Sometimes you get reminded of how easy it is to accomplish difficult things if people are actually working together as a team, to support each other and to achieve the same aim .
At the start of last week we were finalising delivery of a very complex bit of work that we have been working on for the last 4 months. It was due to go live on Friday. Spoiler alert, it did.
When the week started, I was not sure it was possible. With 5 days left, I discovered a list of 36 items that I had not been aware needed to be in place to get it accepted by the live services teams. I knew I could rely on my team to get things done. I did not know the other teams involved. I was overwhelmed. It couldn’t be done.
Lesson #1 It’s not wrong to be overwhelmed, it’s wrong to hide in a corner because you’re overwhelmed
I observed my overwhelm and let it wash over me. Then I got to work. I arranged a call with the first team who I had to battle to care about my work. I had a name of the team lead. I booked a meeting in his diary for the morning of the next day. The clock was ticking. I finished work for the day.
Lesson #2 Your team is defined as those you can rely on. Expand your team!
The next day I awoke knowing I had 4 days and still 36 items. Thankfully my contact turned up AND had invited the best people to the meeting. I didn’t even know they existed. I had no clue that multiple joyous unions took place between 29 and 56 years ago (let’s hope the unions were joyous, right?) that resulted in the living breathing people that now had the right roles and knowledge to enable me to progress. Life is about relying on what other people know to help you achieve the most you can.
I used to be demanding about what needed to be achieved, “I need this by this date” but now I am far more successful because I focus on enabling others to achieve. It is so easy to fall into the trap of silo thinking: me against them. Creating a feeling that we are all on the same team to solve the same problem makes work fun!
There was a lot to get through, but we worked through everything we could and ticked 17 items from the list (wahoo, 19 left!), added one more (bummer, 20 left!) and had various actions. I had a name for a team lead of another team I had never met but had a desperate need to. Poor man.
Lesson #3 Phone people!!!
I sent a message to my new contact and left that to stew for an hour. He didn’t respond so I put a meeting in his diary for the afternoon. Whilst I waited, I managed to get one of the local teams on the phone. We have become scared of the phone. There is no way I would have achieved as much as I did had I not been able to call random people after hunting down their number. Seriously, phone more!
We resolved 4 items (16 left!) At the end I checked my other message was still unanswered. He’d had 3 hours to respond. The clock was ticking I needed to move fast. I hunted down his phone number and called him. He didn’t answer. I texted him. Eventually he responded to my original message. “Really sorry, I was asleep. I was on the nightshift last night to ensure the services all ran correctly. Your call woke me up.”
I did feel bad for that one. We always need to be aware of what information we are missing that would change our approach. He graciously still helped by forwarding the meeting on to the people on the day shift.
Lesson #4 Don’t demand from people, enable them to deliver
I got on the call, and it was such a joy to find this team also wanted to help and get things done. We wanted the same outcome, all I had to do was listen carefully to how I could help them get what they needed so we could go live. We resolved 3 items (13 left). I do work hard to help people feel like they are all on the same team, and it is so easy to be demanding when it is just not needed.
The next day I had three days and 13 items. It was going to be very tight. I was relying on at least 6 different teams to get things done. Everyone was busy juggling other priorities. I knew I had people I could rely on. One team member rearranged work to complete another major task, ticking off 4 items (9 left). I checked with the first team, and they had sorted what they had outstanding, so another 2 items were done (7 left).
Two days left. It was getting close. The service was due to go live to the public at 8am the next morning. By going above and beyond (they always do) the developers ticked off another 4 items, so 3 left. Another team finalised two more just as the remaining task got resolved. It seemed so unlikely that we would get here but everything seemed to be in order for go live. I went to bed hoping everything would be ok.
I checked shortly after 8am to see if it was live. It wasn’t. I kept checking. Something had gone wrong. At 10am we had an emergency call to get things sorted. There was no screaming and shouting, just competent people resolving problems. We went live. Wahoo!
Often in our businesses we over-complicate things. For humans to flourish, I always advocate for ensuring the basics are in place. Can you rely on those around you? Do you have the skills to accomplish what you need to? Can you choose how to best accomplish the task at hand. If the answer to these questions are yes, then the chances are you can thrive. The fun of life is choosing what to thrive at. Again and again though I am reminded that is it such a joy to be part of a real team solving difficult problems that matter to real people.