My first “real” working group


It was an education, that’s for sure.

Ostensibly, I was brought in to advise the group regarding training and supports for a new unit that the working group was to establish.  They’d already been meeting for some time and I had a fair bit of catching up to do.  A further complication was that while there were several members of the group in my office, it was a virtual group.  We met by teleconference.

I got the notification while I was out of town, training.  At first, I thought it must have been a mistake, but I was soon set straight.

I’d never done anything of this nature before, and I was flattered that my manager and director had recommended me for the group, but I was completely out of my depth.

With the responsibility came the looming possibility of a needs analysis.  I didn’t think I knew how to do that.  I started searching the Intranet, found a few ideas, canvassed my colleagues, and got a few more.  Then I started Googling and that’s when things got really interesting.

Here are a few samples of the kinds of things I found:

Of all the resources I’d gathered, many were vague, some differing, and a few in outright opposition.  Most weren’t recent.

I even discussed the topic with my husband Phil, who was going through something similar at work.  What he recommended was a process analysis.  Essentially, the work to be done is broken down into its component steps, and then each step analyzed and potentially broken down further.  With a process analysis, task competencies could be easily identified, and from that, training specific to those competencies determined.  It could also be the basis for procedure and/or policy, or even a screening tool for candidates.  I liked the efficiency of the concept, and found it a reasonable proposal.

The unit had yet to be approved though, and so the people working in it couldn’t be officially identified, nor could the new unit or its potential requirements be discussed withanyone outside the working group.

How was I supposed to determine what training and supports might be necessary for a group of people who had yet to be named?  The process analysis still stood out for me as a solution.  The suggestion was not received with enthusiasm, however.

I had no experience.  I didn’t know how these things worked.  The project lead took my under her wing.  Another member of the group who’d had more experience in working groups than I, was also generous with her time and helped me to understand how things were supposed to go.

We were to cast our net wide, and think of all the possible courses that might be required by the unknown members of the proposed unit.  I researched, obtained estimates for training costs, and started to work on a self-study course for one of the applications that the staff would be using.  I also suggested a SharePoint site, which the group did set up and begin using.

Then we discovered that there was no budget, and most of my work had to be abandoned, the arragnements I’d tentatively made cancelled, and apologies and gratitude distributed tactfully.

About that time, things started getting hectic in my personal life.  My father “took a turn,” as they say, and passed away a week later.  After the family time I’d taken to stay with him during his illness, and my bereavement leave, I was approved for a number of additional weeks of annual and self-funded leave.

When I finally returned, the project and the nature of the unit had changed completely.  The necessary training was accomplished in my absence, my training course was not used, and the working group ceased to meet shortly thereafter.

It felt … anticlimactic.

It was an interesting experience and I certainly learned a lot (mostly about myself).

  • I will dive into a new project, even if I have no idea what it is about.
  • I’m a good researcher, so long as I have a defined goal.
  • I’m not confident in proposing my own ideas.
  • I will defer to the current authority.
  • I’ll adopt current procedures, even if I don’t see the value in them.
  • I’ll pursue my own goals and projects on the side (subversive me).
  • I’ll totally forgive myself when life happens.
  • I know my real priorities.

I still think the process analysis would have worked :)

Have you ever been thrown into the deep end?  Did you sink or swim?  Did something else happen?  I like to think I dog-paddled my way to the shallows where other priorities arose and by the time I was ready to dive back in, everyone else left the pool.  Special projects and working groups can be great learning experiences, but they can also be trials.

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