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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter Ė 12/02/2010

This is your monthly e-Newsletter from
Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.  Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!


Own Your Job!  All of It!
  By Tom Dennis Ė President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.com]


Youíve just been offered a critical and highly visible new assignment that will be challenging, but if done properly should also be rewarding in a number of ways.  Youíve been asking for such work to prove your intrinsic value to the organization and to demonstrate your ability to succeed and prosper with anything youíre asked to do.  You truly appreciate being given the opportunity, but have some trepidation as the assignment will take you into areas that you are unfamiliar with and have never attempted before. 

Before you accept the assignment, you try to make sure you fully understand the ramifications of what you are about to undertake.  You ask questions and get clarifications so that you can identify areas you may be unsure of.  You do some research to learn more about the assignment (based on internal information, information from the Internet, universities, libraries, professional organizations, etc.).  You seek to understand and appreciate all of the aspects of the assignment, and to try to consider the known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns that are likely to be encountered (see Plan Based On What You Do Know, and On What You Donít!).  You know you wonít be able to foresee everything, but you ask questions so that you fully understand as much as you possibly can.  You identify resources you believe youíll need to help you along the way (people, equipment, facilities, etc.), and gain concurrence that they will be made available to you at the appropriate times. 

You then decide to accept the assignment.  You accept the fact, in theory if not in practice, that you will own this job; all of it! [see Show True Professionalism!] But you may not fully appreciate what that really means. 
[Iíve had employees who started off such challenging assignments with great intentions but didnít really have a clue of what was involved or what their responsibilities truly were; some succeeded very well, and others went down in flames and had to be bailed out, to the pain of many others who had to be brought in to help.]  You start out with lots of vim and vigor to try do everything perfectly.  That works for a while, but then you stumble on one particular aspect of the job, and then another, and another.  Before long it seems that the problems are badly outnumbering the solutions (see When Bad Things Happen To Good Projects and The Best Laid Plans Ö and Then Life Happens!) .  What started out as a great opportunity is starting to look like it could become a total disaster.  What do you do?

First, step back a bit and ask yourself some questions.  Have you really prepared properly for the job?  Have you put together a proper plan of attack (see Failing To Plan Means You Are Planning To Fail!)?  Have you reviewed your plan with others to identify holes, proper ordering, timing, timeframes, and dependencies of tasks?  Have you sought out advice and help from peers, subordinates, and bosses?  Do they concur with and support your plan?  If the answers to one or more of these questions is no, take the time to properly answer and address them.

Next, ask others to seriously review and critique the work youíve done thus far, particularly where you have been stumbling and what you have planned.  Fresh sets of impartial eyes looking at things from different points of view can identify holes and other problems that may otherwise go undetected, and solutions that you may have not thought of.  Be welcoming of constructive criticism, even if it hurts.  It can only help you to deliver a better product.

Next, ask for direct help where itís needed.  Ask your boss for help.  Ask him/her about who has knowledge in areas where you need help or where he/she feels more information can be found.  Ask if others can be assigned to help you get things back on track.  Suggest those who you believe can best provide help.  Seek out others who can help with areas you are unfamiliar with.  Look outside your organization and company for help.  Look to those from your past who can help or can direct you where else to look for help.  Look to your friends. Look to your ďenemiesĒ (just because you donít get along well with someone is no reason to exclude them in your search for help!).  Learn from others.  Be grateful for their help, and give them credit.  

Modify your plans and attack the problems with new energy based on what you have learned.  These steps should put the assignment on a better trajectory.  Regardless, spread credit for success generously, but accept all blame for problems and failures personally.  Itís your project and your responsibility.  Along with shared credit for success comes personal responsibility for problems or failure.

If you are simply incompetent, first try to become competent by asking others for training and other help.  If you remain incompetent, youíre in the wrong line of work.  Tell your boss you simply canít do the job.  Do this as early as possible.   Donít wait to get fired; leave on your own.  It will be healthier for you and for your bosses and coworkers.

Finally, recognize that your job also includes onerous work you despise Ė drudge work.  Guess what?  You own this work too and you need to do it diligently and to the best of your ability.  Your job also includes tasks you know you have to do, and which you recognize are important, but which you dread doing (e.g. completing the crappy paperwork that comes with any job, writing performance reviews if youíre a manager, providing performance input to your boss for your review, entering timesheet information on a daily or weekly basis, etc.).  Again, you own it!  Do it right!  Saying ďThatís not my jobĒ just wonít cut it (see Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, and Do What You Say Youíll Do!

Throughout this process, donít make excuses.  Donít fake it and pretend that you know what youíre doing.  Donít half-ass it and expect others to cover your shoddiness or sloppiness.  Donít do just the parts you know how to do and leave the rest for others to cover.  Donít blame others for your mistakes; own up to them yourself.  For Godís sake, have some pride in what you do!  Man up!  Be a professional!  You accepted the job and any failure to deliver is your fault.  OWN YOUR JOB!  ALL OF IT! 

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