Saturday, September 27, 2008

Getting my priorities straight (both with project team members and potty-coaching)

Yesterday I was working at the computer and keeping an eye on my almost 4 year old as she was playing nearby in the same room. She needed to take a potty break and is at the *fun* stage where even though she can do the whole business independantly, if I'm around she wants me to stay in the bathroom with her and help out, etc. I know, I know...I should cherish these moments, and I'll regret not enjoying this time more when she hits the stage where I am just not cool enough for her and she doesn't want to hang out with me anymore. But, I'll be honest, I was focused on what I was doing, frustrated that I had to stop, and impatient with her when she was in the bathroom.

She was finishing up, and I found myself nagging her with different tasks:

"Pull up your panties"

"Put the seat cover down"

"Wash your hands!"

"Flush the toilet!"

All those things she knows to do, but since I was in there I felt like I had to coach. I was so busy giving her more stuff to do, I didn't stop to think that I might have been confusing her with all these different tasks, that were actually not in logical order. She stopped for a moment and looked up at me with this look of such total confusion, so I slowed down and started over, this time being careful to be more patient and take it one step at a time.

I find myself in the same position both at home and at work, when I am given several tasks and told that they are all equally important. I don't know what to do first, what needs to be done when, and how to properly manage my time to make sure the important stuff gets completed at the right time. When I saw the way my daughter looked at me, I knew exactly what she was thinking and I've been through it enough times myself.

Fortunately I am not involved in potty training any of my project team members, I trust that they are all fully competant in that area. But, I do occasionally find myself sending over one email after another with this task or that, sometimes related sometimes not at all. I have to remember to stop and think that this puts my team members into that same position of frustration that both my daughter and I were in. I've been good lately, I sift through that list of tasks and send out another note (or even walk over to the person and discuss with them face-to-face...imagine, so low tech!) that will list all of the tasks in order of priority, with any other relevant notes that will help him/her figure out how best to get it all done, without going crazy.

Having just finished and thoroughly enjoyed reading "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams", I know the importance of happy, comfortable and focused team members. Since I didn't have a camera handy with my at the time, I'll have to make sure to keep the mental picture of my daughter looking up at me so confused and pin it up at my desk at work, to make sure I don't put any of my team members into that same frustrating position.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Maybe I'm just spoiled - my new calling in PTSTC

Maybe I'm just spoiled by all of the technology that I see and use around me, I work in the technology field after all. Words like RSS, social networking, blogs, email, text messaging, and others are a part of the daily vocabulary where I am each day. And when I get home at night, I get the time to catch up on all of the blogs, feeds, social network site activity, etc. (after the kids are asleep of course).

So, now that my older daughter is beginning pre-k and we have gotten a taste of how her new school works and especially the private minibus system chosen to bring her to and from school each day, I am painfully aware of how spoiled I am with the technology I have at my fingertips.

What DO they have? Two phone lines ( I give them credit for having more than one). No voicemail, no message system to let you know if your child's bus is delayed or has forgotten you entirely (like what happened to us a few times this week). They put you on hold forever and you're stuck there waiting to see when your kid will get picked up, held completely hostage to the phone attendant lady.

What DON'T they have? No website, no email, no efficient communication system. It's hard to even find them on or Google Local, sometimes I wonder if they even exist.

What's my perfect dream scenario? The bus company sends me an email the night before reminding me that my daughter's bus pickup will be the following morning at 8:45 am. This is good to do, especially in the first week when things are hectic and the route is getting figured out. This probably won't be necessary every day of the schoolyear, maybe just reminders when the bus service isn't running, etc. Then, the morning of the pickup, I would like a text message sent to my phone to alert me if the bus is behind schedule. I would like to know approximate location, which kid is getting picked up, and how many more need to get picked up before they come for mine. I would like to be able to go to a website and see a live map with the bus on it, and each pickup pinned and the order that the bus will go to them (and it would be extra nice to have the pin label show the name of the family, so that I can call that home to introduce myself and my daughter and help start a bus-riders playgroup).

This is really not so much to ask, right? If I wasn't rushing off to get my younger daughter to daycare and then myself to work, I probably wouldn't mind sitting around dealing with all of the uncertainty of it. But, since I am... then I do. Maybe this is a new career calling - Private Transportation Service Technology Consulting (PTSTC).

Ultimately I will probably cancel the bus service and use the good 'ol MTA and the Coney Island bound F train to get my daughter to school, atleast then I will have more control over when we come and go and it will be nice to see her classmates and teachers each morning. Then I won't have to feel so much in the dark ages when working with these bus people, and guilty about demanding so much more of them.