Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 15, 2007 – How am I doing?

Today is the real test of how well I am doing at my new job. It is payday #2. If I don’t get a paycheck it might be a good indication that I am failing. Since they are unlikely to just drop me from the payroll, I guess I need to find a better way to check on my progress.

Which reminds me of a story I have heard a couple of times. A teenager knocks on his neighbor’s door and asks to use the phone. Curious, she lets him but listens in to the conversation. “Hello, sir, my name is Jeffrey and I was checking to see if you need a hardworking teenager to unload orders and stock shelves for you…. I see. Does he show up on time and work hard? Because I could…. So you don’t need anyone right now? ... Ok. Thank you for your time.”

When the teen hangs up the phone he smiles, thanks her and heads for the door with a spring in his step. By now her curiosity has gotten the best of her and she asks, “Why are you so happy? It sounded like you didn’t get the job.” To which he replied, “I knew he already had someone because I’m the one. I was just making sure I’m doing a good enough job.”

Unfortunately it isn’t as simple to make sure you are being successful at your job. Some employers have a 90 day review but if you wait that long it may be too late. Here are some things I have done to spot check my efforts for the first month.

Assessment and Recommendations. During the first week or two I gathered information on the current state of the PMO. Why was it started? What was already in place? How long had it been in existence? Where was the opposition? Who supports it? Where was it headed?

From this I developed an Assessment and Recommendations document. In it I laid out my understanding of the Critical Success Factors, Background, Current Assessment, Scope (in and out), Development Plan and Implementation Recommendations. This served two main purposes: (1) confirm my understanding of the PMO purpose and history and (2) outline my plans for moving it forward. By reviewing the document with management we quickly fixed any confusion and reset my direction.

Documentation checkpoints. Nothing is more frustrating than turning in a document or report you worked long and hard on only to find out it is exactly opposite of what was needed. To avoid this I started establishing checkpoints along the way to make sure expectations are met. The first spot check is an outline of the document. Use the outline to talk through what each section will cover and how they will all flow together. Follow this up with an updated version that includes a couple sentences for each section to confirm the discussion. Next take a section or two and create a rough copy of them. Verify the level of detail to ensure you have enough without drilling too deep. Finally, draft the entire piece for review. The results of that review will align you for completing the document.

Talk it through. When I spend a large part of my day thinking and typing I can get to the point where things stop making sense. Fortunately I sit next to someone who doesn’t mind me rolling my chair over and thinking out loud. We are able to bounce ideas back and forth until things start to click again. These kinds of conversations usually start with “Does this sound crazy to you?” or “Am I going nuts or…?” These thought checks are great to do with a peer before taking ideas to management. Not to self: Make sure you give credit for any great ideas where it is due.

These three ideas aren’t as bold as calling your boss and trying to steal your own job, but hopefully they will get you through that 90 day review with flying colors and keep that paycheck coming.


Anonymous said...

Sure the topic is interesting.But how about a scenario where your boss gets such inquistion from you as per what more needs to get done(more job functions and role definitions) and he replies that you should give him some more time to determine such? Like in the story there was no feedback,same here.

Thomas Cutting said...

The objective is to get an understanding of the current state of the organization. Here are 3 ideas on how to facilitate it:
1. Don't just ask your boss, ask your peers and others that have been there a while.
2. Use the org chart to understand the division of the organization and find out what each group does.
3. Get what you can and build on it as your understanding grows.