Have you ever had one of "those" days? The kind of day where you wonder just exactly when it was that you went from having a real life to living in some sick, twisted sitcom?
I’ve had those days. I have them frequently. So frequently that I have begun to wonder if I am permanently stuck inside the world’s biggest practical joke, with no possible escape.
Let’s face it, after awhile, it begins to wear on you. At least it did on me. So I went looking for the cause. And I think I may have found it.
In my world, I like to manage my time. I eat at my desk, but that's a choice I make. I generally have my day planned long before the alarm goes off and I like to manage to that plan as much as possible. Recognizing that some flexibility is always in order, I build in ad hoc tasks alongside of what I will need to accomplish on any given day.
I like order. I like planning. I like schedules. I’m in trouble.
Today’s workday has evolved a great deal from the dark ages when I entered the work force. There seems to be a constant pressure to get more done on any given day while producing genius-level solutions for people who often assume that you are in possession of some mystic Magic 8 Ball. You have their answers and you don’t even need to know the questions. And suddenly, there you are in the middle of one of "those" days.
For a while I tried to counter this by conspicuously hanging an Ouija board in my cube. There was a sign under my nameplate that read, "The Psychic is IN." Then I realized that very few actually saw the humor. In fact, I would wager that people just assumed that these were normal work tools.
IT professionals also often find ourselves doing more with nothing. But the expectation that we will deliver never changes. So how do we combat this?
For me, the first step was to take a deep breath and remember that my clients weren’t doing this because they're demanding, rotten, people. They simply didn’t know what I would need to do the task. So I tried talking to them.
I can hear you saying, "But I tried that, it didn’t work." I know. I thought I had too. But I had never tried it from the end-users perspective.
Business generally doesn’t know, or care, what it takes to create an event, place a radio button, or change an interface. They want ease of use and the tools that will facilitate the job. That’s fair. As soon as I figure out what that is, I’ll be happy to give it to them. I find out the specifics by meeting with the people who will use the tool and ask questions. I look at what they are using today to accomplish whatever the task is. I ask them what they love about it and I ask them what they hate about it. And I learn things that will eventually be distilled to specific statements that will become the requirements document.
This on its own is in no way the only answer to "those" days. But it started an improvement process that began to reduce the number of them.