Friday, 19 December 2003

When to close your year

Counting the years
One has had the advantage of being able to close ones working year, the weekend either before ones birthday or just at ones birthday. When one was self-employed, one had no problems making that decision and sticking to it. One used to have the luxury of 10 weeks holiday a year and still declare it a good and profitable year.
However, last year, ones work status changed and one became a salaried permanent employee with a fixed number of holidays amounting to five, each bean-counted on pink or green cards through out the year.
In these circumstances, one becomes rather more perceptive at selecting what holidays to take off allowing enough days to close the year as one is accustomed to doing. Having no particular allowance for time off in lieu of extra hours, days or weeks worked, five weeks does not amount to much a year.
In Europe, we do place more premiums on holidays than the Americans. Though they seem to have had this unassailable improvement in productivity over the last few decades, one's candid, view is "They who do not know how to work can never know how to play".
The point of high productivity without ample time off amounts to just two weeks a year is absurd. One would think the whole purpose of high productivity is to have more time off to be leisurely having achieved whatever goals, aims, purposes or plans.
Anyway, looking at the working year of 2003 - we started in a flux of change, managing infrastructure we had aggressively taken over the previous November and handing over to the new team brought in to ensure that the future became just as we had mapped it out.
Experiences
One can refer to some issues that became highlights of the year.
  • The remnant after the November retrenchment were systematically deprived of privileges to perform functions they were once managers of and they did not help issue with their bickering about rights - a failure of their management to inform them of their drastically changed circumstances.
  • The major deployment and upgrade of our backend and front-end CRM solution - this was an uphill task of educating the backend teams of full-cycle deployment; the logic being, what you roll out on the server is not complete till the end-user confirms that it all works. Broadening the horizons of such personnel to the realities that the user is the linchpin makes all the difference.
  • The client operating system upgrade to Microsoft Windows XP - a classic tale of how not to run a project. One must state here that in conversation with one of the project managers involved; the project did run as planned, only that the whole system was short-circuited by irrational management targets that preferred immediate implementation to reasoned and ordered assessments leading to working solutions at the point of presentation.
    We never learnt the lessons throughout the whole year.
  • Knowledge unravelling the effectiveness of our solutions integrators, when we repackaged all their applications for the new operating system. The sharp practices of shoddy coding that went unnoticed when deployed to Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 were laid bare in Microsoft Windows XP. Polish up your act, you are failing dreadfully, still.
  • Are you trying to absolve yourself from thanks for a job well done? One of the many questions or rather classic statements one made in the year. This after a successful client deployment even the local staff could not bring themselves to acknowledge that success.
  • A number of projects that required weekend work also brought to light some of the inconsiderate practises that involved petty purveyors of power mortgaging our weekends without due consultation. In all the cases we were involved, where no one had the courtesy to seek our consent and availability, we successfully rescheduled for our convenience. The morale being, nothing is set in stone, even if the milestones are in the project plan.
  • Project managers came up with ingenious ideas that made technical prerequisites obsolete in favour of pressing issues, which eventually would lead to dealing with those prerequisites. All doom for the department was forecast if we flunked the deadlines. Eventually, reality got the better of the whole situation we had two rescheduled deadlines within a week. One could never bring oneself to say, "I told you so", nay, never said I.
  • We delivered time and time again, albeit with regular but temporary setbacks driven by the quest to PowerPoint [Sorry for using this as a verb] all activity. We had to be like them, the only difference being we did our jobs and so covered our arses, they just covered their arses and gave us grief - customer demands, uncertainty, bungling, accusation, problems and at times unprofessionalism - NEVER!
We had a good year, full of work, new experiences and many lessons, hopefully properly learnt for the New Year.
Take time to count the cost, survey the availability of resources and set your target dates with achievable realism.
One is ashamed that in many cases we could not deliver on promised time because we were driven by unrealistic projections with no bearing to existing volume of work and priorities.
The hopes and fears of all the years* which are met at Christmas, should give rise to new purposes to do better in the year 2004. It has been great working with all my colleagues whom I respect, even those who flinch at being called gentlemen and deserted me at lunchtime. One acknowledges your apologies, but you had to get a mention.
* O! Little town of Bethlehem

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