the teams on which they participate, are the path to having a company which consistently pursues the same objectives, knows how that pursuit is progressing, and holds each other accountable for the process of achieving collective success.

If it feels like an employee, team, partner, or anyone else you have a relationship with is completely missing the mark with your expectations, consider how well you have shared in the process of creating support for a clear, shared definition of success.  What feels like a performance issue could possibly be as simple as leaving some portion of ‘success’ to personal interpretation.  Clarity and buy-in could be exactly what is needed to move the needle in a more positive direction.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

The Best Way to Work ‘On’ A Community is to Work ‘In’ the Community

Jeff Gorman- Keller Schroeder PresidentJeff Gorman – [President]

We are proud to be celebrating our 40th year of being a technology company in the performance improvement business.  At some point in our recent history, if you have joined us at a Keller Schroeder event, you have seen and heard us promote our even larger purpose of making positive, personal impacts.  We seek to exhibit that behavior among employee-owners, with our clients, and in our communities.  While the value of making positive impacts on clients and employee-owners is probably not hard to discern, it occurred to me people might wonder why we feel as compelled to consistently focus on making positive impacts in the community.

In its simplest form, the answer is the best way to work ‘on’ a community is to work ‘in’ the community.  We are proud of the local community, and we hope to see it continue to grow and offer greater opportunities for everyone.  Just like a business, though, the local community cannot improve by simply having people wish for improvement.  If its members want it to improve, they must be willing to get involved and make it what they want it to be.  Keller Schroeder does not view the communities in which we work as disconnected entities from our company; we view our company as an integrated part of the community.  In that capacity, we have an obligation to find ways to make positive impacts on and with organizations who are helping our families, our friends, our neighbors, and others who are dealing with significant needs.

Some make the case the responsibility for community involvement lies with the individuals of a company rather than with the company itself.  Their stance is to keep the company focused on profitability, remaining socially neutral, while allowing your employees to support causes which matter to them.  Our view is that our company, as a collection of employee-owners, has a responsibility to be an active member of the communities in which it exists.  Our employee-owners also have their own individual causes and contributions they can discern, but their activities do not preclude the company from its responsibility of working to make the community better in a way that balances both our value and our values.

We look forward to continuing to find ways to celebrate and support the communities where we do business, and we hope to have the opportunity to join up with you in that pursuit sometime soon.  The better our communities become, the better the environments are for our businesses, our employees, our families, and our future.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Culture Surveys

Keller Schroeder President-Jeff GormanJeff Gorman – [President]

The importance of measuring key performance indicators, or knowing the ‘score’ of your progress toward goals, is a widely held view among leaders.  Without some consistent manner from which you can evaluate your progress, it becomes difficult to maintain clarity within an organization regarding the current state of key efforts.  Successful businesses frequently apply this mentality to financial performance, budgets, timelines, and other key initiatives.   Seeing the trend in share value, a comparison of year-to-date financials to budget, or comparing project milestones to forecasts are all great tools of measuring ‘lag’ indicators, those indicators that show the final impact of previous actions on current performance.

At Keller Schroeder, we strongly believe a key performance differentiator for our business is our ownership culture.  Because our employees are owners in the business, we believe they engage with a different level of commitment, they more strongly value client relationships, and they feel more connected to the purpose of the business.  To help assess and measure our performance with respect to our culture, we regularly perform employee-engagement surveys.  We have engaged with nationally known organizations who focus on effective ways to measure culture and employee perceptions of key aspects of the organization with the expectation that we want to compare how we align against those who set the standard nationally for having great workplaces.  Much like reviewing a financial statement, we use the output from the surveys to identify areas where we need to focus for improvement, and we look for areas where we are performing strongly and discuss how to leverage those strengths.  We use the baseline numbers from the top organizations as our ‘budget’ for knowing where we are currently against where we want to reside.

Best Small Workplaces 2017 LogoI am very excited and proud to share, based on the feedback from our employee-owners this year, Keller Schroeder was named to the Fortune magazine and Great Places to Work ’50 Best Small Workplaces’ in the United States this year.  Our results were scored against hundreds of other companies with surveys covering over seventy-thousand employees of small and medium businesses across the country.  From our collective scores and information provided about our benefits, our behaviors, and our focus on the community, Keller Schroeder was rated as #21 on this year’s list.  We have plenty to work on to continue to improve as an organization focused on making positive, personal impacts on our employee-owners, our clients, and our communities, and yet we are very proud of where the scoreboard shows us in our pursuit of that purpose.

It is consistently insightful and invaluable to get candid feedback from a wide swath of employees to create a scoreboard for your culture. It can be both very humbling and very rewarding.  It also should be a requirement if you support the view that the organizational health of your company is the most critical ‘lead’ measure, having direct impact on the ‘lag’ measures you have been using as a scorecard for years.  Research consistently shows the value to an organization, in all measurable ways, of ‘engaged’ employees over ‘content’ or ‘discontent’ employees.  Determining the best way to build a scoreboard to allow an organization to start tracking that key metric should be getting consideration.  We view our culture as a key difference maker in how we add value to our clients; we would encourage others to invest the time to measure those traits in their own organizations.  The benefits to knowing your culture ‘score’ can have a direct impact on all aspects of a company’s performance, and in a marketplace where competitiveness for business and for employees is extremely high, the insight gained from the assessment can help an organization turn culture into a positive differentiator.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Application Solutions Group Leadership Transition

Keller Schroeder President-Jeff GormanJeff Gorman – [President]

It is my pleasure to announce an upcoming leadership transition at Keller Schroeder.  After thirty extremely successful years as a leader at Keller Schroeder, Dan Ehrhart will retire from his role as the Vice President of our Application Solutions Group, effective at the end of this year.  Dan will remain an owner and a member of our Board of Directors in addition to his plans to invest time with family, friends, the outdoors, and as a community volunteer.

Cathy Graper Incoming Application Solutions Group Vice PresidentCathy Graper will become the Vice President of our Application Solutions Group effective January 1, 2018.  Cathy has been with Keller Schroeder for twenty-two years and is a seasoned Business Unit Director reporting directly to Dan.  She has a deep and diverse background in Information Technology, starting with her B.S. in Computer Science from Indiana State University and progressing through a variety of roles making positive impacts on clients of all sizes in multiple industries.  She has had great success as a developer, analyst and project manager during her tenure with Keller Schroeder and has a deep understanding of our Application group and Keller Schroeder as a whole.   Her ability to create ‘followship’ in a variety of roles speaks to her natural leadership ability, and, most importantly, she has long been exemplary in exhibiting our values of making positive, personal impacts for our employee-owners, our clients, and our community.

Keller Schroeder’s Application Solutions Group is a significant pillar of our diverse organization.  The group has grown and evolved during Dan’s leadership and I am excited about the prospects for that to continue with Cathy’s leadership.   We are being intentional about making this announcement six months in advance of the transition to give Cathy and Dan the opportunity to work closely through the second half of 2017 and beginning of 2018 to ensure a seamless transition.  Those of you who have interacted with members of the Keller Schroeder team know our success has been tethered directly to the outstanding skills and conscientious work ethic of our employee-owners.  I am excited to see the success continue.  As we complete this transition, Cathy is well-positioned to advance our long-standing trend of excellence.

Keller Schroeder is a technology company in the performance improvement business.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Directions

Keller Schroeder Leadership-Jeff GormanJeff Gorman – [President]

While talking to a frequent road traveler recently, his reference to the difficulty in finding a particular destination on his paper map surprised me.  While I understand having a contingency for the event of a failure of more technical travel aids, it intrigued me that someone who drove for a living still used traditional paper maps as a primary tool.  Tablet with GPS sitting on MapIt brought back clear images in my mind of family vacations from years ago, with maps having highlighted routes and each rest from driving including some time looking at the map to get clarity on the next stage of the trip and to establish some familiarity with options should the main route have any difficulty.  I am confident most drivers have not traveled like that in years; GPS units and GPS-capable phones have allowed us to simply type a destination and follow the turn-by-turn instructions to get to any location without having to do any significant navigational planning.  It is clearly a stellar example of technology simplifying and enhancing a manual process, not to mention eliminating the art of the origami accordion associated with paper maps.

Recalculating GPSUnfortunately, however, such a shortcut to the ‘check the plan as you go’ method does not exist in business.  There simply is no consistently successful way to set a strategic goal and trust that regardless of obstacles or unforeseen events, we will end up at our destination.  There are no ‘recalculating’, ‘make a U-turn as soon as safely possible’ or ‘traffic detected, would you like an alternate route’ announcements allowing us to achieve business objectives automatically.  When establishing a destination or goal for a business, there needs to be a clear purpose and a plan established to navigate toward that goal.  It is imperative that we regularly measure progress against the specific plan in a way that provides clarity for when navigational changes need to occur.  With appropriate measurement points and consistent comparison of current location to desired location, the business can better establish accountability within teams, better share knowledge of potential obstacles, and remain on course with smaller adjustments than would be required if the journey continued unchecked for longer periods of time.  Just as the road traveler GPS would be ineffective if it only checked progress against your destination once a quarter, your business goal progress must be compared to a scorecard on a very consistent basis to be effective.

If you are not tracking your key performance indicators with easy-to-interpret scoreboards on a regular basis, or you are not conducting frequent reviews of your progress on the route to achieve your objective, for all intents, your team is travelling the highway without a map.  Find a ‘rest stop’, get a ‘map’, and start measuring your progress against your plotted course.  You will be better equipped to handle obstacles and you will find the journey far more enjoyable if you work from the position of knowing each leg of the journey is staying on track.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Stories

Jeff Gorman – [President]

In the past year, I have had the opportunity to visit a variety of businesses and college campuses outside of our region for various reasons.  Each destination stands apart as unique from the others in obvious ways.  Geographies are different.  Employee and student demographics vary.  Values, mission statements, and marketing approaches are each distinct.  These all serve a purpose in helping establish an image with employees or prospects, but amid a myriad of options for organizations providing services, those factors alone tend to get lost in a mountain of data and ambiguity.  What strikes me as creating true clarity and uniqueness of an organization are the stories told by its members and its actions.

While values and mission statements are important and set the clarity waypoint for acceptable behaviors and desired outcomes, in essence defining whom an organization aspires to be, the stories shared with outsiders become the true artifacts that define how an organization actually exists.

I recall, for example, a company I visited shared their company values with the visiting group.  I do not recall any of their unique values other than their concern for the environment.   I remember that value because of their stories around providing stipends for workers that lived within a small distance from their office to allow them to ride their bikes to work, stipends for workers who purchased hybrid vehicles, and the company providing free bike service to employees.  The value of environmental awareness is aspirational and admirable, but the stories of how they are living those values are memorable and differentiators.

Similarly, while on a visit to another organization a topic of discussion was their concentration on measuring output toward specific goals.  Clearly, that is not a unique differentiator; all performance driven organizations work to measure against goals to track success.  This organization, however, worked with employees to determine interactive ways to have ‘scorecards’ accessible and highly visible to all employees, regardless of their access to online resources.  Tubes with colored golf balls became bar graphs for plant-floor employees.  Magnetic name and skillset badges on metal boards were used to track staff availability, display critical needs, and perform resource planning daily.  The organization’s collective collaboration provided the memorable evidence of their non-unique goal.  I am confident if it made a lasting impression on me in a one-day visit, it has made an exponentially greater impact to the organization in terms of employee engagement and clarity of purpose.

If you have not spent time doing so, I encourage you to take time to look at your organization’s values and peel things back a bit to determine what your stories are that support those aspirations.  As all companies work to market their differentiators amid a world of competition, some of your unique differentiators may be readily available in the stories that demonstrate your values.

by Carissa Carissa No Comments

Keller Schroeder Names New Network Solutions Group Business Unit Director

ca-photo

Corey Ainscough
Network Solutions Group Director

 

Corey Ainscough has officially been promoted to Network Solutions Group Business Unit Director at Keller Schroeder. This announcement ends a year of transition for Corey from Service Delivery Manager into his new role. The NSG Business Unit Director position was previously held by Jeff Gorman, who became Keller Schroeder’s President on 1/1/17.

Corey has nearly 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field. Prior to his role as Service Delivery Manager, he spent 10 years as a Senior Systems Consultant with Keller Schroeder focusing on security architecture and implementation, as well as Microsoft server and messaging technologies. Among his many projects, Corey also served as the virtual CIO for a large financial institution and managed the IT transition during the divestiture of an international electronics and manufacturing corporation.

Of Corey, President Jeff Gorman said “Corey has been a well-respected employee owner at Keller Schroeder for ten years.  He has been actively involved in the operational aspects of the Network Solutions Group for several years and has been an integral part of that team’s growth.  His promotion into the role of Network Solutions Group Business Unit Director is well deserved and keeps that group positioned for continued growth and success.”

Corey lives in Newburgh, IN with his wife of eight years and two sons. In addition to enjoying time with his family, Corey is an avid cyclist and fitness enthusiast.

Please join us in congratulating Corey!

Top