Under pressure

Warning: This is a mega-post.

 

The content of this video really spoke to me and reminded me that I certainly could have it worse. First world problems and all that.


 

A few weeks ago, I reported that I’d been “called up” for another acting assignment as a consultant. I was a little wary when I first heard of the offer because it came not from the manager of the unit, but my then-current manager.

See, although I’d made the pool, the process of awarding indeterminate positions (something I’m not likely to get by virtue of my location and unwillingness to move) was ongoing and so I would be appointed as a result of an unadvertised process. It’s a fancy way of saying they couldn’t wait for the formal appointment process to get to the acting positions.

The last two times I was given an acting consultancy, I was acting in the role of training coordinator. It was not something I enjoyed. In fact, you could say that it drove me crazy.

This time, I would be committing to three specific projects:

  1. create an 18-month training plan for three business lines;
  2. help manage the overtime for the training team; and
  3. administrate a SharePoint tool created to capture and calibrate performance management ratings.

I would have no further involvement with the three training plans other than to create them. This was important to me because it was the maintenance of the plan that really got to me before (make the plan, change the plan three times before it’s even approved, then change it at least once a week thereafter, but keep all activities and escalating costs within the original budget request).

I was okay with that and decided to accept the four-months-less-a-day appointment. This will take me into the first week of May.

There was a tacit understanding that I could be appointed another acting consultancy from the pool through the formal process. We agreed to cross that bridge if it was erected.

So I started collecting information from business expertise and operational management on training needs for the proposed plan. Due to a restructuring of our internal college and learning networks, the planning process has been delayed pending the completion of a new tool (also a SharePoint site, incidentally) to help in the planning process.

I got a handle on the overtime process fairly quickly, organized the drive folders to reflect the (fairly simple) process, and track the overtime budget. This last is a bit of a sticking point. Almost a month into the fourth quarter I still don’t have a definitive number as to what our Q4 OT budget is . . .

I met with the then-administrator (going on parental leave as soon as his baby arrived, hence the urgency of my appointment) of the performance management SharePoint site and tool. I was given a brief tour and told that everything was set up and ready to go. All I had to do would be to watch the dear thing tick away.

Oh, yeah. And as a bonus fourth task, I was to write a nomination for the Service Excellence Awards.

My work of the first few days, aside from orientation, was to write up the nomination, due in a couple of days. Though stressful, my writing skills carried me through the nomination form and I met the deadline.

The OT process seemed to order itself fairly well.

After my initial consultation with the then-administrator of the performance management SharePoint site, he disappeared. The news came out a few days later that his wife had had her baby and he was officially on parental leave.

That was when issues started to emerge from the cracks like cockroaches in the dark.

I had already requested Designer Plus permission of the site (the highest a non-IT employee can receive) and for SharePoint Designer to be installed on my computer. The last time I had done any serious SharePoint admin, Desiger was off-limits. I didn’t know how to use the program and so turned to my friend Lynda.com to help me learn it.

I was asked to validate the management structure so that the appropriate accesses and permissions could be set up and set the deadline for noon on Thursday.

I became aware (belatedly) that a new set of custom list templates had to be imported into the site. This was not something I could do, and I have to put in a third service request to IT to have one of their specialists take care of that.

Once the templates were on the site, I created the new lists from them. Unfortunately I wasn’t advised that I could not change the names of the lists without breaking the cascading lookups and Kwiz forms customizations. Of course, when I tried out my newly created lists, they didn’t work.

Not having learned how to use either third party app (Cascading Lookup Plus or Kwiz), I was understandably at a loss as to how to proceed.

So I went ahead and amended the security list with the most recent changes to management structure.

On Friday of my second week in the acting consultancy, there was an information session by the creator of the tool, someone self-taught, like myself, but far more adept.

In that session, I learned about the naming issue, but when I’d created another new set of lists with proper names after the meeting, they still did not work. Before the day ended, I was finally informed that I would have SP Designer installed on my computer over the weekend.

On Monday of my third week, I confirmed the presence of Designer on my computer.

Then I received a call from one of the Directors indicating that the tool had to be ready to go for Wednesday. The creator of the tool was otherwise engaged for the day (two other business lines were setting up similar systems and his expertise was required).

Understandably, I panicked.

I thought my inability to get the lists to work properly meant that I had to get the templates reinstalled. I contacted the person who had imported them and asked for his help. I put in another service request to have the templates reinstalled ASAP. I got an emailed and cursory response to some of my questions from the tool’s creator, which didn’t help me much.

I initiated yet another service request for a custom permission level to be created for the site. This was another piece of the puzzle I was apparently missing. I was informed, however, that the properly named lists should work and that no reinstall was necessary. I called to cancel that service request, at least.

But the day ended without further action and the last word from my manager was to make it happen. I’d have to get the tool in functional shape by Wednesday at 9 am. I was authorized to work overtime, if necessary. How I was going to manage it, I didn’t have the first clue.

Needless to say, I hardly slept. The next day, I frightened everyone in my immediate area (sorry ladies) by having a full-blown freak out.

The creator of the tool was able to spend some time with me in the morning sorting things out. We fixed the three lists by deleting and recreating the cascading lookup columns in all of them.

I was shown how to import the three custom workflows using Designer. Running out of time, the creator fixed up two of the three and told me I’d be able to take care of the last one myself. Then, my sole support had to go help the other business lines. He said he’d try to get back to me later in the day.

So I fixed up the last of the workflows to the degree I could.

My manager called for an update and I was honest with her about the status of the project. We might be in trouble for the 9 am deadline.

Shortly after, the creator of the tool called back about ten minutes before he left for the day. He confirmed that I’d done a good job on the last of the workflows but said that we wouldn’t be able to go any further without the custom permission level (remember the second service request from Monday?) and two custom security groups for the lists themselves.

He said to add the security groups to my permission level request and try to get them all actioned right away. He committed to working with me first thing in the morning to finish off everything.

So I called IT and got them to change the service request and expedite its assignment. I informed them I’d be working late and so someone in BC might be able to help me out. It was all I could do.

I turned to fixing up the instructions and wording on the SharePoint site around the use of the tool.

About an hour into my overtime, one of the people from the other business lines, also tasked to have the tool up and functional for the following morning, called and asked me about the workflows.

I shared what I could with her and in return, she advised me who I could contact to have the permission level and security groups set up. Unfortunately, that person was in Quebec and had already left for the day.

I updated my manager at her home and, not being able to go further on my own, called Phil to pick me up.

My sleep was only marginally improved and the next day dawned a weary one.

My first order of business Wednesday morning was to get in touch with the IT person I was referred to the night before. He was very helpful and the work was completed quickly, but not in time for the 9 am deadline.

I called the creator of the tool and he finished two of the three workflows. Again, he had to leave to help others and said he’d call back as soon as he could.

I tried to follow his set up for the final workflow, but received an error when I tried to run it on the sample entry we’d made to test the tool.

The creator of the tool called back just before noon and fixed the last of the workflows. We ran it and everything was working. My relief was intense.

My manager called and I reported our belated success. We then turned our attention to the wording on the site and the three official communications pieces that should have been sent out at 9 am that morning.

I made notes for the rewording of the site, and then we worked together to revise the three email communications for our business line.

After two hours of work, my manager’s email crashed and she lost the drafts. There were tears.

We reconstructed the communications in record time (the second time around) and were able to send them for translation before I left work. My manager would not be at work Thursday or Friday, so I was the point person for approval of the communication content before they were sent on to the executive director for final approval and release.

Thursday presented its own challenges, but the communications were released just after noon. In the late afternoon, I started to receive requests for access to the tool.

Everyone should have had access.

Another panicked call to the tool’s creator and he helped me sort out part of the problem. The other was an issue that wasn’t related to anything I had done (or not done) on the site.

Friday morning saw the resolution of the access issues, and I was finally able to implement my manager’s suggested revisions for the site messaging from Wednesday afternoon.

Can we say WHEW?

This was, by far, the most stressful week I’ve experienced at work in the fourteen years I’ve worked for my employer.

Phil was incredibly supportive through the whole week. I’m so lucky to have such a great guy. I survived and am back to my usual, laid-back self, but this is not an experience I’m eager to repeat.

Lessons learned: I must get detailed documentation on any project I’m parachuted into the middle of in the future. This was a situation in which I literally didn’t know what I didn’t know (and what I needed to know to be able to do the job). Being deemed a SharePoint “expert” has its drawbacks.

And that is my tale of woe and triumph for the week.

Next weekend, I’m attending an event on Feb 1 (Imbolc for the paganish), and then, on Feb 3, I’m delivering my ‘how to get published’ workshop. It’s been moved from the afternoon to the evening and reduced to two hours, but it’s still going forward.

All is once again well in Mellie-ville.

How about you? Have you had (seemingly insurmountable) work challenges that you’ve been able to meet? Have you been able to surface from a sea of overwhelm and make your way to shore?

The Learning Mutt

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Jan 11-17, 2015

Let’s start with a moment of silence. Please use that time to look at these images from Paris in the wake of the terrorist attack. The Boston Globe.


 

Fast Company asks, what is your beautiful question of 2015?

The subtle art of not giving a fuck. This post by Mark Hanson was shared by Delilah S. Dawson. It’s pure awesomesause.

And here is one of my favourite memes on the subject:

Field of Fucks

Canva shares six ways to stay creative under pressure.

Mary Jaksh of Write to Done compiled this list of creativity posts and articles.

Why not everyone who tries drugs becomes an addict. IFLS.

Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign takes aim at ending the stigma around mental illness.

Clara Hughes’s testimonial:

 

How women are working to change the public perception of body image. UpWorthy.

How will language change in the next 100 years? The Wall Street Journal.

Bill Nye’s new book and talking Darwin over dinner. Science Friday.

i09 presents eight logical fallacies that fuel anti-science sentiments.

Space Suite, a short video by Lucas Green and shared by Phil Plait on his Bad Astronomy blog.

Neil deGrasse Tyson answers the question, “what’s the meaning of life?” UpRoxx. Best answer since 42.

How many smells can you smell? It’s okay to be smart.

 

Why do dogs watch—and react to—TV? National Geographic.

Does my dog know what I’m thinking? It’s okay to be smart.

 

Do our dogs miss us when we go away? BrainCraft.

 

Foxes in photos from MetaSpoon.

The beauty of abandoned greenhouses. MessyNessyChic.

Dark and lonely roads photographed by Andy Lee. Bored Panda.

2200 year old mosaics uncovered in ancient Greek city. Twisted Sifter.

Imogen Heap is one of my favourite musicians, but she’s also a musical inventor and innovator. Consider her brilliance in this article from CNN about her Mi.Mu gloves.

Owl City and Lindsey Stirling: Beautiful Times. Just lovely.

 

Last week was uber thoughty! Who’d a thunk it?

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 28, 2014-Jan 3, 2015

Peg Fitzpatrick shares Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar project. Write the happiest moment of your day down and put it in the jar. It’s as simple as that.

The seven habits of happy people that they never talk about. Mind Body Green.

The age of loneliness is killing us. The Guardian.

WikiHow explains how to recognize a psychopath.

Back in September, just before DevLearn, Twist recorded a conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson about science literacy and the future of work. Awesome stuff.

The eight books Neil believes everyone should read to understand the thinking that has historically driven western culture. Brainpickings.

Moar Neil, this time from the Business Insider: Why role models are overrated. It starts a playlist, but they’re all interesting videos . . .

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This article by Keith E. Stanovich for The Scientific American made me think about thinking. Metathinking? Anyway, it’s about dysrational thought and intelligence.

Thought we were more enlightened than this? I did too. Excellent reality check and novel fodder. i09.

Ten comics intended to shut down terrible arguments (but that might really only inflame the situation—please use with caution). i09.

These ten Futurama jokes will make you smarter. i09.

Another study confirms that ereaders disturb proper sleep patterns leading to various health complications. If you read anything before sleeping, make it a paper book. NPR.

The science of sleep: dreaming, depression, and how REM sleep regulates negative emotions. Brainpickings.

Why is NASA looking at your Christmas lights from space? Futurity.

We didn’t get to see this, but apparently there was a comet that could be seen with the naked (or binoculared) eye on New Year’s. The Christian Science Monitor.

There’s this star and it’s headed straight for our solar system. IFLS.

The Large Hadron Collider is coming back online at double the power to track down that tricky Higgs Boson and solve more of the mysteries of the universe. The Independent.

Archaeologists have unearthed a 6000 year old mega-temple built by a matriarchal society. World.Mic

These photographs of ancient trees are absolutely fabulous. BoredPanda.

Here are the top five National Geographic videos of 2014. Varied topics, but all fascinating.

People buy the strangest things. The Examiner.

An old-timey cover of Stay with me by Christina Gatti:

 

This guy casts his boxer puppy as Indiana Bones. Too kawaii for words. i09.

That’s your thoughty for the week.

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 21-27, 2014

Sixteen tips for dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The Toast.

Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC’s The Current interviews psychologist Brian Little about personality types.

The elusive art of inner wholeness. Parker Palmer on Brainpickings.

Wendell Barry on solitude and why pride and despair are the two great enemies of creativity. Brainpickings.

The power of applied physics. i09.

Crows understand analogies. So much for calling someone a bird brain ;) IFLS.

How to find faster than light particles. IFLS.

Say hello to our new galactic neighbour. IFLS.

The dominant life form in the cosmos is probably superintelligent robots. Really? Motherboard.

American management explained. Tickld.

25 of the most creative sculptures you’ll ever see. EarthPorm.com

25 wild parenting moments from EarthPorm.com.

Looking back at Christmas with a couple of videos.

The Pogues:

 

And your Christmas kawaii:

 

It may be January first, but Janus looks back as well as forwards ;)

Have a great rest of the week, y’all!

Thoughty Thursday

Putting the team first

Back in November, I co-facilitated a team building course called Putting the Team First. I haven’t blogged about it until now, well, because NaNoWriMo, and Christmas shopping, and other stuffs.

So here’s my first learning and development related post in, like, forever . . .

Let’s get one thing straight

I attended the training for trainers (T4T) version of the course back in December of 2013 and one of the first things we needed to get straight was the name of the course. People were calling it Putting Teams First. The designer (who was also one of the trainers) was very specific on this point.

It’s Putting the Team First, thank you very much.

Why so picky? Because that’s the focus of the course, to improve performance, one team at a time. We put the team first and each class focuses on one team, the entire team, if possible.

The hand off

The T4T was being delivered to train regional advisors and consultants in the material and methodology because our internal college, which is national, was handing off delivery of the course to the regions.

While I had scheduled multiple sessions of the course for each sector in Ontario throughout the year (in my former capacity as training coordinator) this was the first occasion I’d had to deliver the course in the year since I’d received the training.

So, I jumped at the chance.

Theme and methodology

The theme was a nautical one and the one-day course was divided, as usual, into modules. The introduction was Boarding, followed by Packing for the Journey, The Crew, and Under Full Sail.

Boarding dealt with the usual icebreaker activity, establishing trust, and navigation (the agenda) for the course.

Packing involved identifying issues that the team faced and prioritizing them according to what could be addressed by the team (cargo), what was negotiable (dock), and what was out of the team’s control (warehouse).

We also did a fun exercise on prioritizing salvage in the event of a shipwreck. The team had to work together to come to a consensus regarding what the most important items would be. The answers were prioritized by the Coastguard including rationales for each.

The crew moved on to Tuckman’s Model. I’d encountered it before, but it was never given its proper name. For those who don’t know, Tuckman’s is the model of group dynamics that includes four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Some thought was given to where the team thought they were on that continuum, but we didn’t belabour it.

We also delved into team player “types” with an emphasis on the fact that everyone is a mixture of all four identified types, but that one manner of “expression” may be predominant. The four types were contributor, collaborator, communicator, and controller. Participants identified themselves and gave some thought to how tasks might best be allocated based on the strengths of each type.

Finally, in Under Full Sail, we returned to the issues identified by the participants back in the Packing module and the team had to once again work together to create an action plan to address their most challenging issues.

The idea is that the team will have the tools that they need to take action on their plan after leaving the course. We don’t check up on them, however. It’s entirely up to the team to take the information and run with it.

So that’s what a day of team building is like where I work.

What kinds of team building training have you facilitated? Participated in? What did you think?

The Learning Mutt

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 14-20, 2014

It’s Christmas Day . . . whee! I’ll be sharing a great meal with the family. Hope all of you are similarly occupied today.

Creative people are paradoxical. Who knew? ;) Fast Comapny.

What it means to have the heart of an empath. Sensitive is also one of the defining traits of the introverted, so you may find some enlightenment here. Elephant Journal.

I have this amazing friend (Hi, Dani!) who’s been teaching mindfulness to her class. They made this video:

 

Have a look at the lovely (and detailed) maps being sent back to us from Mars. Wired.

The huge issues science fiction movies conveniently gloss over. Cracked.

How ancient Romans made stronger concrete than we do. Construction companies, take note. i09.

I’m not even sure where to put this . . . The blood-curdling sound of the Aztec whistle. Dangerous Minds.

A creative musician figured out a way to translate the information contained in tree rings into piano notes. The result is amazing. IFLS

This is awesome. How a 3D printer was used to make prosthetics for a dog born with malformed front legs. Fabulous implications for human application, too, don’t you think? IFLS.

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 7-13, 2014

Why every year seems to pass more quickly than the last. The Mind Unleashed. An argument for remaining present in the moment if I ever heard one.

The CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti interviews Bletchley Circle code breaker.

Albert Einstein wrote to Marie Curie and advised her to take heart and ignore the “trolls.” i09.

28 months on Mars. What Curiosity has taught us so far. The New York Times.

Two blue giants engage in interstellar merger. IFLS.

Is there a parallel universe that moves backward in time? IFLS. As one friend commented, science is finally catching up with Merlin (The Once and Future King, T.H. White).

One physicist has a groundbreaking idea about why life exists. Business Insider.

Are there still people out there that think climate change is a conspiracy? Ask them to watch this:

 

Images of Bhopal and its people, thirty years after the disaster. The Altantic.

Rinelle Harper calls for national inquiry into violence against aboriginal women. The Huffington Post.

What an x-ray reveals about the art of Artemesia Gentileschi.

How one boy responded when his friend came out to him. Elite Daily.

Amazing uncensored art reflects modern society. So bad, so good.

Here’s some inspiration for you: Why you will fail to have a great career. Larry Smith’s TEDxUW talk.

 

This is just fun: someone created a map of the UK with only the rude place names listed. *giggles* Buzzfeed.

Ok. Time to get a little weepy over our canine buddies. Why dogs never really die. Tickld.

And on that sombre note, Thoughty Thursday is adjourned.

See you Saturday for all things updatey :)

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Nov 30-Dec 6, 2014

Diana Pitaru of Psych Central wonders, are we afraid of losing our darkness?

TED talks to pick you up when you’re feeling down.

The trouble with bright girls. Psychology Today.

Anita Sarkeesian is just getting started. Bloomberg Businessweek. One of my favourite bits: “Harassment is the background radiation of my life.” And still she fights on. The definition of courage.

Alanah Pearce has started reporting young harassers to their moms. The Huffington Post.

Trauma dog helps victims on the stand during sexual abuse trial. The Huffington Post.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the Montreal Massacre was perpetrated. Poet Penn Kemp posted about some of the commemorative and healing events taking place.

The world’s oldest engravings found on 500,000 year old shells. IFLS.

Abandoned and tragic places are fascinating to me. Drone footage of the Chernobyl exclusion zone from IFLS.

Thanks to Phil Plait for posting this wonderful video on his Slate Bad Astronomy column.

Cymatics, the science of sound from Nigel Stanford.

 

Cody C. Delistraty of The Atlantic wonders, can creativity be learned? What a new study reports.

The difference between opinion and reaction. Prolost.

Walking helps us think. The New Yorker.

Veritasium. Why innovation in education is not the end of the teacher.

 

Reasons you should move to Finland. Buzzfeed. We have most of this stuff right here in Canada, though, especially in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and many other northern communities where the Finnish have settled. My last name? Finnish :) Yes, my mom has a sauna and makes Finn bun. Om-a-nom-a-nom-a-nom.

I only hope this is true. The Huffington Post.

Kawaii time with Buzzfeed: 21 reasons to be thankful for your dog.

Stanley the Airedale talks to his mom on the phone.

 

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Nov 23-29, 2014

Chuck Wendig confesses to being a sexist, racist, and whatever other ‘ists you can think of. This is social justice in my opinion, so I’m presenting it on thoughty day.

The psychology behind messy rooms. Elite Daily.

Wired’s absurd creature of the week: The colugo. Flying squirrel meets bush baby.

We’re mistaken about the whole alpha wolf thing. i09.

Ravens have social abilities previously only seen in humans. Another reason curvus corvus rocks my world. IFLS.

Interesting for genealogists and writers. Who is related to whom in what way? A great chart to keep things simple. mic.com

Because I love language. Newfoundland slang, brought to you by Cottage Life.

And that’s a wrap for this week.

Thoughty Thursday

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Nov 16-22, 2014

Can you rewire your brain to change bad habits, thoughts, and feelings? AlterNet.

The science of sleep on Brainpickings.

Brain scans reveal what dogs really think of humans. Brain.mic

An archaeological find with a great story behind it. The Daily Mail Online.

A 1300 year old book of Egyptian spells has been deciphered. i09.

A 2000 year old pigment can eliminate the third dimension. Confused? Just read the article. i09.

Five facts you should know about the women who shaped modern physics. Ideas.TED.com

Know your place in the universe. BuzzFeed.

The sound the universe makes. Janna Levin. TED Talk.

Could we actually live on Mars? ASAP Science.

 

Russian dash cams have caught another flash in the sky. They’re still trying to figure out what it was. IFLS.

The sixth extinction. It’s coming. It’s okay to be smart.

 

What does a murmuration look like when it’s not in flight?

 

MacLean’s interviews Joni Mitchell.

A light-based art exhibit by Bruce Munro. My Modern Met.

Six ideas from creative thinkers to shake up your work routine. Ideas.TED.com

What Finland is doing right for its students. The Conversation.

Soup to nuts and everything in between :)

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday