October 19, 2009
Someone once told me that the most powerful person in an organization is the receptionist. Although it may not be entirely true, there is a kernel of wisdom in that advice, because the receptionist touches everyone that comes through the door of a business. The process of touching allows the receptionist to develop a sense of order about vendors, staff, and clients, allowing her to come to understand the underlying structure of the organization and be able to successfully assess and courteously triage access to executives and other staff.
I recently ran across a director-level staff person not yet ready to relinquish known workarounds and seize the opportunity to transform his work by touching data flows (such as cleaning up a client database). The rationalizations were typical, “I’m too busy” and “Maybe we could hire someone else to do that?,” failing to recognize the long-term benefits of gathering information oneself and understand the underlying limitations.
I was saddened by emphasis on the short-term urgencies and the limited investment in the important (long-term) that I observed, but this was a case where I did not actually have any influence. Because I care about the organization, I asked too many questions, so my advice to self is to stop asking such questions, but I digress…
When I look at situations like this one, I recognize that organic learning is often required, because organizations tend to grow organically – they fail to document along the way, they fail to create processes for review and archiving (until it is a crisis), and they allow single person specialists to emerge (that can leave with the organizational history). Yet it is important (and tedious) to gather, consolidate, or validate information when trying to move an organization to an improved future. The hard news is that such work often requires tedium and/or assimilating the unknown. The good news is that the most valued people in every organization are the people who learn, think, and transform by doing this. As such, my long view advice:
- Seize the opportunity to touch key data flows and learn the limitations of the current system.
- Spend time on the important (learn, think, transform) even when your schedule is filled with urgencies.
- Do not be above tediousness; participate in the tedium and gain appreciation for the efforts of others who complete tedious work regularly.
Are you touching important data flows, learning from them, and creating transformation?
June 7, 2009
The urgency began when my son began looking rather haggard after a night of sleep. After inquiring, I learned that a loud scratching sound from under the floor in his room was keeping him awake. I knew immediately that the roof rats, (endemic to our area) had found a new ingress point to our crawl space under the house. Being way past the stigma of having rats, I knew that they must be excluded immediately and proceeded to take action!
So, how does this relate to the Long View?
As I noted in “About the Long View”, “Although [we] sometimes struggle to make (or coach) “long view” choices because “near term” gets in the way….[it] is not to say that there is no place for short-term actions, to the contrary. Sometimes you have to plug the hole in the dike right now in order to protect the dike for the future.”
- Rat intrusion is a clear example of the Urgent/Important – stuff needing to be fixed immediately or it will get worse quickly!
- In the time-management matrix that most technologists abide, it is acceptable to shift priorities to accommodate the Urgent/Important (1st quadrant).
After interviewing several local pest control companies (several wasted my time – they didn’t actually offer needed services!), I settled on a local company that was willing to enter the crawl space to assess integrity, seal potential ingress areas, and trap the critters out. Once the technician arrived, he immediately identified several potential ingress points that had to be fixed (some in the roof area – which needed a specialist) and several at the baseline. We worked together to fix the exterior baseline ingress points (where the scratching was heard). Then it was time to “house dive.” Miguel (the pest control pro) was able to assess the north-side crawl space, but the south-side was too narrow for him to access. So, being both action-oriented and small-framed, I put on my coveralls, my headlamp (all self-respecting gadget queens have one!), safety glasses, mask, gloves, and squeezed into the south-side crawl space.
I quickly discovered a single well-evidenced ingress point (many rat turds!) and evidence of excessive scratching. In a second “dive,” I hauled camera, metal screen, nails, and a hammer to the spot and dutifully sealed the ingress.
Over the next several days, my son slept on the couch because the previously loud wood scratching amplified/progressed to metal scratching. The enclosed rats were desperately in search of food, allowing Miguel to trap the critters out. The final score is 3-1.
Miguel captured/killed three rats in the snap traps, and I caught one in an untethered glue trap. Although the fourth rat touched the glue trap, it was able to scurry away with the trap. In a third “dive” to retrieve the trap/rat(carcass?), I found the trap wedged at a pipe penetration – the rat had leveraged the trap off and escaped to another part of the crawl space. Smart! I have yet to find the carcass, but hopefully I will not need to.
The scratching has stopped, my son’s sleep is restored, and only the painter needs to come to polish up the roof work. Whew, back to the Important/NOT Urgent (2nd quadrant)!
Are you working to the Important/NOT Urgent routinely?