Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

High touch vs the System

Maybe all systems with human beings are like this to some degree, but there are tangles that can be unraveled with either a billion emails OR five minutes on the phone. There are times when all the databases and trouble tickets and email confirmations in the world can’t provide the visceral satisfaction that yes, your problem was heard and you are a person deserving of time and attention.

We’re a very distributed team, we really only come together for one big weekend a year. It’s amazing that, with so little face to face time, we don’t have even more miscommunications and upsets than we do.

Thinking about the Debrief

Every year the convention has a debrief for staff after the convention in which we attempt to talk about what has happened in the organizational year  and  find out the lessons learned. I don’t know if I could possibly have resisted posting about it before.  It’s pure candy for those of us who are totally fascinated with how the wheels work behind the scenes.

I say “attempt” because while we do collect a large amount of valuable information, it’s a very formal meeting without a lot of give and take.  Sort of “debrief theater”  rather than the real work of figuring out how to change.  (There are reasons not to do that work in a group of 100 people, for one thing the meeting has to end before midnight,  but I do wonder if there are other ways to make that meeting actually productive.)

But that’s not what I want to write about today.   I have been in the part of the project where I’m severely self-critical of everything that is going askew in the planning, and as there are too many details for any one person to possibly know about and there are lots of people trying to work together with incomplete information and not enough time,  well…   things go awry. Askew. In error.  Pear-shaped.  Less than optimally.   Dead wrong, even.  All the time.  Every day.   And so I am thinking, often, of the retrospective prime directive as found in the  Agile programming community:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand. 

As useful as these words are in guiding my interactions with others,  it’s grace to be able to believe that they apply to me as well.


Silent resignations

Somewhere out there is Schroedinger’s Volunteer.  Maybe she’s  doing the job and maybe she isn’t, who knows because there’s been total silence.  No bad news but no good news either.

When you ask this volunteer for a status update and then find out that, in fact, nothing is happening — “too much life” is the usual excuse — not only are you down one on the team, but precious weeks have gone by and problems are harder to fix.

Silent resignations of this type are the worst, because for me they damage my trust in the team as a whole and leave me wondering “What else don’t I know?” .

Seriously folks, if you’re not going to do a job or you can’t do a job, just tell someone.  That may be damaging to your pride in the moment, but it’s far less damaging to the team than not doing something and letting people discover the fact later on.  Specifically, waiting until someone asks you for an update and then letting them know that, in your mind you quit the project 2 weeks ago?  Not cool.