Posts Tagged #asug365

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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Business Friends (not an oxymoron)

Today I have to refer to one of my favorite thought leaders: Seth Godin. Seth’s blog today is “Finding Your Peer Group.” I have to tell you that finding my peer group was pivotal to my success and to my level of satisfaction with and – yes – even passion about – my job.

Fourteen years ago I joined our company’s Information Technology (IT) project to deploy new Human Resources software from SAP. To say I couldn’t even spell “SAP” might be an exaggeration, but trust me, I knew nothing.

How I made it thru the project and onward to manage the support team has everything to do with the my peers: people I worked with on the project — the consultants who taught me what they knew, my office colleagues who patiently answered every one of my tedious questions about business processes and the countless other SAP users I met thru an organization called America’s SAP Users Group (ASUG).

What I learned thru my peer groups was that many people had the same questions I had. Others had questions that I could actually answer! My peer group encouraged me to talk about what I know, to write about what I know and to accept a nomination to the ASUG Board of Directors. My peer group agrees with me. And my peer group feels equally challenged to disagree with me. And – you know what? – I appreciate the honest, open feedback, good or bad.

Real business friends will tell you you’re wrong one minute and shake your hand or hug you the next minute.

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#SPOT @ASUG365

You know what I learned this weekend? The power of vulnerability in leadership. When asked to share a personal “fun” item about myself with a crowd this past weekend, I chose to share Spot.

Spot is a stuffed animal. He’s yellow . . . with spots. My grandson, Jadyn, gave me Spot when he heard I was heading out of town for the weekend on business. I don’t think my daughters fully expected me to pack Spot into my suitcase. Never in their wildest dreams did they think I would put him in my purse and take him up on stage with me.

One of the experiences I share with other ordinary leaders is my volunteer stint as a member of the Board of Directors for the American SAP Users Group (ASUG). This past weekend, ASUG volunteers gathered in Fort Worth, Texas, to plan the content for our year-round educational platform and our annual conference. Along with ASUG’s new CEO, Geoff Scott, and other members of the board, I sat on a panel on stage during the opening breakfast where I was asked to share a fun personal item about myself. The night before when we rehearsed for the panel, I was at a total loss for something interesting to share. And then I remembered Spot.

So, Spot shared the stage with me. When I explained why Spot was there and what he meant to me, ripples of whispers and soft laughter echoed throughout the ballroom. The rest of the weekend, I was stopped by other volunteers who either wanted to share their personal story with me or who simply wanted a photo op with Spot.

Spot was a conversation starter. Spot made people act silly. But, more, I think Spot demonstrated that I was just like everyone else who was sitting in the audience – that being up on a stage or holding a title like “Director” meant little difference between me and the rest of the attendees. My willingness to be vulnerable enough to potentially look ridiculous in front of several hundred technical wizards opened doors for me to learn from others, to hear others’ voices, to laugh and have fun.

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