Innovation

Something doesn't feel quite right

I remember a

distant time when I used Mondays for planning purposes. In that

golden age I spent the morning working on my plans, visited with my

various colleagues, and got ahead of the situation. Sometimes we

even took some moments for levity before things went spiraling out of

control.

Ah, those halcyon

days of youth, all of four weeks ago.

Today got consumed

not with useful work but with sitting in meetings watching yet

another train wreck play out. People got amped up with heroics this

weekend; always a bad way to start out the “beginning” of the

work week. I got drawn into it as well. I didn't do well, honestly,

since the first I heard of it involved taking my best analyst and

sitting him doing a procedure job best suited to a temporary

technical resource. The conversations went downhill from there.

I spent the time

between meetings working on a variety of little process pieces which

fell though the cracks over the last few months. Some of it I'm

happy with. Some of it will need reworking tomorrow or the next day

as time allows. Quite a bit of it I didn't get a chance to explore

to any depth at all, but getting it moving seems more important than

getting it all right at the moment.

The lines between

activity, transformation, and work always seem a bit unclear. They

become even more unclear as life, politics, and that annoying thing

called relationship management meander into the puzzle. Once you

start layering on the complexities caused by technical

troubleshooting, the reinforcement of bad or maladaptive behaviors by

organizational foolishness, and the desire to maintain the status quo

it becomes almost impossible to sort out which is what.

All that said,

though, the blurry terms I allude to above do help me to organize my

day. Each category provides me with a “bucket” into which to

initially lump the activity headed towards my team.

Activity, for

example, includes all those actions we undertake for the sole purpose

of creating the appearance of motion. A classic example, one I'm

sure most people can relate to, is the overly detailed work breakdown

structure masquerading as a project plan. Yes, its possible to

create incredibly complicated WBSs for nearly any activity. However,

people rarely follow such detailed plans. Instead they build a

simple critical path, execute it, then move on with their lives. The

act of creating the plan is activity; it may be activity in response

to a corporate mandate but its still time spent creating an illusion

of motion rather than doing something.

Meanwhile

transformation involves seemingly fruitless time spent working with

others to get them involved, interested in, and eventually a part of

a completely different way of working. Transformation, or at least

the work of it, involves as much transformation of yourself as it

does others. You have to let go of your conception of what should be

and instead become it...a strange way of saying, I suppose, that you

have to believe in and create the environment you want to live in.

Your own actions, though, cannot change the world. You have to get

others to believe as well, a particularly thankless task which often

ends in disaster.

Finally we get to

work, one of my favorite subjects. It always seems so simple at

first. You do X and get Y result. Unfortunately most tasks in the

IT world don't fall into that simple pattern. In fact, if you spend

a little time looking at it, you can find five work patterns (or

“queues”), making the measurement of work particularly

problematic. Or just down right annoying, when you want to

distinguish say reactive work from activity undertaken to meet an

assigned but not meaningful deadline.

Fortunately I

managed to help the team organize for the week before getting dragged

down into chaos and activity. We have the usual list of tasks on our

plate, none of them “save the world” important but some valuable

enough to mean something. If I've done my job the team will be up to

it's eyebrows in work before Tuesday morning comes; if not we'll get

bogged down again in activity.

More later. I have some thoughts on transformation to chase down.

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