Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Attempting Big Goals with Others

Hugh MacLeod - of course

This week, our team had a sit-down with our new deputy muck.

He asked if there was anything he could do to help.

My colleagues had already voiced everything I could think of, but since he expected an answer - I told him about my big hairy audacious goal for the next 5 years.

To build a system where an employee can easily find any information and/or training he or she needs to get better at his or her job.


The difference between this big hairy audacious goal and most of the big goals I have is the need for others to perform particular tasks to help achieve the goal.

Many of my goals have used others for information and mentorship, but I am the one who ultimately has to perform the work.
- Building a useful tutorial library and support system for a particular application
- Losing 25 pounds and increasing strength
- Finishing my Masters degrees

Occasionally, I will have one partner-in-crime who helps with the heavy lifting
- Creating a Moodle site
- Creating a mobile synchronous online meeting system (in the days before cheap webcams and WebEx)

This time - I need many others to perform the work too.

Learning to play well with others has been a long-time challenge of mine. Simply learning to ask for help has been a challenge.

It has dawned on me that I am now starting the advanced class in collaboration. Adding others to the big hairy audacious goal technical team and trusting them to do their piece has been the theme for the past year or so.

When it is just me, or me and one other person, the politics are easy. Communication and division of labor is easy. The more players - the more complicated.

- Does everyone you need to work with see the value of the big hairy goal? Sometimes, the resource you need the most has the least need for your little project and couldn't care less whether you succeed or not. Doesn't even matter if the mucky mucks SAY it is valuable and "prioritizes" it (whatever that looks like).

- Who does what? Often - with more people, there is some skill overlap. Or, skill overlap with other parties saying the other person should do it. Or, no one with the skill set and pointing fingers at the person for whom the big hairy goal is most important and telling them they should figure it out - even if they are miserably ill-equipped to do so.

- What is the timeline? Do we all agree? Can we all meet it? What other priorities are on each team-member's plate? Does everyone share the same work-ethic? Do they all see the timeline in the same way (a suggestion or a drop-dead, no-flex deadline)?

- Do all of our managers agree about the level of prioritization? Because with more people, the more likelihood the management gets involved. The higher the likelihood of your project being hijacked for the purposes of political posturing.

The more people you need to do the heavy lifting for the big hairy audacious goal - the higher the likelihood of failure. The greater the need for diplomacy, tact and salesmanship.

Basically, all of the skills required for "leadership."

Right now, I'm being tested. And this time, I can't just throw up my hands and either run away or do the damn thing myself.

Looks like I'm "leveling up" whether I want to or not. Wish me luck.....

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