I found myself embarrassed and ashamed recently.
We’ve been having some problems with a project for the last few weeks. We outsourced the work and expected it to take four weeks to finish. We set aside some of our time to help support the outsourcer.
A couple of weeks in, we started to have problems. Our team was spending most of their time supporting the outsourcer. The outsourced project was behind and we were also falling behind on our own work. Not good.
A few of us got closer to the problems in the third week and made some changes we hoped would help. But, by the end of the third week, we were still having some of the same problems.
I decided to get closer to things in the fourth week. The project was at risk and almost definitely going to be late. I’d had lots of conversations about the project to date, but hadn’t got close myself.
We set up a meeting. Our team, a few senior people from our side and the outsourced team. It wasn’t a meeting to complain about the outsourced team. We wanted to talk things through, try and figure out exactly where we were at. Define some next steps.
We had a quick discussion before we dialled the outsourced company. I hadn’t spoken with our developers much, so it was nice to ask some questions and get some facts first hand. I started to better understand the problems and pain they were going through. It struck me that hearing about problems in a few conversations with senior people is all well and good. But, these guys are trying very hard to do a good job and having a tough time with it.
We fired up the video call and the three outsourced developers popped up on the screen. They waved and said hi. There were a few hi’s, how are you doing – that type of thing. I was instantly hit with the reality that these were REAL people.
Real people, probably with families. People with their own internal struggles. People choosing to work hard and late on this project, probably at the expense of their health and relationships. People just as frustrated with the problems we were having with the project.
I appreciate that sounds absurd – of course they are real people. But, up until this point, these three people were one word to me – the outsourced company name. I went from one company name with some bad connotations, to three people saying a friendly hi to me.
I felt embarrassed and ashamed actually. For a few weeks I hadn’t thought beyond the company name and worrying about the set backs. They were resources to me. It reminded me, we are working with real people who are no different to any of us.
My job is quite high level. Most of my conversations are about what groups of people are going to get done, over a period of a few months. What should the priorities be? Who is going to do what? What could go wrong? How might we mitigate that? What’s going wrong now? How can we fix it? When you live at that level, it’s easy to lose sight of actual people. You tend to live in project plans, only seeing numbers of people and time to do things.
One of my biggest strengths is being able to detach myself emotionally from a situation. It means I can look at the facts and make decisions quickly – despite them sometimes being tough.
But, that has it’s drawbacks. It becomes easy to hide behind plans and senior meetings. All I want is facts from senior people, so we can make a decision. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do, but it’s easy to slip into doing that all the time.
I need to take time to speak to people more. Like, really speak to them. Get first hand information and properly get to the bottom of things. Put myself in other people’s shoes. I’m not talking about micro-managing, but getting a different perspective. It will lead to having a better understanding of situations and better decisions. I’ll also see opportunities to help people.
P.S I’m banning myself from using the word resources!