This morning, for unknown reasons, my technical coach (and direct borrowed line of sight) decided to pep-talk me, though my guess is it has to do with the current status of our project (a small but very slippery oversight has resulted in a landslide). He began by asking, “What do you think the strategy for this project should be? Why do you think we’re here [in this mess]?“
(“Why don’t you take a seat.” It was not a question. I seated myself.)
In his hand was the Project Execution Strategy report that I sort-of wrote glaring at me in bold, large print. I believe he too knew the report came from a template, hence these questions. “My opinion…” I began, working hard to scramble my thoughts at 830 AM, “is because we deal with each phase as it comes, lacking foresight to broaden as much now so to not suffer later, especially given this is a schedule-driven project.” ‘Piecemeal‘, he would later put it, and I’d nod in agreement. But for now, he wasn’t satisfied with my answer and continued to stare (and I wish he didn’t cos he’s really good-looking haha though this is a whole other story…!) so I added something on misalignment between two sides of the same coin.
“This isn’t how a project is supposed to be done,” he said at one point, obviously displeased with where we are now. I said nothing to this because on what basis would I rebut? So instead, I asked, “But at what point do we draw the line between giving up and taking up the challenge to prove otherwise?” That thin line between bravado and sheer stupidity.
“Yes, foresight – where does it come from? We’ve escalated several times in the past that we wouldn’t take on certain risks because the brunt will be on us, but at what point should we have insisted ‘no’ – and saying so not because we’re acting cowardly but being realistic?”
“The foresight comes from your team lead and project manager.”
“Then let me ask you a question,” I countered (forgetting for a moment that all of us directly report to him…) “Do you think this project should’ve been given to a more experienced… more senior… project engineer? To know to make those project calls and have that perspective require having done and seen things before – but foresight is only gained through experience.”
He held his gaze and quietly, nodded his head to my question. Then he said, “Your team lead and PM should provide that foresight, yes – but you and your project engineer colleague also need to think on your own.”
Last week, one of the bosses, in making his final comment about the cause of the landslide we’re in, said this, “There are many, many ways to play this game – but the way you chose to play it is wrong.”
I’m sorry someone had to literally utter these words out loud (at the 11th month!) for it to finally hit that perhaps my own existing strategy in approaching work (and project engineering) is flawed. While playing catch-up is necessary – as Picasso puts it, one has has to learn the rules to break them like an artist – ‘we’ve always done it this way’ is also poor excuse.
“You too, need to think on your own.”
At the end of our chat, with that signature side-grin of his, my coach said, “Stick with this project; there’s a lot to learn.”
In that moment, hearing those words, I almost wanted to laugh out loud.
I have yet to express my desire to move out from this team. Which only means…
God continues, as always, to surprise me with how He chooses to answer my prayers and endless – sometimes in anger, mostly lost – questioning on why (why) I am professionally where I am now.