Handicapped his guy right out of the gate . . .
The first meeting with the new project manager was an intro of changes to come. I knew that the PM’s switch to 15-minute stand-ups would be met with some understandable skepticism (especially given the number of people involved).
But I loved the demands of the challenge
I was in favor of this change anyway — because for a while I had been dreading our twice-a-week marathon meetings. To be fair, Mike asked the team early on about the format and we all went along, but that was before the meetings got out of hand.
Endless freedom to talk is not conducive to discipline.
Exactly in line with everything else in this story, he never adjusted to deteriorating situations.
With one exception I just recalled.
On our “just wondering” call back in July — I asked him if we could do some proactive knowledge-sharing sessions a couple of times a month or something. He bought into it and said we could do a Lunch & Learn on Fridays.
I was ecstatic about that
I’ve been advocating for that kind of thing for over a decade — but in this case, I had an additional aspect in my strategic aim. Just as I wanted to be proactive in learning from our Tableau experts and others, if Mike was gonna stay glued to his philosophy — our dashboard developers needed to start filling in some gaps (and they were eager to).
Everyone was hired as a Sr BI Developer (Full Stack) and though some may be strong in some areas that other, they should be able to work across the stack.
Wishful thinking doesn’t get it done.
“Should be able to” is how this guy glosses over everything.
I barely found the time to learn Tableau — and it’s an insult to their expertise to think that someone could just swoop right in and deliver anything close to their quality and timeliness. And while I’m not personally insulted — it’s an offense my skill sets (and Mike’s) — to assume that somehow these guys will just pick this stuff up without some serious investment in time.
Understanding the appetite and situation of your resources is essential to being a leader.
They’re smart enough to learn any of it, but when was this ramping up going to take place? People with families and other responsibilities — usually don’t pour much personal time into advancing their skills outside their wheelhouse.
Just how much should the customers have to sacrifice for our learning curve?
How it is possible that intelligence on the level of Mike and Dave don’t get this? It confounds me to no end how they can accomplish complex matters of business while botching the fundamentals.
That includes some of the thinking that went into their hiring decisions. We needed to get our “engine” in working order while they wanted to hire another “painter.” Those guys are awesome and Elara is lucky to have ’em, but that is not what this is about. This is about having a clear understanding of the department’s needs — along with some balanced insight into what was to come.
And you can’t do that with a guy who’s got his head down doing development 90% of the time — especially with Mike’s issues and Dave not minding the store.
I go into detail on that in Paint By Numbers.
Your sincerity can be can weighed by the consistency of your claims in other contexts. If time were so precious to Mike, he would not have had marathon meetings twice a week. That disconnect with the value of time ties to his Deficiency in Delegating.
Note: There’s nothing contentious about that delegating deal, it was just not a good use of our time. That does not inspire confidence — and anyone in a leadership role should recognize that.
In my frustration with the excessive length of the meetings, one day I almost wrote to the team to request a change in format. I decided not to because it’s what they seemed to want. I was utilizing the bulk of the time to work anyway (I couldn’t afford not to).
So I took one for the team.
When it came to my turn in our intro meeting with the project manager, I picked up the pace and tried be more concise. Dissatisfied with the results, I was already thinking of how to make measurable improvements.
In the next meeting, I set the stopwatch on my phone. I jokingly mentioned my time at the end, but I was sending a subtle message as well.
Sounds like leading by example, don’t ya think?
Why start talking about what we can’t do when we haven’t even tried to find out?
Maybe it was impossible in 15 minutes, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see how close we can get? And how ironic — the PM was given free rein to do what I was repeatedly rebuffed on for nearly two years . . .
To Raise the bar
In the very next meeting, I shaved 60 seconds and joyfully shared my strides.
Little did I know that it would be the last time.
While everyone else had valid concerns about how we could meet the project manager’s timeframe for updates, I was already thinking about how to solve that problem.
I’d been thinking about it since I got my Jira account in June.
Having a report at the ready was always part of my plan (even for the marathon meetings). I wanted to improve the structure and sharpness of my delivery — along with having readily available updates at the click of a button.
I knew Mike would box me out on Jira — and I obliquely expressed as much in my email that snuck in some concerns to Dave.
And here I was again — having to sneak in my suggestions in the stand-up. On instinct, I knew that Mike had already rigged the Jira route with the PM — and sure enough, that’s exactly what he did.
When I brought up to the idea of the cross-project reporting extension that I recently installed in Jira, I was shot down in a second — like so many times before.
We don’t want 50 million projects!
There is no measure for this man’s depths of thoughtlessness and unprofessionalism.
When he brought up their closed-door decision to go with Epics mode in Jira — I kept an open mind. This isn’t about Projects vs Epics, it’s about professional courtesy and careful consideration — and he’s abysmally lacking in both.
On the death-knell call, Mike defended his decision to keep me out of the Jira process because he didn’t want anyone influencing the project manager’s direction. He seemed to think that it was noble that he wasn’t going to be involved either (never mind them being in sync already).
You’ve only been doing Jira for a few months.
What was I thinking? I couldn’t possibly have anything to offer after going to great lengths to set up my own system, and solve a problem in a way that few people would have thought of.
Mike has apparently seen excessive projects being created in prior experience with Jira — and that’s valuable information to consider (as well as the PM’s shared opinion). I was in no position to debate the merits of Projects vs Epics mode — I’m just a novice who was trying to learn the tool and present my findings.
I wasn’t against Epics when I went with Projects — I just chose what seemed to fit the bill.
But maybe I had categorization in mind that would eliminate the excessive creation of projects. After all, I had put some serious thought into that very topic. Perhaps we should talk it over before you make up your mind by not influencing the project manager who already agrees with you?
If that PM preferred project-mode over epics, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Mike would just go along — so spare me your nod to nobility.
That aside — even if Epics was set in stone, I still wanted to be involved. If only as a favor for my tireless devotion, you’d think that he’d allow me to assist in the development of PM’s solution. It wasn’t just about me getting some of my ideas implemented, I wanted to learn all that I could from the process.
It’s beyond belief that a manager wouldn’t want the participation of someone so passionate about problem solving and systems — not to mention a flagrant breach of the understanding we had when I took the job.
Mike’s memory doesn’t work that way — as his insatiable greed to get his way was at it again.
And he was basing his “strategy” on, what — his record of rock-star decision-making?
If only he had paused long enough for a second thought to seep into his hermetically sealed mind, he might have factored for considerations outside his calcified conclusions. And in doing so, the sacrifice he might have had to make is that he gets 99% of what he wants — and I get one.
That’s probably all I needed.
Negative, he wants it all!
They threw away one of the best resources that Elara will ever have — all over 1%.
You wouldn’t hire a consultant to build a database and just tell ’em: “I don’t want to influence your approach, so just do whatever you think is best and show us what you come up with.” And I love this notion of asking the team if we have any questions after the PM puts the program in place.
Um, I got an idea — why don’t you entertain our questions now — and from time to time, along the way? Who knows, ya might want to be influenced by a team of seasoned professionals who just might have something of value to say.
And no, it’s not at all the same thing that I was up to. I was simply trying to learn the tool — and I was wide open for what direction we’d take it if was met with any interest.
That’s in another galaxy from a hired gun who’s been told to go off on his own —uninfluenced by the nerve of those who might be interested in understanding the rationale behind why we’re going with Epics over Projects.
To some of us, “We don’t want 50 million projects!” is not a compelling argument.
And after all — the system is for us, so perhaps the people who are going to use it, might want some input on it.
Just a thought
Mike’s thinking on this goes against the grain of everything we do (not to mention common sense).
A tidbit about “expertise” . . .
I walked into an REI once to buy a new travel bag for an overseas trip. They had this Timbuk2 messenger that was just shy of perfect. I took one look at the water-bottle holder and knew that the average bottle would easily slip out.
I bought the bag because I loved it and it was the best I could find at the time.
Who knows how many bottles I’ve lost since.
These people live and breathe the design around these bags — and yet someone walked in off the street and instantly knew what a team of experts of didn’t.
Imagine if the PM had snapped back with
We don’t want 50 million projects!
Does that strike you as professional?
What kind of impression do you think that Mike made when he did it? It would be woefully inadequate leadership at any time, but in our first meeting with the PM — it was disgraceful (especially with his jockeying over Jira since July).
Now what kind of impression do you think that I made with my stopwatch? Sounds like a welcoming way to start a relationship, don’t ya think? It was a message to say:
Hey, I hear ya loud and clear — and I’m gonna start stepping up my game right now. I know I’ve got areas in need of improvement — and I’m happy to have ya here to help me.
What I would have said to the PM had Mike not ruined everything:
On that note — I started developing a pilot in Jira back in June. I’d be interested in your input on that, and I look forward to hearing what you have in mind for us.
For my perseverance and passion, the Jira support-tech stunned me with a $20 coupon for their store. This sweatshirt was $40, so I got a helluva deal at half off.
It was the perfect color for the style, and everything about it just capped off a difficult experience that led to great things on the horizon.
With my key component in place, I was ready to rock — and from that moment on, it was just a matter of shaping the tool to meet my needs and prep the pilot for my presentation.
Take the best aspects of one tool and bond it with the best of another — building a solution for fluidity.
Sounds like a damn fine way to build a team, a company, or even a country.
But that’s me
My sweatshirt arrived the day I talked to Mike in July. It was the Beginning of the End.
“Just Roll It Around Is All I Ask!” . . .
Duvall’s nod of acknowledgement embodies an honor code in one’s willingness to listen. I love the idea of the journey you can take in that “roll” — that pausing for even a split-second can make all the difference in the world.
Mike was always too wrapped up in his own world to “roll it around” — unless it was something he took an immediate liking to (and that doesn’t count).
On that table & chairs above, you’ve gotta be out of your mind on a mission to pull off what I did in the time that I did it.
Almost everyone thought I was crazy for even thinking it was possible — and central to that belief was that they weren’t thinking about how you would go about it.
This wasn’t a woodworking project — it was more like manufacturing.
That particle-board piece on the wall was cut on a Flow water jet just like the one in the picture. It was a sample run for the CD wheel I invented.
I gave it to my grandmother to put on the wall, but she had a better idea: To have some smoked glass cut to turn it into a table.
The walnut tabletop was from the table my dad build in high school. It hadn’t been used in ages and he had the fantastic idea to turn it into a wall ornament.
It broke out in the center — but that was a blessing in disguise, because my mom had the lovely idea to use it for displaying seasonal knickknacks.
You might have noticed that the water-jet sample has 5 double-CD slots in the center instead of 4 — along with many more slots overall. I modified the design in AutoCAD to reduce the slots in order to improve the structural integrity.
Adjusting in light of new information is at the heart of what my Elara story is all about — same goes for this site.
I set out to have the most CDs that I could fit inside a circle that size — but what good is that if it breaks? And it looks better with fewer slots anyway — so in strengthening the structural integrity, I improved the beauty to boot.
I adjusted in the face of information that warranted more thought — letting my findings and input from others inform how my mission took shape.
Even an 8th grader raised a key question
It took 5 states and 2 years from the time I came up with the idea — and I had many unforgettable experiences along the way. One of my favorites is when I was working on it at the ol’ woodshop — and an art teacher took an interest in what I was doing.
She just happened to be talking about symmetry around that time, and for obvious reasons, my work was perfect for an impromptu presentation to her students.
I happily accepted her invitation. So in my Q&A, this kid raises his hand and expressed a concern about the possibility of it being top-heavy. Considering that a great deal of thought went into the design that hinged on that very question:
That — is amazing
He even framed his question in the context of kids playing around it and “what if it tips over?”
For an 8th grader to be so astute in his observations was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen. I enthusiastically told him what a great question it was, and explained how I factored for that concern.
I had it covered — but what if I hadn’t? Would my woodworking background and CAD/CAM experience just trump that kid’s question?
You’ve only been doing Jira for a few months
Music in Motion has some additional tidbits of interests — just more of the same ol’ beauty and brilliance in true collaboration.
You can’t build any of the above with brute force. So given my long history of solutions on many fronts (and the depth of my experience in precision and pulling off the seemingly impossible):
I just might have had something to offer that you hadn’t thought of in your insular way of doing things.
Perhaps, for once in your life, Mike —