November 10, 2008

Live as if there is NO tomorrow

Do you see people coming to office on Monday mornings with a gloomy face? I wonder how they have spent their weekend. Was the Sunday evening start of the frustration? Possibly the agony of the coming week looms large on them. The harsh reality of a struggle they would encounter through the work days. Well, there may be many around us with a similar state of mind - if you care to look around - entrapped in an emotional state of negativity.

One such guy I know, is Ravi (name changed). I knew he was bored with the job, yet he was in it for the past eight years which he still believes is his career. I knew him well, and I understood that he was trapped in a career he hated. Yet, the social responsibilities forced him to move on. In effect, every day in office for him was another boring day - as if to go through the chores and watch the clock tick. The lack of enthusiasm was contagious enough to not only touch his quality of work but of his peers! I saw that as a negative parasite sat in a so called, positive (but rotting) sack where much was at stake. Yet, the guy was expected to contribute, deliver and fulfill the goals his manager gave him.

One day over a cup of coffee, I asked Ravi, "Why would you like to do something that you do not like?" Ravi's response was exactly what I anticipated, "What options do I have? I am into this job and I have to pay the EMIs and the bills. I never wanted to do this kind of work but I studied engineering and I was always told that I must work for a good company."

"And, what would you like to do, given a choice?"

"Not sure, but I do not enjoy what I do."

I wondered, "If you really do not know what you want to do, what makes you happy, then how the hell would you know what would you like to do in your life?"

Probably that was too difficult a question for Ravi to answer spontaneously, but we went back to our work.
Few weeks later, Ravi came up to me and said, "Can we talk for a moment?"


As we walked over to the coffee machine, Ravi said "Well, I intensely thought what I wanted to do. I know exactly what I should do....."

"So are you quitting?"

"No, I am not", he thoughtfully said. "I would continue to do what I am doing. But I have noticed the interesting pieces within the clutter of work I hate to do. I clearly know that the interesting stuff will give me enough motivation to finish my other chores as well."

I was puzzled, "How did you manage to suddenly change your frame of mind?"

"Till few days back I blamed my destiny that I was in this job, struggling through the days. But I realize today, that though I blamed others for my destiny, it was me who chose to accept and it was me who is bearing the consequences. But today I believe, its me who is responsible for where I am and its me who must change it for better ..... Until I exactly know what I want to do in life, I would try to enjoy what I do and bring out my best to deliver the best."

He paused for a moment to continue, "Well, at the end of the day every moment in office is a moment lost in life. Who can control the moments of my life most, other than me? I am completely transformed and motivated to ensure I enjoy every moment - a moment is past the very next moment, and is eternally lost! Its only one life to live and I would like to live as if there is no tomorrow."

Couple of moments by the water cooler that day, left a lasting impression on my outlook.

November 08, 2008

Goal setting

We can do wonders if we can identify what exactly our GOAL is.

As an individual or a team, we must know what we would like to achieve in order to have a clear focus. As a manager it is imporatant for us to ensure that our team members know precisely what we would like to achieve, and what their individual deliverables are. Often we are engrossed in ambiguities. Ambiguities, to me, are just a state where we do not know which path to take and what decisions to make to reach a specific goal. Being able to handle ambiguities well is extremely important.

When we set goals there are few rules which we may follow:
  1. Document our goal - Write it down. Think over it to ensure it accurately describes what we would like to achieve. Refine it and make it brief such that the 'goal statement' is crisp. Revise it such that it is clear to anyone who reads it.

  2. Define a timeline - All goals must be attached with a timeline. When would we like to reach our goal? Without a timeline there is a potential to loose focus on it over time, without realizing the fact that we are astray. However, it is extremely important to define practical and realistic timelines. Many projects face delivery pressure because realistic timelines were not planned. A tight deadline agreed with the customer creates immense pressure for the employees and stake holders and the fall out is a poor quality of delivery. We should be careful about this and if required, negotiate with the stake holder of the deliverable.

  3. Create mile stones - If our goal has a vast deliverable, for example delivery of a complex project, define smaller mile stones. These mile stones should be like sub goals leading towards the larger goal. Attach a time line to each of the mile stones and track progress. It allows to check that we are on track.
One of the useful method, I have been practicing is to write down on a paper every Friday evening, what am I going to do on each of the days next week. It clearly gives me an idea what are the things I need to work on. My deliverables are clear with no chance of missing out a task. As a matter of practice if we note down things, it clearly does not go out of our mind and at the same time help us to prioritize.

Seeing a list of 'tasks' which are the milestones to my goals gives a fair understanding about the time I would need to complete them. There would be tasks which would be easy to do and some which would require some thought. But overall it gives a complete control of the things I need to deliver. It gives me much needed control on my time.

A definite goal setting also helps in preventing any rework. If we know exactly what we would need to deliver, then it is much easier to plan. Precise planning would automatically increase the probability of delivering right the first time.