Tag Archives: work

Back to the Future!

backtothefuture.jpgAround 2002 I was selected as part of an experimental group to create an internal consulting group.  Something like the “Big Four”, but without the constant loss of institutional knowledge.

This past Monday I re-joined the company as the head of that group!

Honestly, I’m very excited about it.  

The team has such incredibly deep knowledge that it’s somewhat daunting as I’m probably the least intelligent person in the room 99% of the time.  That said I have something most of them don’t.  No, it’s not my amazing good looks, it is my age!

All of the group are younger than me, several by a couple of decades.  I had to explain to one of the more “senior” members on Friday what backup tapes were!  (sic)

But I remember being their age too.  I remember being a cocky sh**, full of piss and vinegar, and wondering why we needed all these “old people”.  My technical expertise was top notch and people wanted me.  Why did I need to be nice to people?

image_cbff354b-879a-4001-beab-9e4e1ad4f78e20170214_110055.jpgOver the years, I have learned many lessons the hard way.  

I learned that emotional intelligence is worth more than technical expertise.

I learned that keeping a secret is worth more than blabbing to show you are in the loop.

I learned that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. And that asking for help is a gift to the helper and the helped.

I learned to give first without expecting something in return.

I learned to say “thank you”, and mean it.

I learned that my word is, and must always be, my bond.

I learned to give credit often and publicly.

I learned that mistakes happen and the only people not making mistakes are the ones not doing anything new, hard or innovative.

I learned that opportunities are often enshrouded with hassle, perceived risk and the need to overcome inertia.

I learned to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that should accept assistance when it is offered.

And so we embark on a new journey together.

The group is in an interesting place today.  It is really a collection of individual contributors rather than a team.  Smart, talented, and energetic individuals for sure.  But I think we can build something truly amazing if we can learn to support each other more.

Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.  If we can recognize that, learn to trust and lean on each other, and learn to ask for help when we need it then the group is destined to be something truly amazing.  I hope I’m up to the task of helping them on that journey.

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Management F-Laws

Anyone that sees my Goodreads feed will see that I regularly post updates of books that I am reading / have read.

This year I’ve read 20 books so far, and yet one book has been on my “currently reading” list for several years.  This is all the more surprising when you consider that the book in question is only 162 pages of relatively large print.  

Am I that slow a reader?

Well…yes is the answer to that question.  But there’s more to it than that.

mflThe book is called Management F-Laws by Russell Ackoff and is described as “A full collection of more than 80 of Russell Ackoff’s management f-laws: the uncomfortable truths about how organizations really work, what’s wrong with the way we design and manage businesses, what makes managers tick… and how we can make things work better.” and therein lies the problem.

Every time I pick up this book I read just two pages and ideas pop into my head sending me off writing a new blog post, updating some piece of work or just discussing the idea with anyone who happens wander nearby…often my long suffering children.

So, after several years, I’m about half way through the book which, in a very strange way, is the about the best recommendation I can give for it!

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Who’s Grass is Greener?

Some time ago I was talking with a friend who was pretty fed up with her job.

grass_is_greenerDespite the fact that her work was intellectually engaging, provided interaction with interesting people, and the autonomy to do things the way she wanted to do them, there were some niggling chronic issues that were bothering her.

She was starting to become disengaged or, as she put it, “The grass elsewhere is looking pretty green these days.”

That reminded me of a quote and so I told her “Your grass would be just as green if you would water it once in a while.”

She looked at me with a mix of shock and surprise, then laughed and said “You know…you’re right!”

She’s still at the same place and every so often I get a ping from her saying “Still watering that grass!”

If you’re starting to feel like a change, look around you.  Is the situation really that bad that you can’t fix it with some care and feeding?  Would the change elsewhere be better than the change you can make in your own back yard?

Keep watering that grass and see what you can grow!

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When Great is Too Good

Some time ago Joanne’s computer started crashing frequently and running slowly.  When she took off for a visit to see family in British Columbia, I took the opportunity to check it over and discovered that her hard drive was failing.

Since the drive was a mess, I didn’t want to just clone it.  Instead I carefully backed up all of her files and then, over the course of several days, performed a fresh install of Windows and all of her software onto the new drive – a laborious task involving a never-ending cycle of installs and reboots.

I took care to put everything back exactly as it was before, right down to the desktop picture and location of the icons.  And that was my mistake…  After my hours of dedicated, painstaking work, Joanne came home and carried on using the computer as before – sans the crashes.  I looked on proudly, awaiting my kudos but none were forthcoming.  When I [slightly peevishly] pointed out that I had completely replaced the hard drive, Joanne merely replied, “Oh, thank you.” and that was it.

WHAT???  No adoring hugs and kisses, no offers to cook my favorite meal, and no mention of slipping into “something more comfortable“.  Clearly the amount of effort that went into making the whole thing seamless was not coming through.

At home I can take the fact that Joanne felt zero pain as a sign that I did a good job.  But what about in the work environment?

When the end of year when bonuses are being handed out, don’t you want people to remember something of your valuable contributions?

Telling people about your hard work and technical prowess generally isn’t appreciated, so you need to find more subtle ways to get credit.  Ironically, that sometimes means doing less than a perfect job.

I’ll give you an example.  On a business trip, I stayed in a hotel where they had treated the mirror with something that stopped it from fogging.  But they didn’t treat the whole mirror, just a large square in the middle, and I really appreciated having that square of visibility.  I was impressed that they had gone to the extra effort.  But would I have even noticed if the mirrors were completely fog free?  Unlikely.

If you are adding new functionality, then getting noticed is easy.  But if you are performing maintenance type activities, or are involved in something that aids efficiency, then you need to find other ways to be appreciated. That might mean making subtle, but obvious, changes just so that people know that things are from  “the new system“.

Occasionally the only option is to tell someone about the great work you did.  If you have to ‘toot your own horn’, then see if you can find a way to weave that narrative into the day-to-day work.  Tools that automatically notify people when jobs are complete are great for this (Jira would be a good example) – after all, it wasn’t you that notified people.

The sad fact is that excellent work often goes unnoticed simply by virtue of it looking easy.

Finding ways to get credit for what you do is tricky but, whatever you do, please try to be subtle – no-one likes a braggart.  If you do it right then you’re hard work will be noticed and, who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself sitting down to your favorite, home-cooked meal.

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