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Week 2023#20: (re)align constantly
Focusing on execution works best when you have a plan for how to execute
Transporting rocks from one garden to گاراژستان – three hours of very satisfying, demanding physical work. Just like shoveling that pile of dirt a couple of weeks ago, this is a project where you are literally moving progress, which makes it so satisfying.
What I’ve learned
Alignment with others decays over time and needs to be constantly refreshed
Last Thursday, workday number 98, was the first day at Bolt on which I felt a bit out of my depth.
The expectations towards an Engineering Manager at Bolt are high: you need to stay on top of projects, be a capable engineer and get your hands dirty yourself, and make sure everybody in your team is happy given the circumstances and slowly moving towards becoming the best version of themselves.
I consider project management being my weakest spot, and on Thursday I got a glimpse of what that means.
My product manager got surprises in multiple projects and as a result, it felt like these projects are not on track.
That’s a big no-no, at least where I had my first term as an Engineering Manager.
Project management there was essentially about minimizing surprises.
All of the “surprise projects” of last week had one thing in common: they involved stakeholders from multiple teams and communication about important things between these stakeholders wasn’t flowing as freely as it should have.
My takeaway from this is that by default everybody’s view of the world diverges (yay, entropy!) over time.
This includes, but is not limited to:
how things work right now,
how they should work,
what still needs to be done.
Problems start when everybody involved has a different idea about these things.
The solution is obviously to get everybody to communicate regularly and make sure everybody has the same answers to these questions.
This needs to be done regularly because as individuals get new information, their view of the world changes, and thus the answers to these questions.
In other words: people forget about some of those things, other things get done and new things to do are discovered.
Finally understanding this, I took the necessary steps to get people talking and now I feel like I’ve learned a thing about project management.
How this is relevant to you
Project Management sounds very business-like and boring.
But what is a project?
There are many definitions, all of which highlight different parts of what a project is.
My current take on this is:
A project is what needs to be done by one or more people to make a projection come true.
It’s about changing the observable world and shaping the future.
Which applies to a lot of things you are doing in your life right now.
Maybe take a moment when you read this and reflect on what projects you have going on in your life right now, who is involved in those, and what their expectations are.
This person can be just you.
You’ll like still have expectations (or hopes) about the outcome of the project.
Are you aligned with yourself?
With others involved?
If not, maybe take a step to change this and see what happens to your project.
Direction vs Movement
Directions for Week 20:
Gardening again: the garden is starting to shape up! On Saturday, the garden was suddenly full of friends and everybody found something to do. It became a collective project, so I had copies of the key made and distributed them to interested parties. Let’s see what happens!
Exploration: looks like that side-project is not going to go anywhere, because the idea isn’t technically viable. At least not yet, I’ll still have to explore a bit more to figure out whether I want to give up on this already or not.
Energy at work: the “plan-then-execute-in-focus-mode” thing worked again splendidly, only that this time I actually did the wrong thing (but very efficiently!).
Directions for Week 21:
Identity for the garden: I’ve started referring to the garden as Garaažistan (گاراژستان) as a nod to my (father’s) origins. Let’s see where this concept develops!
Alignment: create more alignment at work and develop a deeper understanding of all the things I’m involved in.
Spontaneity: more unplanned meetings and adventures with friends.
Highlights of last week:
Decode Estonian passed the 100 subscribers mark!
Helping people level up their language skills one more time before summer
Doing more things with my hands, like helping with getting bulky furniture from Kesklinn to Mustamäe
Carrying rocks for hours – deeply satisfying
Bumping into my friend Mete multiple times during the week at Fika – 9/10 times we end up talking about philosophy,
1/10 times about eating food in large volumes 🤜🤛
Spontaneous adventures with my friends, because everybody is outside with good weather and bumping into someone is guaranteed