Saturday, March 11, 2006

What's Going On?

Marvin Gaye . . . Man, they don't make 'em like that anymore. Heard it Through the Grapevine . . . How Sweet It Is . . . or my favorite, The Ecology -- better known as Mercy, Mercy, Me . . .

Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be
No, no Where did all the blue sky go?
Poison is the wind that blows
From the north, east, south, and sea

At one level, Marvin's song is about his feelings of powerlessness in the face of ecological destruction. But as with most great songs, it can operate at more than one level.

For me, it also speaks to how uncomfortable change can be. Change can be very exciting, but the uncertainty of it can sometimes knock you off your stride. For some of the folks in IT here at ASU, particularly here in the Computing Commons, the idea of restructuring is proving both exciting and intimidating. Despite assurances that the world isn't going to be turned completely upside down, it's weird when you're not sure what's going to happen next.

So, to borrow from another Marvin Gaye classic, I'll try my best to tell you what's going on...

In the past three weeks, the transition team (Bob Nelson, Sam DiGangi, Sarah Hughes, Max Davis-Johnson, John Rome, and Henry Barto) and I have been reviewing every aspect of how the Central IT group is currently organized -- every aspect of who does what and how. Thanks go out to all the folks who have taken the time to provide their own takes on their individual experiences and skills and give us an outline of their current jobs. That info is proving very helpful and I appreciate the time it took each person to put it together.

Now, as it turns out, fate is offering us an opportunity to be even more thorough in this evaluation work, and with a nice upside. As you may have read in a recent Insight article, all of ASU's eligible salaried employees will have a bigger paycheck starting May 15. The salary increase has two components:

  • a $1,650 general adjustment (prorated for part-time salaried employees) and

  • a merit raise intended to reward significant performance and achievements in the past year.

In order to inform the merit decisions, the UTO team will be doing performance evaluations, which we will aim to complete on or before March 24th. This evaluation process will provide the transition team with even more information, and help clearly communicate to every employee where he or she stands. So personal clarity now has a date and a reason.

Thursday I met with all the members of the management team in UTO to discuss this review process. UTO will be using one of two assessment forms (next year I would hope to standardize on a single approach, but in the interests of time and familiarity ....) Each of these forms provides for a self-assessment and a supervisor's assessment. In addition to comments on various aspects of job performance, every evaluated employee will also receive a clear numerical score: either Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.

As a group, the management team will be striving to apply consistent standards to this numeric feedback. As you know, the university's scale is:

  • Level 1—Responsibilities of position not fulfilled;

  • Level 2—Responsibilities of position fulfilled;

  • Level 3—Responsibilities of position exceeded

Employees who receive a Level 3 rating should take it as a sign of excellence recognized. It is no easy thing to exceed the responsibilities of a position. By contrast, a Level 1 rating is cause for serious concern. So Levels 1 and 3 are pretty clear.

Level 2 is a more complex message. I encouraged the UTO supervisors, in giving a Level 2 rating, to be prepared to indicate whether they feel the employee is a 2, a 2+ or a 2-. A 2+ should be awarded an employee whose performance is at the high end of fulfillment, along with specific recommendations on how to raise their performance to Level 3. A 2- should be given to an employee who, in fulfilling their job duties has issues that, if left uncorrected, threaten their long term ability to continue to perform acceptably.

I hope the folks in UTO use this review period to talk frankly with their supervisors about any concerns and seek advice on career development questions.

Come the end of this month, everyone in UTO should have a good idea of where he or she stands individually. Till then, hang in there, concentrate on doing your best for ASU, and work with your supervisor to get a thorough review.

As far as strategy is concerned, I'll be briefing President Crow's working group 1 this week on my technology strategy recommendations, and later this month -- after incorporating WG-1's -- I'll be briefing University Council. I plan to podcast that session too, to be as open as possible about where we are trying to take technology at ASU.


Jake,  March 12, 2006 at 8:32 PM  

Grades for teachers, I freakin love it. Also, kudos for having the guts to actually offer tangible rewards to teachers that excel at what they do.

Nancy March 20, 2006 at 9:50 AM  

I think that Adrian is actually talking about grading staff during annual performance evaluations. However, as it turns out, ASU teachers ARE graded by students in more ways than one. Teacher evaluations are filled out by students at the end of every semester; I'm not sure how the results are managed and maybe someone else can chime in. But, rather eerily, social software enables online communities like MySpace to compare notes on teachers from any university in the world. You can see grades that students have given teachers from ASU, as well as general info about ASU from a student's point of view.

What makes this eery to me are the problems of privacy and reputation for the instructors. Perhaps, when they became teachers, they never expected to have their teaching performance anonymously critiqued for a global audience. If a student's privacy should be protected by law, why shouldn't a teacher's? We have to think about these things because ignoring them won't make them go away. An inventory of our teenage kin - kids, nieces, brothers and sisters - will reveal that many already participate in online communities. The ethical, legal and safety issues raised by globalizing personal information follow hard on the heels of an obvious and dazzling array of benefits.