Baking That Perfect Cake (or how to strategically bake in techie goodness)

I love to cook. It’s one of my obsessions. It’s probably no surprise to those that know me, two of my favorite things about cooking are that there’s structure of a recipe, but also the freedom to experiment to get exactly my own personal spin on things.

Baking is something quite different. There you have to follow the rules, sometimes exactly or it can turn into a big nightmare. Or flat cookies. Or into a “nailed it” post for Pinterest. At least that’s what I thought until I spoke more about the mystery of baking to my grannie.

I’m from a big family, and when I say big, I mean like a “small” gathering for us, is 150 people. Holidays and big functions like weddings, funerals, Cowboy football…well, let’s just say we bring the party. My grannie, matriarch of all that is mighty, has specific recipes for both the savory and the sweet goods we serve at these events. Over the years, collective members of the family have tried to adjust the recipes. For the cooking portions, it’s not been so bad. We’ve had some great Thanksgiving dressing or bar-b-q sauce interpretations. For the baking though, it’s really not been quite as big a success. One of my aunts finally asked her mother why exactly her pies/cake/fudge turned out better than theirs. Grannie replied “Baking isn’t just about following the recipe, it’s about making sure you know exactly what you want and have an idea of how to get there. The recipe only tells you so much.”

Which to those of us who were sure it was just that darn recipe, were then flummoxed.

But, the more I think about it, she’s right. Baking is really a strategic thing. Cooking, you can come at a lot of it as you go. You have a basic idea of what you want to make, but you don’t necessarily need specific ingredients to make a masterpiece meal unless you’re Martha Stewart. Baking, you need the right tools, ingredients, time, presentation, etc and that’s not done without forethought. To get really good, you also need practice and sometimes (if your fudge is like mine) you need training.

At my organization, we preach that technology is not just the shiny tool you see come out in a new release. It’s not just a tactic you employ when you do a thing. Neither is it just a strategy you think up when you’re creating a thing. Technology is a much larger than that. It’s baked into everything we do really. And many times, I think we forget how tied in we all are and assume that we can do things without really putting some kind of strategic plan (even a small one) into place, and making sure that the redundancies built into that bad boy are plentiful.

Seattle Schools recently realized this, although you know somewhere on their IT staff, is a person shaking his/her first, both in triumph and in dread for the amount of job security and work now in place.  The new software system they deployed at the beginning of the school year was supposed to help provide a better connection between the school, the faculty, and the student families. Instead, because of delays in deployment, poor training, and what appears to a lack of strategic long term tech planning, there are multiple issues and confusions circulating in all user groups.

The quote “I’m actually surprised it’s going so well” came out of one of the Seattle schools’ statements. Which on its own makes me sad for them.  And in light of the threatened teacher strike, budget cuts, and overall increased standardized fun that all schools have been struggling with these last 24+ months, it’s understandable. But although schools, like nonprofits, have scarcity of resources, both in people and money, it’s important to remember that even a team of one (or a well-hired consultant) can help make instances like this article moot.

Make a commitment and always encourage strategic technology planning at every level of your work, so that never again will we see this kind a case study for why it’s important to bake that tech into everything you do. It’s always more work but it keeps you for having to post that kind of photo or conference session that we’ve all seen, probably been part of, and hope to do better next time. Also, shameless plug? Need some help in learning how to manage your strategy and tech…why NTEN’s got those resources and community just waiting for you.

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