Monday, March 31, 2008


Doing the Laing Dive

Pardon me....for I have hockey on the brain.....

Watching the Washington Capitals this season, it dawned on me how important tinkering can be.

Washington Capitals - Taking a long-term, well-loved fan favorite (Matt Pettinger) and replacing him with an unknown (to us) veteran from Vancouver(Matt Cooke). Both players had been on their respective teams for their entire career.

Professional Me - Replacing my voice with the voice of someone else in my tutorials. In my recent projects, I've been using the voices of end-user audience peers.

Whenever you are replacing something that is a predictable part of a project, there is always a level of uncertainty as to whether that replacement will actually improve the product. In both instances, the final product has been improved dramatically with the variety.

And the players have also benefited as a result. Petty and Cooke have had significantly better seasons since they changed teams (especially Cooke). In the tutorials, I get to rest my voice and others get an opportunity to live their Radio DJ fantasies.


Washington Capitals - Adding a legendary veteran to the mix for a short period(Sergei Federov).

Professional Me - Working with trainers more experienced than I am (my new team).

Even if we can't keep Sergei Federov for more than a few months, he's had an enormous impact on the Caps that will last for a long time. Especially his mentorship of Alexander Semin (my god - he almost played a 2 way game at Florida last week!!!!!) and the other guys on a very young team. The change of pace also seems to have helped Federov a lot as well. The man looks like he's having more fun playing hockey than he has in a very long time. What a fantastic way to end a career.

For me - it is so refreshing to not have to be the "senior" person on a team (or, often, the ONLY person on a team). Having more direct feedback from folks as experienced (or more experienced) has been invaluable. The quality of my work has improved dramatically. And I'm finding that I'm having more fun with my job than I've had in a long time (or, maybe, ever).


Washington Capitals - Bringing up a minor league lifer (Quintin Laing)

Professional Me - Working with students.

You don't know what impact new people will have on a team or a product. Sometimes, that impact is significantly greater than expected.

Take Quintin Laing, for instance. 28. A minor league lifer. Never thought he'd get a chance to skate in the NHL. Called up in December. And shows the vets a thing or two about hockey.

Now - anytime I see Viktor Kozlov or any of the other Caps do what I am calling the "Laing Dive," I know Laing's had an influence on the team far beyond stats or past. I hope he's with the team for a long time to come.

Working with students has helped a lot. Fresh perspective, more drive. It remains to be seen what impact working with students will have in the long term on my work. So far, it's been promising.


Washington Capitals - Replacing Glen Hanlon with Bruce Boudreau.

Professional Me - Changing The Boss with The Director.

Sometimes, a change in leadership is sorely needed. Even when you are in the middle of something. Even if you are (reasonably) content with where you sit.

The smartest thing Ted Leonsis did was to replace Glen Hanlon with Bruce Boudreau. Hanlon was a great guy, a decent coach, well liked by the players and the management. But something just wasn't working quite right. Whatever Boudreau is doing is working. Oh yeah - and he's another one who was a minor league lifer and is now taking his opportunity to shine in the big leagues.

The smartest thing I've done was to change bosses. I still think my last boss was one of the best bosses I've ever had. But it was time for a change. Thankfully, I went from good boss to good boss. And I think my career is better for it.


Little bits of tinkering eventually results in a complete change of direction. You are never quite sure whether those little steps will point you the right way. But tinkering, for both the Washington Caps and the Professional Me, seems to have worked so far.

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