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

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9 thoughts on “Under pressure

  1. I equate that to being dropped off a cliff with a handkerchief and a sewing kit and being expected to make my parachute on the way down. The only way to avoid broken legs is to call in others who can help sew.
    I’d have faded under that kind of pressure but you, if not thrived on it, at least refused to go down without a fight. Well done Melani.
    xxx Massive Hugs.xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. I just hope that they don’t expect you to be able to do that again, as in, you were able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and now they can ask you to perform miracles on demand? Wow. Hat’s off to you, Mel.

    Liked by 1 person

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