Yesterday was one of those days, a blue Monday in the middle of the week. One of those days where everything seems set against you and your purpose.
It’s interesting that these kind of days always seem more likely when one isn’t quite so happy with the way things are.
Coming off a bit of a grumpy day after closing down the MX-5
opportunity disaster [and to be honest, berating myself a little for my weakness and inconsistencies] yesterday just flowed on from there.
The factory in China is the bane of my existence at the moment. They debate every little request, usually with ‘No’. It’s super-frustrating trying to meet a customer project specification with a crowd like that who doesn’t even address the project specification but just forge ahead with their standard concept.
Anyhow, that’s par for the course as a PM, so no real complaints other than I’m tired and want to try something different down in Glencairn. Biggest challenge is, and remains, the wonderful back-office staff and unfathomable procedures, processes, forms and ‘rules’. On top of all the other frustrations, when someone cannot give me a good reason or cannot explain what a piece of data required is for other than ‘That’s the form, that’s what is required, I don’t no why” then I find it hard not to show my frustration.
The point of all this whining ?
I’ll tell you why. Because I care! I care to be seen as a competent professional. That’s what I do and to a certain extent, it reflects on my abilities when I cannot focus the team all in the same direction. I don’t buy into the CMA management approach, a woolly masses “as long as it’s someone else’s fault” approach. I’m invested in the job while I’m here and take it’s success seriously [probably too seriously if I’m honest with myself]
I suppose the other thing that grates, a lifelong ‘wound‘ that gets prodded with regularity, is the fact that no-one listens. I hate that, especially when their stance has no logic behind it [and let’s be honest, “because it’s always been done this way” is just plain stupid, like a parent telling their child ‘because I told you so‘].
After a stint away from this specific corporate, I certainly was under no illusions that things would be different in the back-office on my return. What I do find strange in myself is that the frustration levels seem similar to those when I left. This is surprising. The role I left behind, a middle management position, had a direct requirement to address the engineering and project management efficiencies and as a result it was difficult to take the ‘not listening‘ to heart. Returning as a bottom-feeder, there is no such requirement, no reason for me to feel it my responsibility to identify and correct broken and inefficient processes. And yet, there it is, the same feeling of frustration?
Life is too short for this. I’ve made my choices and I’m satisfied with where my
career job is and will be. It’s not always like this and as life progresses, this kind of knee-jerk response becomes less and less frequent, an aberration in what is normally a fairly relaxed, stress free life. The challenge is to withstand the constant barrage of this for another 5-10 years and then, let’s be honest, the new life will have different challenges.
As in all things, living on the edge is fine in short bursts, but when it’s done continuously, living with no buffer, no breathing space any small thing can turn into a major life-threatening crisis. The buffer in this case is a Cape Town break. The decision to not do the China trip is taken, no matter the consequences. Time to forge ahead and take a couple of days to recharge that buffer.
The truly satisfying engineering projects seem to be all-consuming, requiring all of one’s time, energy and thoughts, 24/7.
The challenge of encountering obstacles and solving them certainly delivers a certain sense of satisfaction.
But [and there’s always a but isn’t there…?]
In this game it’s never just one project. It ends up being each and every single one and when next you blink, the kids are grown, the wife is gone and the boat lies barnacled and rotten in her slip.
It’s a little easier for me at this stage of life since the kids are pretty much [almost] grown but looking at the pressure I have put on WJ with his 2-year-old, I have to wonder why we let that challenge run away with us sometimes.
JM once postulated that maybe balance in the moment was not the point, that maybe overall life balance works over a greater length of time? I’m not so sure I agree. Or maybe I do and it’s just the ‘balance-timeframe’ that is unclear?
Anyhow, a long time ago, still fresh in my career, I made some decisions to leave behind the engineering challenges for the more predictable life of a PM and to sleep at home most nights. Good choice? Yes I think so.
I have enjoyed the new challenges of late and I am glad I’m not 25, eager and ready to prove myself anymore because the current projects have the capacity to take me back to those 24/7 days of project stress.
Considering that there are more important things than the job, I do what I can and then try and switch off…which is not working so well the last 3-4 days. I know what’s needed…some time in the solitude of a quiet anchorage with a gentle breeze rippling the bay and the sound of the Fish Eagle in the distance !
So I want self-determination and accountability. No doubt about that.
But, if you don’t hand over the work to me, if you stay involved with the customer, making decisions and plans and then feeding me the decided-upon actions after the fact, well then don’t expect me to be too helpful and engaged.
Extract yourself Mr Salesman. Focus on the sales and give me the project to run.
Otherwise, don’t come crying to me when things go south and I’m not so keen to step in and assist you clean up the mess.
It takes a while to learn an organisation, to understand how things work and who the players are. It would be dishonest to quit a new assignment before one has given it enough time to really learn and understand the landscape.
My question is: “After 10 months, am I justified in saying I don’t think the new corporate gig is for me?”
But, one thing I am feeling very strongly is “The corporate environment doesn’t change. Same old same old. Just a different flavour”
I’m getting closer to the tipping point in this engagement I think.
I will continue to kill the debt, resist further enslaving lease/contract financial agreements and drive to point where I really am free of the need to work for the corporate.
Then we’ll see …. !