Thriving in Trying Times – Ten Lessons Learned

Thriving in Trying Times – Ten Lessons Learned

Nothing feels normal, and we know it won’t be for a while. I know I am not alone. The last time I felt this discombobulated was when my husband passed away in April 1999. Like then, everything around is in turmoil, and I feel at a loss in search of what action to take.
I am like that. I know many of my readers are as well. We tackle our challenges head-on, develop a plan, and take action. We are “get it done” type people. Perhaps it’s the first time in our lives we can’t control the environment around us. Some of us may feel like victims; some of us may want to pretend it is not a problem; some of us are just plain angry.
I was lying awake, during my 3:00 AM worry hour, and I realized that I am feeling a sense of grief. In the silence of the dark, I wondered, “Why grief?”  I don’t know anyone inflicted with Covid-19 much less anyone who has passed away from it. But I do recognize my fear for the well-being of family and friends, especially my siblings, with health conditions that put them at very high risk. I worry about our grandchildren, whom I love beyond comprehension, knowing that the little ones do not understand why I keep fussing over them when they put their fingers in their mouths. I question if I said the right things to answer my eight-year-old granddaughter’s concerns to comfort her worries about whether Grampa and I would be okay. There is a lot to worry about right now.
My feeling of grief were solidified by conversations with family, friends, and clients as they sought comfort and answers to their questions, “Will my company survive?”,  “Will I lose my job?”, “What will happen with the kids schooling?”,  “Am I doing enough to keep my kids safe?”
Yes, I believe we are all feeling a sense of grief.
Grief is often described in stages, though each stage may last for a different period — for some people, the steps may be briefer or more prolonged than for others, and some people may not experience all of them. The five stages of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
  1. Denial: This can’t be happening.
  2. Anger: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?
  3. Bargaining: Make this not happen, and I will do whatever it takes.
  4. Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.
  5. Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I cannot change it.
While the five stages of grief may appear to step in a linear process, they are not. Even Kübler-Ross said that the stages are not meant to package up grief neatly — there is no typical loss and no ordinary or usual way of managing your grief. Grieving is as individual as we are. We all go through grief in our own way. You grieve at the loss of a loved one; you grieve when you lose a job, you grieve when any change we cannot understand or want is thrust upon us.
In the current situation, you may not believe your frustration has anything to do with grief. If that is the case, I ask that you not pass judgment on others as they work through figuring out their path.  We should not be afraid of taking this seriously.  It is serious.
In any case, I offer lessons learned from loss and change experienced from my past.
#1 – Stick to as normal of a routine as possible.  Get up, take a shower, get dressed, make some coffee, and get ready to work. Lounging around in your pajamas all day may sound comfortable, but I have found that if I dress for work, I am more productive.
#2 – Set up and stick to a schedule.  Create a plan for your workday at home that includes a start and end to the day. Staying consistent in the work environment at home is essential to your success and sanity. Refrain from scheduling in household duties. It will only serve to create conflict.
#3 – Create a home office space if you don’t already have one.  Set up a spot in the house and declare it your “office.” You need a workspace as similar as possible to the one you have at your office. Keep the items you need to do your work nearby. If you have a busy and distracting household, make sure you can still focus on the task at hand by talking to the family.  Letting them know how they can and cannot disrupt you through the workday. That will go a long way to making everyone happy.
#4 – Use headphones.  Pull out your headphones for your cell phone, so you can type or take notes during your call. Noise-canceling headphones are even better.
#5 – Go outside.  Social distancing does not mean you can’t take in a breath of fresh air. Leave your home at least once a day and get some fresh air and a new perspective. Take a lunch break, take the kids for a walk around the block or to the neighborhood park. Changing your environment at least once during the day can make you more productive, and the sun will make you raise your endorphins.
#6 – Use technology to communicate.  When working from home, you will need to change how you interact and communicate with your colleagues. Get comfortable with Teams, Skype, Zoom, Google hangouts, or whatever is an online tool of choice. Use video wherever possible!  We may need to be keep a physical distance.  We do not need to keep a social or psychological distance.
#7 – Focus your communications.  In a typical office setting, you may not think about connection because information just flows; everyone is right there. When working from home, you should focus on assuring your communication with key team members and stakeholders regularly. You may need to add more content and context to your communication to ensure the details don’t fall through the cracks.
#8 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive.  Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on the good things. For example, because we are home, we are slowing down the spread of Covid-19. Because of Covid-19, we have more time to spend with the kids.  Because of Covid-19, we can come together as a community to help each other.
#9 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive.  When my husband Tony died in 1999, I was a mess. During grief counseling, the therapist presented me a challenge:
“Now is the time to do something you always wanted to do but found an excuse not to do, perhaps fear, time, or money.”
So, I decided to take up sailing. A love that stayed with me until I chose to move to the desert. How about if you use this time for reflection and learning?  Think about it; this may be the perfect time to take up learning a new language, pick up that guitar sitting in the corner collecting dust, or merely read that stack of books that is waiting for you.
#10 – Trust and believe you will survive this.  Acknowledging that you may experience some or all these stages will help you understand what may be happening. Know that your feelings are reasonable, and it’s important to remember that at some point, it will get better. Most important take care of yourself and your family along with support for your friends and community. You may not get over your loss, but you will survive it.
In closing
We have the choice as to how we will react to situations in our life. We can either let them beat us down or teach us a hard lesson and grow from them. Choose to keep going even when it seems hard or impossible; there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You will come out the other side a better person for it.
If you ever just need to talk, give me a call. Please trust my offer has no sales strings attached. This is not the time that anyone with honor should be bothering CIO’s and IT Executives with sales calls.
Take care, be safe and wash your hands often.

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 [email protected]

Let’s Talk sponsored by an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Tech Refresh – Yes, it is still a requirement

Tech Refresh – Yes, it is still a requirement

Just like your car, just like your home, just like everything physical you own – IT Infrastructure will wear out, and it will break. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stepped into the head of IT Infrastructure role to find hardware upwards of 10 plus years old installed and supporting mission-critical applications with the business suffering under far too frequent Sev 1 outages.  Nothing erodes confidence in IT more than critical service outages. No one is interested in talking strategy or innovation with the CIO when core IT Services are not on solid footing.

Before you say, “That does not happen these days, everyone hosts their servers at AWS, Azure, Google, etc. “, please read the February 26 Tending the Plumbing article. According to a 2019 Spiceworks State of IT Budgets  article, 20 percent of IT budgets are spent on IT infrastructure. The 2019 Spiceworks research also shows the current reality is that 98 percent of businesses are running server hardware on-premise. (That is not to say 98 percent of servers are on-premise. It does not matter if you have one or two servers, or hundreds, if you are an organization of any size, you will have network equipment.)

What is IT Infrastructure again? 

IT infrastructure is the shared technology resources that provide the platform for the firm’s specific information system applications. IT infrastructure includes hardware, software, and services that are shared across the entire firm as well as access to external services such as web-hosted applications and services. Major IT infrastructure components include computer hardware platforms, operating system platforms, enterprise software platforms, networking and telecommunications platforms, database management software, Internet platforms, and consulting services and systems integrators, including desktop and mobile devices and software. Virtually, everything digital requires direct support or access supported by IT infrastructure. It is often the largest area of spending by an IT department.
There are four significant steps to an infrastructure roadmap approach:
  1. Established IT infrastructure lifecycle refresh strategy
  2. Identify current IT Infrastructure inventory
  3. Risk assessment
  4. Prioritizing IT Infrastructure Roadmap

IT Infrastructure Lifecycle Refresh Strategy

IT Infrastructure is comprised of hardware, software, and services shared across all platforms.
The hardware and software lifecycle is dependent on the supplier’s support plans and the company’s needs and wants to adopt the functionality and capability of more current versions.
Hardware is typically refreshed based on acquisition strategies (capital versus expense) against risk tolerance, resource capacity, and expense management requirements and will vary based on hardware categories. I’ve always used a general rule of thumb for budget planning:
  • PC’s: 36 months
  • Servers: 60 months
  • Routers/Switches 72 months
Like all rules of thumb, rules will be broken based on business growth and variables not always under IT controls.   A  sophisticated perspective of hardware refresh cycles can be found at

IT Infrastructure Inventory

First and foremost, your IT strategy and roadmap should include Infrastructure.   A good plan starts with understanding the current state, including an inventory of all things managed.  We want to hope that everyone has a robust configuration management database in place, but we know all too well that is often not the case.  At minimal, an asset inventory is required. If you don’t have one, you will need to create one utilizing a series of tools such as Microsoft’s SCCM, Solarwinds, and other asset management tools.


Fortunately, asset management tools such as Snow, Flexera, and ServiceNow are being challenged by many newcomers to the asset management space


Unfortunately, in some environments, there may be mission-critical IT equipment not attached to the network requiring a physical inventory exercise.  I’ve found this to be the norm in a manufacturing environment.  At a minimum, it is essential to research.

While gathering the physical attributes of the hardware will require identifying the services hosted, the install date and installed OS, utilities, and application software versions.  The service support lifecycle of both the hardware and OS should also be noted.  (Heads Up: Most of the time, this level of inventory rigor reveals configuration items underutilized, no longer relevant or never fully implemented.  That in itself is an excellent reason to build the inventory)
Once you have a substantial inventory, the next step will be to assess the risks associated with the individual pieces of hardware and software.

Risk Assessment 

Prioritization for executing refresh will be based on the risk associated with each inventory item.  Assessing the risk is a bit of art combine with science. Your assessment should take into consideration the business risk and technology risks of the current state. From a business risk perspective, you will want to weigh and assess the capacity and  maintenance cost.  Regulator compliance, and any health and safety risks the age and state of the hardware may imply.

From a technical perspective, vendor support quality, availability, service reliability. The complexity of support, including skill sets required, security, performance, standards conformations, and overall vendor security and performance characteristics, weigh into your overall assessment.

To add to this already multi-dimensional assessment, application projects in process as well as planned layered onto critical business calendar events must be identified as they will influence the timing and order of refresh activities.


Prioritization and Refresh Roadmap

This big picture holistic approach of identifying the landscape and assessing risk will prepare you for defining your technology refresh roadmap.  The roadmap will be a series of projects laid out across multiple years.  I have found managing the refresh projects grouped by technology as a program to be the best practice as the interdependencies can become unwieldy.  If the organization does not have an infrastructure project management life cycle, one can typically be developed using the existing waterfall systems development lifecycle.  The point here is the necessity of establishing the rigor of requirements, phase gates, resources management, change management, timelines, and success factors.

In Closing

It is simple, at the same time hard. Hard because it is not fun, often results in unplanned work and expense, and most importantly does not offer an apparent return to the business – until something critical breaks.  My advice to you is: Don’t be that CIO or IT Infrastructure leader left to account for allowing the company to be put at risk.  Call me if you want to discuss more or are looking for hands-on help in addressing your refresh requirements. That is not me, but I am sure I can recommend qualified resources.

Until March 25, have a great two weeks!