Monday came and went. I’m told that’s
a good thing.
Our team meeting was bitter-sweet. On
one hand we got to go over everything going on and the activities
immediate ramifications within our environment. On the other, it
underscored my senior resource’s need to take extended leave for
medical reasons. I divvied out his work today, something which made
me step sit back a bit. I had counted, even hoped, that he would
have a chance to work on these things.
I don’t think it will come as a shock
to anyone that my current team came with baggage. Every team does,
even the ones you build from the ground up. Each individual member
of a team comes with baggage; the group as a whole builds up
even more. Heck, if you pick one person out of a crowd, isolate him
from his support mechanisms, and beat him up with reactive work,
you’ve pretty much created a whole heaping truckload of baggage on
The question for me now is, what do I
do with it? Tempting as it might be to say suck it up,
buttercup, that’s neither fair nor right. What I just referred to
as baggage represents the accumulated emotion, energy, adaptation,
and hopes of professionals who honestly did the best they could with
what they felt they had to work with.
So, where do we start with the
unloading process? Julius Caesar had it easy. He could dump the
Legion’s baggage by the side of the road. I don’t have that option.
As a leader I need to help these folks not only hold their legitimate
grievances at bay but also set aside the issues arisen out of their
situation. As a manager I have to establish clear boundaries, unless
I’m violating some crusty bit of history for a reason, and those
boundaries do not always fall where my team would like them to.
Legitimate grievances strike me as the
most difficult part of the equation. It’s one thing to sit and
listen to someone vent. It’s another to sit and listen to them
rattle on and on about how they would like to do things. When they
complain about things you know are wrong, though, and that you know
inappropriately impact their lives, what do you say? What do you do
when you share their trouble and the sense of powerlessness which
comes with it?
I can offer platitudes. I can listen,
though that rarely helps people in IT. Most of the people worth
hiring are either thinkers or actors; they don’t like to sit around
waiting for other people to solve their problems. I can agree with
them and turn them lose, knowing they will fail, knowing that they
know I know they will fail…
I’ve never found the solutions above
terribly effective, despite the recommendations of managers and
management books alike. The solution involving turning the
problem around doesn’t always work well either, since they know we
will not implement the changes they come up with. Or rather, I
should say the changes may not make it very far in the organization;
I’m generally inclined to give just about anything a try.
What I am trying, though, is refocusing
people away from the issues and towards the people, process, and
technology problems endemic to the environment. It’s easy to say I
can solve this set of incidents by resolving this known issue.
Heck, it’s even true. The question, though, is how do we address the
problem underlying the issue? How do we make it so that each stage
of the situation (incident, issue, and problem) all receive their due
diligence? Who is responsible for each stage, who is responsible for
the oversight, and who makes sure the problem resolutions actually
resolve the problems rather than create more?
This also leads me to another question
where does my responsibility for helping people unload their
baggage stop? At what point do I have the right, the gall, or the
power to just say you know, do your job and make it stick? AT
what point does playing by the rules of the situation become as much
baggage as anything else?
Ah well. More questions than answers
this time. I’m told that’s a normal phase. At some point the
numbing will set in and I’ll become a much less worried person.
I’ll let you know if I come up with
anything brilliant between now and Friday.