This past week was what I fondly referred to as “The Farewell Tour” for me at HP. I was only there 14 months before being lured back to my former employer, but during that time I had become well entrenched. It’s humbling to realize the number of people that I had a positive impact on – and in return that had a positive impact on me.
What I came to realize was that this farewell tour was an important part of the process, and I actually found it fairly well documented on the HP Alumni site. They provide a handy “ASAP checklist” for you to follow once you realize that you are leaving the company. Tip # 5 says to:
Do your own simple lunch the week after even if there is an official lunch. You can even invite people who are already gone. A bona fide celebration is an important part of the emotional transition process. Leaving a job – even if eagerly and happily – has an impact of almost the same magnitude as a death in the family. Don’t skip this part of working through the emotional steps.
That really is great advice. In a healthy workplace, losing a team member has a big impact. Folks are happy that they are getting the opportunity, but also feel the void that person is leaving. Saying thanks and goodbye is very important.
A recent Harvard Business Review online article covered the “Five Powers that Get Ideas off the Ground.” This is an area that I find a lot of people, including myself, struggle with at times. Quite often an idea is vague or is complicated by a great deal of unknowns. As humans, we like to work off of certainties so that we know what direction we’re going. At work I try to get people moving by baking in step of “figure out where we’re going” into project plans. This gives the opportunity to further flesh out plan details while you go, while signalling to others reading the WBS that turn-by-turn directions will be spelled out once detailed planning is complete.
Kanter’s article points out a step that I overlooked above and one that is absolutely essential – showing up. She refines that as being physical presence, rather than the more nebulous approach of just being present in mind. She says:
There’s a well-known saying that 90% of success in life comes from just showing up. It’s a cliché because it’s true. Digital and other remote communications are efficient and helpful, but there’s much to be said for being there, face-to-face with other.
This is very true and something that I have personally experienced and subscribe to. Many people, myself included, enjoy working from home. But I do it sparingly. I don’t struggle with productivity, depression, or any of the other commonly cited reasons for not telecommuting; rather, I find that because I work on a team I get more done when with that team. It’s a true form of synergy. When people show up and speak up (two of the five powers), clarity begins to be added to the situation and actionable items begin to take shape. It may not be the whole road map, but at least next actions can be defined and worked on.
I highly recommend that you read the Five Powers that Get Ideas off the Ground to help you get your next idea off the ground.
Those of you working for smaller, private companies may not have been exposed to the vernacular I am about to rant about. The same may hold true for government employees. But for whatever reason, when you get into a company with 10,000+ employees with shareholders, etc. you end up speaking a different language. A new website, Unsuck-It has come to the rescue to help you decipher these words and phrases so that you will understand what the person is REALLY trying to say. Here are a few examples:
Drink the Kool-Aid – Meaning to follow blindly. I assume the origin from this was the Hale-Bopp comet people that all drank poisoned Kool-Aid thinking they were going to join aliens on the tail of the comet. If nothing else, they left quite the legacy on corporate America. Update: Drew corrects me via comments that “but the origin is from the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 when Jim Jones convinced his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid.”
Disambiguate – doesn’t clarify sound so much better? I actually used this word in a meeting yesterday to poke at someone else’s overuse of flowery language.
Operationalize – make it work. Could you imagine if management actually said you need to make something work? That would sound like they had a product that didn’t work. Hmm….
Social Media Strategy – Hahahaha. Defined as “Typing into text areas.” So true. I’m reminded of our social media guidelines at work, and the minor uproar they caused.
And my favorite: Ping Me – I recently said this to someone and haven’t heard from her since. Coincidence? Further proof that you should avoid corporate speak in all of your conversations with non-co-workers. Check out Unsuck-It and see what words and phrases you should be avoiding.
One of my missions in developing web applications for a Fortune 15 company is to emulate the dominant design of well known internet applications when designing new functionality for inside the company. I occasionally am beat up for not doing this. One recent example was an RSS reader portlet. The goal was to provide people with a customizable portlet on the McKNet homepage that would allow them to subscribe to various feeds within the company and see the 3-5 most recent updates for those feeds. When my management team saw the proposed product, they questioned why it didn’t look and work like Google Reader. I tried not to laugh – you might imagine that it comes down to money. This was one function point out of 8 proposed in a quarterly maintenance release that was being worked on full time by a single programmer. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say that Google Reader took someone more than a week to develop.
One of the things I’ve been involved with lately is establishing “maintenance” pages for each of our applications. These maintenance pages are just meant to say “sorry – we’ve got some planned maintenance going on, here are some links to other content that you may be looking for that is not currently impacted by our maintenance.” Finding examples of dominant design for this are a little more difficult, since you have to find either a reputable site that is
under maintenance or read a blog post about it. Today, I tried to go to My Cigna based on some mail I received yesterday and found they were under maintenance. Perfect! Here’s a screenshot of what I saw:
This gives me a good idea, but also points out the pitfall. The idea? Let them know when the maintenance window is planned to end. In this case, it says “The site will return at approximately 12:00pm on Sunday, March 28th.”. The down side is that you have to keep up with the page and make sure that it reflects an accurate date and time. You’ll see I included the status bar from Windows to show that today is April 18th – 3 weeks after the above referenced date. So now that I think about it, this isn’t the greatest of examples. Guess I’ll have to keep fishing for a dominant design of under maintenance pages.
My focus this year is on nutrition and quality events. For the first time since 2007, there is no full distance Ironman triathlon on my race calendar. I am hoping this will allow me to focus on shedding more weight and building my capacity rather than focusing on getting ready to “get through” a 140.6 mile race. I have picked a handful of triathlons including 2 half-iron distance endeavors. I have also set my sights on 4 or 5 marathons with the goal of going under the 4 hour mark for the first time.
On the work front, my responsibilities are slowly increasing. I have a small portfolio of projects that I’m slated to deliver by the end of March and it is giving me a good taste of the rigors of resource, risk, and plan management at that level. The budget and scope are smaller than the largest project I managed, but has been a good way to get my feet wet in this arena that I hope to fully move into one day. During the 2nd half of 2010, I will likely be involved with revamping either our dot com or intranet platform (or both!). I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue to grow. I’ll yap more about this in March when I look back on my tenure at McKesson.