It has been an eternity since I last posted anything here. And that is because things changed and I lost my focus. My role changed at the company, twice in fact, and it is now that of a manager in a highly visible area where there is a criss-cross of management needs and customer needs, which don’t always jive.
My customers have changed, because they include the people I manage, who manage me, and the companies who buy our products.
When these changes in circumstances happen under a spotlight, the natural reaction is to react first and fix later, whether it be a product plan, a strategy or even hiring. And when you firefight and react to everything immediately, you lose focus. I know I do. So I have to fall back on my best practices and strategies for dealing with it, and these apply whether it’s software development, client meetings or hiring talent.
- Don’t just react, instead acknowledge. So often people react without thinking — look at how we behave in traffic — because they feel threatened or they think their job is in danger. Usually it isn’t and stopping and acknowledging that there is a problem, and what exactly what has gone wrong or right is the only way you’ll ever learn. And it allows you and your team to stop, discuss and focus on the problem so you can focus on your customer.
- Make a mind map and then make a list. If you’re not sure what a mind map is, check it out on Wikipedia. The short version is an connected yet not definitely structured (in terms of priorities) graphic depiction of your ideas. It’s a great starting place letting you figure out where you are running into problems, what kinds and how you can resolve them so you can go back to focusing on the tasks at hand. Once you do the mind map, make a prioritized list, with a backlog of items you want to check off. It’s a slow distillation process but worth the effort. Budget half a day for the whole exercise.
- Put your foot down. You may not have the ultimate power to decide anything, but make sure you have certain hard points or priorities that you are willing to fight for. They become your focus points of action. You may need to convince your team or your boss or your customer that these issues are important to resolving the issues your customer perceives. There may be disagreement, but be prepared to make your case why you don’t want to budge on these things.