The week turned
out reasonably well from a process and project standpoint. We got a
number of things done which will make things easier in the next work
cycle. The team handled another week involving major outages
reasonably well. I pondered a lot of things which probably don't
matter much, but also helped clarify a few things. We also worked to
correct a badly broken support process and extended the scope of ourshort-term alerting efforts.
I also started,
very slowly, to move my team though the gap between the now and my
long-term vision for their activity. I mentioned in my blog this
Monday about the difficulties I saw integrating the creative and
reactive work types and some thoughts on using teams to help
reinforce behavior patterns. I've decided to alter my long-term
plans to include the paired structure. Which raises the question:what do I mean by long-term?
Many people think
and plan in only one time frame, usually called now. What
cannot be done immediately falls to the wayside, eventually vanishing
entirely. This actually makes things like project planning a great
deal of fun, since people don't really have any fundamental belief inwhat they put on the plans.
In my world,
though, every solution and plan involves three distinct time frames.
The first frame deals with immediate actions taken to work around an
issue. The second builds upon those solutions while bringing in
additional analysis and design elements. The third encompasses the
desired end results, which oddly enough rarely take on a trulytechnical form.
The first, or
short-term, time frame usually extends from the immediate moment to
roughly one month out. This is what most people consider the now;
what they can do immediately or in the very near future to resolve a
problem or complete a project. It's an easy time frame to work with.
We can step up, do something, and see an immediate result. These
results, though, generally don't last for very long unless we expend
effort to sustain them. More importantly, its hard to build up
successful iterative change when working exclusively in the
short-term time frame. Planning exclusively in the now leaves youskipping around, depositing work here and there.
The second, or
medium-term, time frame usually extends from one month to roughly six
months or 2 business quarters. Medium term planning is, really, what
most people consider long-term when they really sit down and
plan. It's about the maximum distance at which most people can plan
out a concrete set of steps to reach specific goals The longer time
period means you can spend more time working on things, creating
changes, and driving forward initiatives requiring more than just the
buy-in of a small group. It also gives the team more time to analyze
a situation before acting, always a plus when dealing with problems
rather than issues. Under most circumstances, though, it also leaves
you kind of confused about what you need to do right now. The
medium-term window also slides quite easily, leaving the teamin a state where they don't know what to do next.
The third, or
long-term, time frame extends a over a year or more. The long-term
frame is the realm of vision and priority, where the leader
establishes what he thinks the environment should look like. It's
easy to get lost here, though. One can spend endless hours writing
vision documents or analyzing to determine exactly the right
long-term strategy. This time doesn't exactly go to waste but
without solid short and medium term plans it's not entirely usefuleither.
The trick seems to
be to peel your short-term plans out of the medium-term plans,
while making sure the medium-term plan's goals stay in sync with the
long-term plan. Easy to say, hard to do. I've personally found
writing it down in circles helps though...I have this vision of three
balls (one small, one medium, one large) with the small one pushingthe other two along.
example for this week involved bringing people together to solve a
service outage. The plan served my short-term goal of getting the
system back up. It served my medium-term goals of building
competence within my team and creating additional systemic knowledge
regarding one of my core systems. It also played into my long-term
goal of slowly, carefully, rebuilding the social fabric of the larger
team I work in. Fortunately it also played into one of the resourcesmedium-term personal plans; the other one I'm not so sure about.
The question for
me, now, involves translating these ideas into a more effective
solution for my major conundrum. I have a long-term goal (and plan)
to restart the operational life-cycle at my current employer. Doing
so will meet up with a lot of resistance; I have to find a way aroundit.