While in college, one of the books that I was required to read for one of my business management classes was “Thriving on Chaos, Handbook for a Management Revolution.” The book was written by acclaimed author Thomas Peters. “Thriving on Chaos” had a profound and lasting impact on me and it’s still a work that sits prominently on the shelf in my office as I have occasion to refer to it from time to time.
Written in 1987, “Thriving on Chaos” outlines “45 prescriptions specifying what managers must do to survive and flourish in tomorrow’s chaotic environment.” Given that I graduated from college 30 years ago, “tomorrow” actually occurred long ago. That said, the book’s concepts still have relevance and as I reflect on the prescriptions outlined in the book, I find that the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) has actually modeled many of them.
“Launch a Customer Revolution” and “Listen/Celebrate/Recognize” – As readers of this blog are aware, MTI embarked on a thorough 15-month strategic planning effort a couple years ago that focused on the customer and included many opportunities for customers to weigh-in on MTI’s programs and processes. After listening intently, MTI eventually operationalized the plan and it led to a completely new approach to funding innovation in Maine. That approach is customer-centric and tailored to the needs of our applicants.
“Involve Everyone in Everything,” “Defer to the Front Line,” and “Delegate” – MTI is a nimble and talented group of staffers, board members and subject matter experts and, as a manager, I consistently defer to, and include, everyone in all decisions and programmatic changes. All members of the team have unique perspectives and knowledge that help improve programs, procedures, and processes. Many of the changes included in MTI’s new approach to funding innovation evolved from pilot projects that were suggested by members of the MTI team and that had been tested for months and, in some cases, years before the new funding approach was adopted. The folks on the front lines often know best and that adage has been proven many times over at MTI.
“Eliminate Bureaucratic Rules” and embrace “Liberation Through the Elimination of Excessive Procedures” – During strategic planning, we heard from many of MTI’s customers that MTI’s application process was overly bureaucratic, excessively long and oftentimes unpredictable. While a work in progress, our new funding approach streamlines processes, shortens decision timelines, and brings about more predictability. These changes have been warmly received by Maine’s innovators.
“Pay Attention” and “Measure What’s Important” – A significant improvement in MTI’s new processes includes better data collection and tracking of systemic inputs and outputs. Working in collaboration with the Data Innovation Project at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, MTI is working to develop a performance measurement plan to help enhance our organizational capacity to better measure the impact of our funding on technology-based economic development in Maine. This plan will align with one of MTI’s strategic goals to accurately “measure and monitor impact to influence decision making and direction setting and communicate results.” I am excited to collaborate with the Data Innovation Project and look forward to better measuring, and reporting on, our impact across the State of Maine.
JOIN OUR TEAM
During this period of rapid change at MTI, we have truly been immersed in a somewhat chaotic environment. While the team has been “involved in everything” it has become apparent that our new funding approach is straining the organization’s bandwidth. As a result, we are presently looking to hire another MTI Investment Officer and a Lending & Grants Associate.
As you know, MTI helps foster and facilitate the creativity and inventiveness of Mainers by funding innovations developed by Maine tinkerers in garages all the way up to large public companies, world renowned research organizations and academic institutions. If you have the ability to “thrive on chaos” and want to be part of a passionate and committed team of professionals helping to diversity and grow Maine’s economy, please look for our job posting on Indeed.com or email me personally to express interest. We are looking to make hiring decisions in February so please don’t delay.