Thomas Edison once said, "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Was he managing a government technology organization?

I recently transitioned from my job as Michigan's chief information security officer to the state's chief technology officer (CTO). This may not seem like much of a change, but I went from managing a security team with 30 staff to directing 800 professionals responsible for all aspects of infrastructure services, including multiple data centers, enterprise architecture, help desks, office automation, technical support and more.

As a former agency CIO during the Y2K days and a private-sector technology director in England, I was confident in my ability to deliver quick, positive change. I came in energized with dreams of grandeur, visions of tech-savvy innovation, e-mails with customer gadget "needs," lists of secure PC and server configurations, magazines full of ideas and a few morale boosters to boot.

Man, was I in for a surprise!

I felt as if I was drinking from a firehose during those first few weeks - so much was coming at me all at once. But along the way, I learned a few things that I hope will help you when transitioning to a new IT role. Here are a few do's and don'ts if you find yourself in a new management job.

Do listen. I was blessed with the fact that Pat Hale, the previous Michigan CTO, was a good friend of mine. We spent almost two weeks working together before he left. Pat filled me in on the good, the bad and the things to watch out for. If you don't know your predecessor, consider giving him or her a call to set up lunch. I also listened closely to my new boss's expectations as well as my direct report's area summaries during transition meetings. Caution: Everyone seemed to have thoughts, but several ideas were contradictory. Find one or two trusted colleagues or mentors and act on their advice.

Don't let your calendar manage you. I quickly learned that my calendar was not my own. Meetings seemed to magically appear out of nowhere, and my schedule was packed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. All of a sudden, every IT vendor in the country wanted a meet and greet. I quickly regained control and blocked off some desk time. I also set meeting priorities with my executive assistant. The result? Some meetings were canceled or moved out, while other high-priority meetings were moved up and given more prep time.

Do deliver low-hanging fruit quickly. First impressions often stick, so making a positive mark during the honeymoon period is key. I quickly determined that assigned tasks had been dropped by staff over the previous several months. A better method of managing actions was needed. I instituted a new process to improve accountability by formally tracking promised deliverables.

Do embrace the unexpected. About three weeks after I started, Michigan was hit with a major zero-day virus outbreak that impacted two of our agencies. I spent three 14-hour days at our department's emergency coordination center directing organizational response. While I didn't ask for that mini crisis, the problems we faced were a blessing in disguise. I was able to display my strongest skills. It was also a great opportunity to grow relationships with all parts of my new organization.

Don't underestimate paperwork and know what you're signing. Org charts, position descriptions, reclassifications, strategic plans, tactical project plans and more were thrown at me on day one. The challenge was knowing what to read, what to skim, when to sign and when to ask more questions. One mistake I made was signing paperwork for a new position that wasn't well justified and didn't meet department guidelines. I assumed the paperwork in front of me matched the good verbal explanation given. I was wrong and got my hand slapped.

Do walk around. I struggled with how quickly to meet with various workgroups and people during the "acting" period, but I ended up getting out and following that age-old advice of "management by walking around." This strategy was definitely beneficial. Decisions look different on the front lines compared to back at headquarters.

One last thought: Thomas Edison succeeded through perseverance. But like the famous inventor, we can't be afraid of making mistakes. Practice makes perfect.


Visit Dan Lohrmann's new blog, Lohrmann on Infrastructure.


Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Contributing Writer

Daniel J. Lohrmann became Michigan's first chief security officer (CSO) and deputy director for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection in October 2011. Lohrmann is leading Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization is providing Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Lohrmann is a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine and “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine.

His Michigan government security team’s mission is to:

  • establish Michigan as a global leader in cyberawareness, training and citizen safety;
  • provide state agencies and their employees with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with state of Michigan assets, property, systems and networks;
  • develop and implement a comprehensive security strategy (Michigan Cyber Initiative) for all Michigan resources and infrastructure;
  • improve efficiency within the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
  • provide combined focus on emergency management efforts.

He currently represents the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) on the IT Government Coordinating Council that’s led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also serves as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission and the Global Cyber Roundtable.

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's chief technology officer and director of infrastructure services administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO and others for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery.

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as the state of Michigan's first chief information security officer (CISO) from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years.

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008.  Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the senior technology executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled The Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 26 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a U.S./UK military facility.

Lohrmann is a distinguished guest lecturer for Norwich University in the field of information assurance. He also has been a keynote speaker at IT events around the world, including numerous SecureWorld and ITEC conferences in addition to online webinars and podcasts. He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs and magazines. Lohrmann writes a bimonthly column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization and securing portals.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The columns here are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the state of Michigan's official positions.

Recent Awards:
2011 Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld
Premier 100 IT Leader for 2010: Computerworld magazine
2009 Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine
Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — April 2008
Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
Information Security Executive of the Year: Central Award 2006