Saturday, July 17, 2010

How Did This Get On My Plate?

It's a struggle. Every day, things are getting on my plate. Some of them get there because I opened the packages (work tickets, project requests, tasks from the boss). Some of the things on my plate are there because I wanted them ("Can you pass me that web update, please?"). But some of them, I just don't know. Something arrived completely out of the blue. Something else I envisioned as being an afternoon's work became a week's work because there were components no one had thought about, or because it tied into three other projects, or because I did not ask enough questions.

That one bites me a lot. I come from the technical side of the house, so much of my work has involved solving problems and fixing broken things—dealing with things that have already happened. It's a constant battle for me to turn my thinking around and deal with things proactively, even though few people feel more strongly that it's better to measure twice and cut once. Habits of thought are difficult to change.

In a business environment that is always time-starved, there isn't a whole lot of in-house mentoring. Sometimes seeking advice is almost impossible because of busy schedules. And If I don't ask enough questions in the opening round, I wind up having to do a lot of "catch-up" later. Here are some key question areas I've learned (the hard way) to cover early:

  • Stakeholders: Who else needs to be involved? 
  • Dependencies: What other work does this work depend on, and what depends on this work?
  • Communications: Who needs to know what, and when?
  • Scope: What can I say no to?
If you establish these quickly, you can be a member of the "Clean Plate Club."

Give it some thought.

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