Unicorns and Powerpoints – October 5, 2020

Many times before, I’ve said, if you have something for whatever reason you cannot do that you dearly want done or that must be done, find someone already far too busy and approach them.  I’ll go on record suggesting you should ask, beg, cajole, connive, threaten, or couch your “need” in a dare to get a commitment from this person. 

Many times, it’s only necessary you get the idea out in the open, declared.  A commitment is requisite only if you’re insecure or realize what you ask is indeed undoable.

Not unreasonable. Undoable.

This works for one overriding reason.  Oddly, and defying logic, folks with too much already in their schedule somehow manage to get an out-of-nowhere, over-the-top job done.  When finished, it rarely is a half-hearted effort.  Seldom does it fall short of expectation or need.  This has something to do with these machines’ ability to manage time and climb far enough outside their sandbox to aha! a shortcut or piggyback this new task onto one in-progress. Now and again, it’s simply magic.

I recall instances where the too-busy person only shrugged recognition without a solid commitment.  Subsequently, the deed was done without pomp, before, during, or after.

How do I know? Can you see it coming?

Not always, but many times, I have been that all-too-busy individual.  No ego.  Fact.

In those cases, it never occurred to me the presenter was out-of-line, expecting too much, or jeopardized good trade with a momentarily unwelcome demand.  Factually, they were.  It just escaped me.  Neither did I immediately assume I couldn’t make time or recognize what was asked was an imposition.  Irritated?  Resentful?  Sometimes the tiniest bit, depending on timing and who was standing in front of me.  That, though, was overridden by my understanding the requestor had faith enough in me to know I just might pull it off.  Okay, somewhat a bit of ego there, yes.  Maybe that’s what they played on.  Some, I can grant that.  Most didn’t know enough of or understand what they did know of the odd way my mind works to conclude ego or flattery would win the day.

Then and now my acceptance of these requests without a blow-out comes because I believe I can handle anything and everything I or someone else ladle onto my plate.  Challenges are not out of line because I am, after all able to do anything with the possible exclusions of giving birth and yodeling.  Expecting too much?  Nah.  I have superpowers including, but not limited to, the ability to see through windows and walk through open doors. Risking drawing too deeply on a balance of trade?  Nope.  I don’t mind banking a bit of surplus obligation.

Superficially dismissing a request works well for me because if I “refuse” to accept an additional charge, but manage to do the deed, I bank a few kudos – coin I can redeem later.  Failing, well, I didn’t say I’d do it anyway, did I?  On the other hand, if, because I wasn’t paying attention, I openly accept an assignment, I am under pressure to deliver.  And almost without fail, I will deliver, even if it’s necessary to delay a few tasks important only to me.

There are times new projects, new “it’ll only take a minute” tasks are refused by overbooked folks.  I’m not an exception.  It’s fairly easy to tell when my refusal is ironclad.  If I stop what I am doing and inventory tasks interfering with accepting new work, ticking them off on my fingers as I go, your project hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell. 

Should I politely dismiss your assignment, you should continue to look elsewhere, but take heart that somewhere in the recesses of my puny skull, I’m already working on your project.   Don’t belabor your case with an appeal.  Or waste my time. Do cover all the bases, though.

I’m put to mind of a client’s Project Manager, an exceptional dude, who was fond of coming to me for an estimate of how long such-and-such would take.  Except for something clearly requiring a team effort, maybe multiple disciplines, I gave estimates off the top of my head for how long it would take me to do them.  In truth, these weren’t estimates; I knew what I could and could not do, knew my software, and knew the systems I was riding herd on, upstream and downstream.  Happy the candidate project was deemed doable, if my estimate was on the skinny side of a couple of days, he’d ask me to submit specifications so he could put someone else to the work.  He only did that twice.  My answer both times was, it will take me longer to spec the work than it will for me to do the job myself – that’s gonna cost you budget before you even get someone else started: decision time. Third and subsequent times I gave short quotes, he added the project to my list and punished me with a new “understudy.”

Understand, there are times I cannot, dare not, will not, or legitimately don’t care to help.  Those instances are when I am most vocal in my protestations against.  That’s only fair.  The petitioner needs to realize they’d best explore other options.  It has nothing to do with the size shoe you suggest you might apply to the seat of my britches, the cologne you wear, or the frequency of eye-flutter you bring to bear.

Got something you need done?  No one else available?  Don’t know how to do it yourself?  See if you can’t find me.  Or someone else you know who has the same character flaw.

By the way.  Exceptional Project Managers are Unicorns.  Competent Project Managers get in the way, engender confusion, and double project timelines.  But damn!  Don’t their PowerPoints make your mouth water?

Published by spwilcen

Retired career IT software engineer, or as we were called in the old days, programmer, it's time to empty my file cabinet of all the "creative" writing accumulated over the years - toss most of it, salvage and publish what is worthwhile.

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