Today I sat and
thought. I only had a handful of meetings today, so I actually took
the time to work with my team, get things moving for the week, and
even finish some of my own analysis tasks. It’s hard, sometimes, to
cram all of the thinking I have to manage into a day. Which seems, I
suppose, kind of a lame thing to whine about.
However, the idea
does lead me into a far more interesting topic: how creative thought
works in an reaction dedicated environment. Creating actionable
information out of raw operational data takes a lot of sitting and
thinking. It’s the kind of task you have to pick up, ponder, put
down, go get some tea, go off, pick back up, ponder, try some things
out, find they don’t work, ponder, etc, ad nauseam. Meanwhile an
reactive environment emphasizes rapid response to issues, hopefully
before the escalate into disasters. The tasks come in and go out at
a fearsome rate, usually with hastily constructed workaround wrapped
Now, I don’t know
about anyone else, but I have trouble really digging into a creative
analysis when I have to react to incidents ten or more times a day.
Incident resolution is all about the quick fix; you have to get the
user up and running as fast as humanly possible without breaking
anything else. Creative analysis is about the steady application of
thought to isolate and ferret out the problems causing the issues
uncovered by incidents; it takes huge amounts of time for potentially
very little gain.
In my case,
though, I’m not just worried about my own psychological hang-ups.
I’m pondering how my team works and what I can do to help them
achieve greater throughput. My job isn’t just about doing; it’s
about making sure my team knows what needs to happen and can actually
do their jobs.
taken on kind of a sorter role, as I’ve mentioned earlier. I
organize the serious issues and dole them out to the appropriate
resources. This approach works reasonably well for keeping the fires
at bay, but does little to further stabilize the environment. To do
that I need to get my team focused in on the problems, working in a
creative rather than reactive mode, and building serious resolutions.
I don’t know if I
can do it with my entire team though. Just to start off with, they
worked in a purely reactive environment for years before I arrived.
Reactive activity is addictive; not only does it give you an
adrenalin rush but it also stops you from having to plan out your
next activities. It shortens your time horizon to the next major
disaster and you can just kind of coast from day to day without
really pushing your own limits.
I cannot change the environment. I need to build strength, either in
my team or in another team, to absorb some of the reactive work while
we reach out to resolve problems. Culturally that will pose us with
a major challenge. Politically I don’t have the resources to pull it
off. Practically…well, that’s a different story. I think I have
the support of my peers in pulling together a much stronger response
than our previous approach.
change will not solve my immediate problem. I will still have to
sacrifice some of my team to reactive work every week. There’s
enough of it that it could consume two FTEs if I let it. Right now I
divide that into one FTE and two halves, with the remaining halves
devoted to creative activities and project work. That drives the
team members stuck in that half-way role insane, though, and I’m not
sure what to do about it.
I’ll probably feel
better once I get my senior resource back. He’s off on vacation this
week, after spending the last seven weeks being eaten up by a
project. I need some backup on all of this analysis work. I’m
decent at it most days but it takes too long to get though it all.
We got more done on Friday last week (when he stopped by the office
to idle away the last day before vacation) than I got done all the
Which makes me
wonder if I’m pursuing this all wrong. Maybe the answer is not to
worry about shielding the team members but to make sure they work on
creative problems in teams. Hummm…if it works for snipers it might
work for us.
Or not. Something
else to ponder, I guess.