Archive for category Motivation

Back to School for a Lesson in Failure

I recently completed a 3 year project which – according to client requirements – should have been done 2 years ago. Hey, I’d like to say that good things take time! But the truth is that sometimes life – and IT project execution – is just unpredictable. And painful. But – ever the optimist – throughout the three years, I tried to find the sunny spot in the gloom of our basement project room. And today I’m asking myself “what did I learn?”

You cannot deliver on something you do not know.
Seek out experts, get training for yourself and your team. Classroom training is not enough. For me, I learned the most from my network of connections I had built over the years through my engagement in a professional community – the Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG). Collaboration with others outside of my own usual comfort zone – across companies and within my own company – helps me to shift paradigms, and, in this case, helped me to question my own design and to rethink the possibilities.

Expectations are sneaky.
Expectation – noun – a belief that someone will or should achieve something. We IT people like things that are concrete – you know, “If x, then y, else z…”. As Project Managers and Business Analysts, we follow plans and processes, carefully sequenced and timed. We define scope and lock it down. What is impossible to manage are the expectations of a variety of stakeholders – each with different concerns. In my case, Legal wanted the solution delivered fast. Business areas didn’t want productivity disrupted. Administration wanted something that would require little manual intervention (add time to the project plan here!). Human Resources wanted a solution that employees would like (add more time to the project plan). IT, of course, wanted us to stay on time and within budget. I understood all these expectations. What we missed was how difficult it would be to keep those expectations from creeping back into the project even after we had all agreed some things would simply not be done within the parameters of this project. There’s only one way (in my humble opinion) to prevent being sidetracked by expectations: that is, have one single person as the ultimate decision maker.

“Failure is delay, not defeat.” – Denis Waitley.
Despite your best laid plans and past successes, sometimes you simply fail to meet everyone’s expectations, the timeline or the budget. But I refused to admit defeat.  We missed the two scheduled release dates. We went over our original budget by a significant number. Despite the pressure from management on those two points, our team persevered in finding the right solutions. With my sense of integrity intact, I suggested a redesign of the solution – thereby removing many of the hurdles that were getting in the way of expectations — some of which were pretty important expectations. No one applauded or sent bonuses my way when we were done. But I have the satisfaction of knowing I did the very best I could and that what I delivered really did remove potential issues for our buisness.

Denis Waitly said “Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” I don’t think I can be accused of any of that. The entrepreneurial spirit in me still prefers to challenge the status quo, longs to innovate, and is okay with taking a calculated risk. I have raised two daughters who were at times scared to fail. And everyday, with every new decision they faced, I would say, “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if you try that?” I have never received an answer to that question from either one of them. And so now I am going to take a page from my daughter’s playbook at Blondes Have More Run  and leave us all with the following.

Excuse me now, but i have to keep going!

fearspartan

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Reputation

A marketing campaign from the 1970s is being credited today with aptly capturing the spirit of today’s social media. “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…” I could not remember the name of the product the campaign advertised until I “Googled” it today – and that’s because it was the theme that resonated with me.

In everything we do personally or professionally, we build our reputation one brick at a time. The best university or the right degree might earn a “foot into the door.” Crowdfunding might provide the impetus to starting your own business. Having friends in the right places might kickstart a career. Credibility is what keeps you there.

Personally, I have been told “not to care so much” (about a project or other effort in which I might be engaged). Certainly, managing what you care about and when you care about it is an art. And there may be a fine line between knowing when to fan the fire and when to put it out. But I choose not to live in mediocrity.

Whatever we do should be done with passion. Passion is noticed. Passion can’t be ignored. Passion puts our own personal stamp on everything we do. Passion is memorable.

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Blissfully Unaware

In 1999 I had just been thru a divorce, was forced to move from part-time to full-time work, moved into a new home and was raising my daughters, ages six and nine, most of the time on my own. Did I mention I also started an entirely new job? . . . In Information Technology (IT)? . . . On a special project to implement SAP Software? If you have ever worked in IT on the implementation of new software, then you know how much effort, attention to detail and long, unexpected hours it can take.

I, on the other hand, had no idea. I was blissfully unaware.

My job on the IT project team was to translate the business I knew well (employee benefits) into something that would work in the new system (which I didn’t know at all). I sped through an introduction to SAP class; traveled to Boston for a week of intensive training on SAP benefits and then was placed in an office with a consultant to begin to build the system. In just three short months, I was told, I would present what we developed to management. (Even now I am laughing my head off at the prospect that was placed before me.)

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Was I scared? No. Terrified might be the better word.

The thing about the project is that no one else really knew what they were doing either. It was a great workplace leveler. All at once, all of us had exactly the same knowledge and experience: We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were forced to rely on each other and our own wits to solve issues. We had to question everything. Gone were the days when we knew our jobs and knew (rather instinctively) what to do. Gone were the days of sitting in our own cublicles busily creating and solving issues independently. We needed each other.

I learned more in 1 year than I had in the past five years.

Mostly I learned that the workplace benefits the most when each of its contributors work together like connecting gears on a well-oiled machine. And when our employer benefits, we all benefit.

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Doing more than showing up

When I get ready for work in the morning – or even Sunday night before my work week starts – I do a little bit of mental preparation about the day ahead. What’s on my calendar? Who will need what from me? Should I research or read anything before a particular meeting?

The point is to show up prepared — prepared to contribute your best to whatever activity in which you will engage.

As I know from my daughter (http://www.blondeshavemorerun.com/) – but certainly not from my own experience – runners prepare fastidiously for every event – often for months in advance. Runners don’t just show up.

Recently, a Frontier Airlines pilot (GMA 7/9/2014) did way more than anyone expected in terms of showing up. He bought pizza.

In a rare demonstration of passion and commitment to one’s job, Captain Gerhard Brandner took his own initiative to call Dominos and order pizza for the 160 passengers and crew onboard a flight that was already two hours delayed and had been sitting on the runway for over an hour.

The little things are sometimes the big things. And in all things, the people you work with and for are the most important.

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