Tag Archives: Working

Glitchy

Sometimes a computer just gets balky and glitchy and needs a do-over – hitting restart can shake whatever temporary demon is creating difficulty out of the programming.  Well, a day or a meeting or your brain can be glitchy too – you know what I’m talking about.

 

Glitch (Dictionary.com)

noun

  1. a defect or malfunction in a machine or plan.

2. Computers. any error, malfunction, or problem. Compare bug1 ( def 5 ) .

  1. a brief or sudden interruption or surge in voltage in an electriccircuit.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cause a glitch in: an accident that glitched our plans.

 

I like what Dictionary.com has to say about the word origin:

Glitch 

1962, Amer.Eng., possibly from Yiddish glitsh “a slip,” from glitshn “to slip,” from Ger. glitschen, and

related gleiten “to glide.” Perhaps directly from Ger.; it began as technical jargon in the argot of electronic hardware engineers, popularized and given a broader meaning by U.S. space program.

 

Glitch sounds like what it is – something that tripped up what was supposed to happen.

 

If a computer can purge a glitch by restarting (sometimes several times), how do we humans get a do-over when we have glitchy moments?  Ah, not so simple.

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

 

A big game, a player gets the ball and becomes confused and heads the wrong way – a glitch for sure – he or she can’t take it back.  Teammates, the coach and fans are furious.  A very public oops moment.  The player can only go forward and learn to take the ribbing every time that moment comes up again.

 

Computers don’t have to worry about the embarrassment factor.  If the computer that holds your most important presentation decides not to get going just when your presentation is due to start the computer won’t feel stupid or inadequate.

 

Humor helps in these moments, for humans not computers.  (Though I hear that Siri has a sense of humor.)  Shared laughter can get us past the glitch, ease any tension.  Sometimes it’s the closest thing we have to a restart.

 

Here’s hoping for a glitch free day.  Human and machine.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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What is it This Time?

The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland scurries into the story early on, frantic and muttering to himself that he’s ‘late for an important date’.  If there is a human anywhere who cannot relate, I would love to find out the secret for not ever being late.  (Perhaps it is to never have appointments or dates?)

 

public domain image of The White Rabbit

public domain image of The White Rabbit

Well, he scurries about in my thoughts sometimes as I juggle the various parts of my life.  It often seems to be the transitions from one aspect to another that are most difficult to time just right – leaving home for work, leaving work for an afternoon appointment of one kind or another.  Getting to work on time seems to be quite difficult for everyone at one time or another (the disruptive weather this winter over much of the US as case in point), but for some it seems to be darn near impossible every day.

 

There was a teaser announcement on the news the other day that they would be doing a story on employee excuses for being late to work on a later broadcast (must have been a slow news day) and that got me thinking.  As a boss I have had employees who have struggled with timeliness and as a person I have had moments of untimeliness.

 

I don’t think that I’ve been given any really interesting stories for tardiness from employees, nothing is coming to mind since I heard about this on the news.  Perhaps it is because I’ve never demanded explanation.  ‘Sorry that I’m late’ mostly suffices for me.  If it becomes a pattern, we’ll talk – but it will be focused on solutions like changing your routine, possibly changing your start time, not on why.  Reasoning is important, excuses are a waste.

 

As an employee I have had two instances that were a bit out of the ordinary and they occurred about a year apart.

 

The first was after my mom had died and since I wasn’t sleeping very well at that time, I wasn’t actually late just nearly so.  I woke up that morning thinking of a particular photo of my mom from the previous Christmas so strongly that I had to find the picture.  I could not start my day until I had that one and only that one photo with me.  My responsible side argued that I didn’t need the photo to go about my work day and I could find the picture after work.  But the pull was too powerful, grief demanded that I get my hands on that picture.  I did find it, I put it in an envelope in my purse (I carry it still) and got on with my day.

 

On the morning of the second example, I was mentally ready for work – I was currently without a direct boss and reporting to the senior manager and I wanted to be sharp.  I pushed the button for my garage door, it went up an inch or two and stopped.  I pushed again and it went down.  I pushed again and it whirred, but did nothing.  Uh oh.  I pulled the door up manually and it slammed back down (I found out later that the springs were shot.)  Hmm.  My boys were already at school.  How could I get the car out of the garage?  I called friends, family to find someone to hold the door open while I drove the car out.  Time became short and I had to call the senior manager to explain that I couldn’t get my car out of the garage.  I even thought about flagging down a stranger and asking them to hold the door open – I was getting desperate – when a friend called back and was able to come over to help.

 

What is your weirdest or best excuse for being late?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Determined, Stubborn, Obstinate

I’ve been called all of these things.  I think sometimes it was meant to be unflattering at best.  I remember one conversation when I was told that I am rigid and I said if the word disciplined were inserted instead, I would accept the charge.  The accusation was wielded by someone who had a more unstructured method of approaching life than I.

 

Determined I accept and include in my own self-definition.  It is a trait that I am proud to claim, one that I cultivate on more hesitant days, in uncertain moments.  Figuring out how to call it up in moments of need is almost like discovering a super power.  I picture determination like a muscle – we must all have it – but as we who are over a certain age have found, muscles must be regularly activated or they go soft.  (But there are always exercises to revive them.)

 

Stubborn can come in handy and I have been known to warn a potential adversary that I practice stubborn quite well.  I have to really believe in the cause and you had better have a really compelling argument for your position.  Compromise is an acceptable end.  But then again, I might just be reformulating my points that I conceded for now for another run later.  I do understand that stubborn should be applied in small doses, or it can turn into this next word.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

Obstinate, hmm.  This one has been leveled mostly by people whose most compelling argument is ‘because’.  Obstinate means “characterized by inflexible persistence or an unyielding attitude” (per http://dictionary.reference.com/).  I don’t see any point in obstinacy, unless a person has no interest in learning new things.  Of course, I mentioned above that stubborn can become intractable and turn into obstinacy – no for the sake of no.  If I know that I am right then I imagine that can appear obstinate to my opposite.

 

Being determined is a good thing when tempered with an openness to new information.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Unintended Time Commitment

Do you know how long it takes you to do all the little things that you do through the course of a regular day?  I think that most of us would probably be surprised at the time that can accumulate when we do incidental tasks.  And the time that we spend on nothing activities while busy feeling harried and like we have no time to ourselves.

time

Back in my childhood my mom would have a habit of asking my dad to stop at the store – just for a minute – when we would be on our way home from a family activity.  Groan.  Mom would ‘run in’ and we would be trapped in the car waiting.  If she ever really did come out with just the one thing that she originally went in for, I can’t recall.  What I do remember would be the agonizing moment when she would come out with 2 or 3 bags of other things she realized we could use.  She saw it as time saving, while we lost ages from our lives that we could never recover.

 

The TV is an old standby for unintended time commitments, and it has been joined by the internet.  We never have to be alone with our own thoughts now, thanks to smart phones – but this also means that we might not ever be present in the moment with the person across from us at the table.  But I digress.

 

I got the idea for this post when I had a run of mornings recently that the time on the car’s clock surprised me.  I have a set time that I want to leave the bedroom, I thought I had hit that time but then somehow lost minutes between the bedroom and pulling the car out of the garage.  What the??  In my thinking I left the bedroom, picked up my purse, put on my coat and went to the garage – about a minute of time.  But, no, I was picking up and putting away things, looking for other things – eating bits of time here and there that I didn’t mean to do.

 

Famous words, “I’m just going to… before I do…”; suddenly that unintended time commitment, which was going to be a momentary distraction or a little filler, is something much larger.  And dangerous.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Little Push

The sun rises, and even on a cloudy day, the world around us starts to wake up – circadian rhythm kicks in.  External and internal prompts work together to give us a little push to start our day.  Routine, or the schedule for that particular day take over to encourage our next moves.  Is the pull of that day’s activities enough for me to push myself forward into it?

Probably very few of us found our internal drive worked consistently in our growing years.  Little and big pushes to do this or that had to come from external sources – mom, dad, teacher, coach.  The object was to teach us to develop our own internal drive, to push ourselves to do the things we needed to do so that we could achieve the things that we wanted to achieve.  Oh, we needed no push on certain days, for something exciting – up, fed, dressed and maybe even got a few things ready for mom and dad.

DSC03753

Once we launch into our ‘real’ lives, our adult post-school experiences, that’s when we find out how well we internalized the push – our ability to create and implement a daily schedule.  Some people do it so well, they can plow through even the most onerous chores without having to cajole themselves in any way.  Some of us become leaders and push ourselves and our team through the good, bad, and the tedious.  Many of us become parents and suddenly want to apologize to our own parents on a regular basis if it will help our children to find that internal push sooner and more strongly.

I don’t like to leave things hanging, but there are tasks that I dread or dislike doing.  And then there are the ones that I’m not entirely certain how to move forward.  I can usually figure out some means to push myself to do these things.  Although sometimes I have to give myself a bye, and sometimes I just channel my younger self and wonder why I have to do this stuff at all.  And sometimes I dream that I can hire an assistant who will take care of all these things.

Imagine what we can each do today, with a little push.

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Importance of Persistence

We admire someone with stick-to-itiveness, a person who single-mindedly pursues a goal.  Persistence does not mean adhering to a specific path, but keeping eyes on the intended goal.  Methods can change, as well as participants; even some aspects of the goal may be altered to achieve the essence successfully.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

 

Let’s say that you and your co-workers were sitting one day discussing a particular issue that affects your ability to get tasks done and a new person says that they know about software that will make the task much more efficient.  Excellent!  You share this information with your boss as soon as possible, but she lets you know that there just isn’t money in the budget.  Blast, now what?

 

Well, you and your team mates could just continue to discuss the problem periodically and lament the stupid budget limitations.  But you are persistent.  You and your buddies split up some tasks to convince your boss that the software is the best answer.  Some people do research on the software itself – how it works, some alternative software platforms, reviews from people who have used the software.

 

Another part of your group starts to track the time lost on the task using the current process, not only time within your team but within the organization as a whole, perhaps on the part of your customers as well.

 

Now you can go back to your boss with a great deal more information that includes information to calculate the cost of keeping things the same.  You don’t necessarily have to compute these numbers (you probably don’t have enough of the data to do so anyway) but now the company can take a clear look and make an informed comparison.

 

Hopefully your persistence will pay off with a new solution to the methods in your task.  If not, regroup and start to plot plan C.

 

“Plenty of men can do good work for a spurt and with immediate promotion in mind, but for promotion you want a man in whom good work has become a habit.”

~Henry L. Doherty

[We’ll purport for the sake of the modern age that Henry was not excluding woman in his thought on purpose, merely making assumptions of his era.]

(I must admit to rerunning this post from last year at this time, from my old blog.  This wind seems to be blowing all thoughts from my head.)

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Breaking the Escalation Pattern

How many times do we see the news or hear about a situation when we think how did it get to that point?  Why didn’t someone intervene, somehow put a stop to it?

 

When to step in?  How to step in?  Who should step in?

 

I don’t remember how old my boys were when I started to talk to them about the part they could play in keeping things from escalating to a point where there is a loss of control and something unfortunate results.  Somewhere in their grade school years, long before their brains would mature enough to develop impulse control.  (Of course, age doesn’t always correlate to impulse control.)

public domain image

public domain image

 

The calmest among us still has a trigger or two – perhaps one or both of the universal triggers, hunger and lack of sleep.  The calmest people are less likely to be set off by their very calm nature, do they also better understand how to take action to keep their surroundings more serene?  Or how best to respond to chaotic surroundings to keep themselves serene?

 

We are under constant bombardment from outside forces – bills, relationship pressures, the world around us – which can keep us at a low simmer.  Add in one more aggravation and it might make a volatile mix.  What do we each do to understand our own simmer, our own triggers; what do we each do to counteract or prevent our triggers from being tripped?

 

Diffusing a volatile situation takes some skill, but helping ourselves, a friend or a family member to ease down their simmer is a much simpler and more pleasant task.  Breaking the escalation pattern early, before it even has a chance to start, is sometimes as simple as getting a meal with a friend, sharing a laugh or offering a hug.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Asking the Wrong Thing of Someone

Is a person failing at a task when they simply do not have the right temperament to do the task?  (I’m not talking about skill here.)  Or did the person who set them to the task set them up to fail?  Granted in the all too frequent situation of job insecurity these days, many people stretch in one way or another because any job that brings in a paycheck is better than the alternative.  But we’ll set that aside too.

 

There are people who pick up rather easily on tasks, even someone complex ones, and others who will be great at the task but must be given time to learn it at what would seem to be a glacial pace to that fast learner, but is just right.  Both of these temperaments will excel at the task once the training is done – but if the more deliberate learner isn’t given the time to make the task his or her own they will probably fail.

public domain image

public domain image

 

Most people work better when they know their boundaries – my job starts here, covers this area, and ends here; anything outside that area belongs to someone else.  A person with a collaborative mindset will fit perfectly into a job with overlapping responsibilities, while a person who is best when working entirely independently will struggle.  A person who likes narrow boundaries will implode in a situation with nebulous boundaries – particularly if they are also cautious.

 

When I’m interviewing a candidate, I like to ask them what sort of student they are – not were, but are.  This will tell me a lot about their temperament.  Will they ask me to better define the parameters of the question – do I mean back when they were in school?  What do I mean by student?  Or will they dive in with a canned answer that they are up for anything and love to learn?  This isn’t a trick question on my part (I don’t like trick questions.)  No, I want to make sure that I won’t be asking the wrong thing of anyone.  I don’t like to be set up to fail, and I will make every effort not to do so to anyone else.

 

Failure is a part of life, and can be useful sometimes.  But we don’t need regular and unceasing doses of it with no end in sight.  Being in a job where you are asked to do something counter to your temperament regularly is quite wearing.

 

Have you been there, what was your solution?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

‘We Already Tried That’

I fear that these words have passed my lips at some point in the past and I imagine that they fell on the ears of the listener about the same way they fall on me when I hear them.  Shut down, denied, rejected.  Unintended enthusiasm killer.

 

I got together for brunch recently with some friends, we used to be co-workers, but now all work in other places.  This phrase came up and stuck with me because it is a common thing to hear in many offices.  New people mean new opportunities to examine old process and tasks in a new way.  New people could be new to the company or new to the team with prior experience at the company in a different role.

 

When I first heard ‘we already tried that’ in response to something that I said, I was rather crestfallen and rolled the rest of my comment back up, folded my hands and clammed up.  Now, I redouble my efforts to find a way to introduce the idea in a manner that will be palatable to the listener.  Or if I overhear someone else get shot down, I try to help them get an opening to complete their thought.

 

My thought isn’t so much that we should take action on the idea itself as much as it is about giving people the opportunity to speak up and participate in solutions.  Or the process for developing solutions.  Maybe we really did try exactly that and it didn’t work at that time, in that manner.  But that isn’t the point (plus this is a new time and maybe with a couple of tweaks the idea is valid again.)  Maybe it didn’t work the first time for some sub reason that would no longer affect the outcome.

Imagine if we hadn't allowed any new versions of Edison's inventions? (public domain image)

Imagine if we hadn’t allowed any new versions of Edison’s inventions? (public domain image)

 

The objective, purportedly, is to have engaged employees – ones who participate actively in creating solutions to the situations that invariably come up.  This phrase is high on the list of reasons why employees stop participating and just trudge along.  It is in my DNA to keep putting forth new suggestions, but this isn’t true for many people.  Who knows how hard someone had to screw up their courage to put forth an idea to be told ‘we already tried that’ before the whole idea was out of their mouth?

 

We already tried to shoot down ideas with ‘we already tried that’ and it failed miserably.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Trail of Dots

Remember those fun sheets that we would get in those early years at school?  Random numbered dots scattered on the page with the occasional squiggle or line or recognizable body part – and we would know what the picture represented after we connected the dots in numerical order.  I’m sitting here right now thinking that those exercises where just about the best training for work, and life, that we got in school.

public domain image

public domain image

 

This led to that, and sometimes you really had to search for that.  Not to mention if you accidentally got out of sequence it could be a slow and messy clean up to start again.  In the meantime you wouldn’t be able to tell what you had at all.  (If only tracking down things now resulted in a cute little picture that I could happily color.)

 

The one aspect of dependencies that was represented on the page – maintaining the right sequence – had to stand in for others such as waiting on other people or working within system or program limitations.  I suppose teachers were wise in keeping this one to themselves for a few more years.  We were still busy learning the get along with others and sharing part, no need to muddy that yet.

 

Now that I am thinking about how these Connect the Dots exercises were so much more important than they seemed at the time – I wonder about how one went about constructing them?  Obviously starting with the full picture, but the art, or science, was to determine the right points to keep so that the recipient couldn’t immediately guess the subject of the picture but would also not get confused.

 

Sometimes the designer made mistakes and left out parts or skipped a number and the puzzle couldn’t be completed as shown.  This left the child hanging, or gave the child the opportunity to use their own imagination.  Again, making this a great test for work and life – a low risk chance to practice what to do when instructions are wrong or incomplete for the task at hand.

 

Some days, by the end of the work day, my brain is only capable of the most rudimentary task.  Maybe I should go out and get myself a book of these Connect the Dots and see if that will help my brain unwind from the more complicated trail of dots in life.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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