Not Ready, Agile versus Half Baked

This week, I got nothing. Nothing is ready for posting. Sure, I have three partial posts with great themes, a day of hooky, discussion versus decision and the feeling of joy when you find out, it’s not just you. So what? Nothing is ready for this week’s post. The last couple of weeks at work, I’ve maniacally researched, questioned and shown a new program is not ready for release. The implementation team discounted my findings.

“This development is agile and this release is a minimum viable product, like a cake with no icing. The icing comes later”

“But your cake is not baked; you have nothing to serve.”

I struggled with all the unusable content I wrote this week until I realized I had three bowls of cake batter (three drafts) and no cake (finished post.) My ego is mad at me. We failed, we should make one of the three drafts work, but there isn’t enough time. My ego focused on expectations and plans.

How often do you say “not ready?”  Does it mean not a team player, not trying hard enough, not going to keep a job with that attitude? When I declared my work “not ready,” something happened. Acknowledging “not ready” a new option appeared. As I wrote the first two lines confessing “not ready,” a new theme emerged.  “Not ready” just means you’re not ready according to plan,  it doesn’t mean there is not a solution. Throwing out what doesn’t work offers freedom of finding what does.

Do You See What I See: Prevention versus Recovery

Me, “Wait, you were pumping gas at 5:30 am and someone opened the door and stole your iPad off the passenger seat?”

James, “Yes, and I’m in small remote town.

David, “The security cameras that caught it, right? The police can see who did it.”

James, “Not really, the image on the camera wasn’t good. Whoever did it avoided the camera.”

Me, “You mean someone was watching you, waited until you started pumping gas and stole you iPad?”

James, “Yes and the door was left open so I wouldn’t hear it close

Me, “What? That means that person has done this before, Creepy, someone was watching you, at 5:30 am and stole your iPad while you were pumping gas. I have no words.”

Lori, “Do the police think you will get your Pad back?

We got the same facts but our reactions were very different,  I focused on prevention and my peers, David and Lori were focused on forensics and recovery. It’s a great reminder, we can all see and hear the same thing and have an entirely different perspective. Often we spend time debating what we say are the “facts” when it’s not the facts that are in dispute, it is our point of views. While we often say from my point of view, how often do we stop to acknowledge the ferocity of another’s point of view, given the same set of facts? There is no easy answer for this one. It’s just a reminder for me, in various situations, everyone has the same facts the reaction is just different. While my modus operandi is to repeat the facts, it is not the facts that are in dispute.

As the conversation about the iPad heist continued,  I repeated the facts expecting my peers to share my sense of creepiness. Lori and David stayed focus on recovery,  Lori asked if the find my iPad app was used to locate the stolen property. This week is just an observation and a reminder, people can see or hear the same event and have differing point views. And with that, I’ll just relax and enjoy my view.

Half Truths: Exhaustion, Vacations and Lipstick

Leaving to spend time with family and hospitalized for exhaustion. Recognize these as code speak? In the business world, an executive is “fired” but the reason is given as spend time with family. A celebrity parties to hard or has a drug overdose the reason is the half truth of hospitalized for exhaustion. This is positive publicity to cover a negative situation. It’s “spin.” In December of 2014, Tesla said it missed 4Q deliver predictions because customers were on vacation and could not accept delivery.
Imagine a new person come in and with no other detail than we missed numbers because people were on vacation and could not accept delivery. The new person would pitch “virtual delivery.” When your car arrives, our concierge will take you through a visual inspection of your vehicle and use an e-signature to accept. or deliver directly to you. Specify where you will be and we’ll bring the car to you for your acceptance then ship to you. Basically introducing new complex projects that address the spin that cover up the more probable problem a manufacturing capacity issues.
In March of 2015, Macy’s said it’s sales were low because their typical shopper …likes going to the off-price retailers because she doesn’t have to put lipstick on,” What would happen if a new person in charge of sales comes in and hears this and nothing else except the root cause of the problem is shoppers don’t want to wear lipstick. Queue up a huge campaign that invites women to shop without lipstick, we don’t care how you look, we care how you buy, come shop with us, Oh wait, we have to spin that, we embrace your inner beauty, let your skin breathe and your essence glow. Enjoy our judgment free beauty zone for your shopping experience, Now it starts to sound downright silly.
With Macy’s and Tesla, there is a good chance no one acted to solve the “spin” problem, those are rather obvious. But, what happens on a smaller scale, internally? What happens when organizations believe the spin? It obfuscates the problem and sends people working on non-existent problems while the real issues get worse. Why? No one wants to report bad news and when a group finds a clever way to say, cut costs, they aren’t going say, hey, we just slashed our budget by 50% by putting our work on someone else. No they build a business case that starts the spin cycle. Think about self checkout. Wow, the spin is, get out of the store faster, do it yourself. The true business value saves the store money, it may or may not save you time.

This week, I saw two different projects at work with the “spin issue.”“spin issue.” The project leaders are new to the organization and don’t know what to ask. While there are moments when things do seem a bit confused, the new people tell themselves, this is because I’m new and I don’t fully understand all of this yet. The fact is, in one case, an application went away without a replacement. Of course, that wasn’t what was presented wasn’t presented that way. The business case presented beautifully laid out scenario, so clever over a two-year period and resources changes, it became easy to assume “the details” were being handled by some other group.

If you’re new, ask the questions. Believe it or not, you’re in the best place to see what works and hear what sounds like fiction. If you know the history, you can start to unravel the spin. Trace the history, list all problems and issues. Identify which problems the “spin” addresses and raise questions about the problems it doesn’t. For the retail example, the spin possibly addressed the millennial women, but what about the other age groups who also so a drop in? Finally, if you are leading a project of spin, do the previous step and introduce the root cause(s) so the team has an awareness and examines the data. For example, while it may seem people were unable to accept cars because of vacations, did we miss the delivery date, to begin with? Could that many people have scheduled the delivery of a new car when they had planned to be on vacation? been on vacation? You are going to have to work a little harder to shift the focus from the perceived problem to the real problem. You may not be able to change the direction of the project, but you can document.

1. Document assumptions. Typically, these are things you believe true and if not, would impact the entire project. In this case, you will need to document the things people believe true and have a meeting to validate the assumptions. Determine the impact of those that are false to the project. For example, one assumption is funding is available. If funding is not, document that as an issue.
2. Document risks. Look at all the issues. What is the impact to the project? What is the risk to the success of the project.? Include the probability (very likely, most likely…) and the impact (high, medium or low.)

Bringing the issues and some type of risk mitigation and contingency plan forward to your executive sponsors can at least help you and your team move forward. There are times when spin is out of your control. Acknowledge it for what it is and move on. The spin is out of your control.
Growing up, my mom put a spin on liver. To get my sibling to eat liver, she said liver is meat flavored bubble gum. So my brilliant brother chewed a few times and spit it out because you don’t swallow bubble gum. You don’t ingest the bubblegum and you don’t feed off of the spin.

Sunsets, Wants and Needs

There is that moment when I am barely awake and I want to stay in curled up in bed, but I need to go the bathroom. Need wins and I get up immediately. Today, the need is losing. I want to relax. I want to do nothing all day and sit on the balcony and watch the sunset. However, I really need to do my taxes. But, unlike the morning’s bio urgency, there no immediate consequence if I don’t do my taxes. There is no priority unless I say, I will do my taxes today. Which I sort of did and then immediately I rationalized why I should I go out for breakfast first.

In the battle of want versus need, want is pretty powerful. Want disguises itself as a rationale. I rationalized I need breakfast because the protein would help me think, then a walk to the pier would settle my breakfast, and now that I’m tired from breakfast and a walk, a little rest will refresh me and now that I’m stiff from all that walking and sleeping, yoga will help my body. I can and I have rationalized myself through an entire day, an entire week and not gotten work done. Not todayAfter breakfast, I recognized the clever ruse of want. No more rationalization, I went home and worked on my taxes.

Do you rationalize your wants to the detriment of your needs? Are there things you need to get done, that somehow, because you don’t want to do it, other things have taken priority? Stop it. Yes, most of the time, there are things we prefer to do versus the things we need to do. Suck it up, buttercup* A slight revision of the poets Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, …you can’t always do what you want, but try, try, try, to do what you need. The funny thing about needs, it seems you have all this time to get it done and it’s a lot like sunset. It seems like you have all day, but the window to see the sunset is short and before you know it, you’re left in the dark.

 

*One of the best things you can say to someone who has dug themselves a nice, deep hole, and has fallen right into it.

Crazy Time, March Madness, and uhhhhh I forgot

Crazy Time. Oh yes, you’ve been in it. A meeting goes on to long and people start talking crazy. Unfortunately, crazy talk has gotten confused with “innovative ideas” and “out of the box” thinking. If you watch small kids, when they get tired, but fear they may miss something, they do everything they can to stay awake.  They start acting crazy; running, jumping, screaming to keep themselves awake and engaged. Adults, are pretty much the same. Exhausted people need to keep themselves awake and engage and crazy time commences. This is not productive for meeting behavior and the meeting needs to stop; the crazy talk that loses sight of the oil and delves into minutiae starts. This inane rambling is not brainstorming. People need to take a break, rest and come back after ideas have marinated. While in sports, there is a shot clock in increase the pace and scoring of the game. In business, we need a  crazy clock too, to improve the sanity and effectiveness of ideas and to maximize performance. The crazy clock mandates, after a certain period of time, the madness stops.

In the past few weeks, of installing dimmer switches, replacing a thermostat, grouting the shower and general unpacking. I have observed my crazy time in real-time. It’s not pretty. Trying a ninja move for grout removal made me accidentally turn the shower on and once the floor was wet, I slammed into the rear wall, in a move put my knee in an abnormal contortion. Hence, I made mistakes, damaged things that weren’t broken and caused personal injury.

There comes a point when crazy time creeps in and I’m better off just stopping. So for this afternoon, one of my favorite pass times – March Madness—NCAA basketball. No more work today, just time to sit in my chair and watch basketball. Today, the only crazy will be March Madness and maybe my armchair athletics. Game on.

Response to Entitlement? Just Park It.

The first beep made me laugh. The second beep, well. really? Someone blew his/her horn at me twice, apparently with the goal of hurrying me along so he/she could park in a space occupied by me and my car.

Friday, I had fifteen minutes before I needed to leave for my next appointment, Perfect, I can sit in my car and get a little work done, check email and schedule a few things from my to do list. I’d done two emails when I hear a horn blow from a nearby SUV.  I looked around in an attempt to discern the cause. Hmmm, is the driver nudging me to move?  My key is not in the ignition, my foot is not on the brake, there is no indication I’m about to pull out and there are several available spaces close by. Whatever.

I continue working.  Two minutes later, the horn blows again – the double beep of annoyance. It is apparent the SUV wants me to move. Seriously? In what scenario does multiple horn honking motivate me put the key in the ignition, start my engine and immediately vacate a parking space?  I am frankly stunned and incredulous at this is act of entitlement. Surely there is some other explanation, but, before I could complete the thought, I hear an engine rev up and see the SUV speed away in my rear view mirror. This whole thing took place in 6 minutes real-time. Obviously we were operating from two paradigms. I realized, this horn honking thing happens both literally and figuratively.

When someone blows a horn at you, question,  do you need to react? Sometimes the answer is no. This is someone else’s stuff, someone else’s entitlement and you do not need to act. Don’t get pulled into someone’s stuff, sometimes, just park it, you be you and let the other person be, well, whatever.

 

Kicking and Screaming at the Action Plan

I hate “planning.” which is ironic since  people who know me would raise an eyebrow and tell you I would plan my dreams if I could. I hate planning, but, I know it is necessary to get good results. I had an all day meeting this week and we spent a good two hours talking to define what we were doing. This, the talking and planning, would make most groups nervous. “We’ve only got a day and we’ve spent a couple of hours with no work done.” Why do we often neglect to think of planning as work and rush through. In the meeting this week, once we got the “plan” in place, we were able to churn through and get a remarkable amount of work done with a clear path forward on how to finish the project.

It reminds me of what I’ve done with my new condo. I moved out of my house December and would not get the keys to the condo until February, For two months, I planned colors, style and furniture and assembled a box with paint samples, fabric swatches, rug pieces, floorpans, dimensions  and photos. I had a list of painters, electricians, carpet installers and blind suppliers. I had a budget.  Then there were just a myriad of logistics, temporary stay in hotel, po box for mail, scheduling what would happen when in a logical order (carpet and electrical before paint, movers after paint but before new items, etc. all with the goal to settle into new place as efficiently as possible with the least disruption.

At work, the new job, it’s been 6 weeks and it’s beginning to come together, but I don’t have any visible signs of progress yet. So, today, I’m working on “the box.” Just like I did for the condo and it starts with a list of what I need to do to plan and make things happen.

  1. What is the vision? What is the vision for the team? What does success look like for me.
  2. What is my scope? What do I own and where do I collaborate? Who do I give information to and where do I get information from.
  3. What is the timeline? What has priority? What are the due dates for work in process?

While I can’t show progress for the new job, I can assemble my “work box.” Much like the house box, I can get guidance. With the house box, the color specialist eliminated one color from the pallet and selected the right white for the ceilings and trim. The paint colors informed the rug selection and influenced the colors needed for art work. With a modern theme, the in store designer could steer me towards abstracts. All the pieces started to build and relate to each other. This makes me look forward to my “work box,” and anticipate of results will get me over, the I hate to plan.  And while it has become popular to say, think outside the box, in my case, it is think of what needs to go into the box. Is it possible that those who have to think outside the box, didn’t plan well to begin with?

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