Saturday, April 7, 2018

Stop Your Bottlenecking!

Management is probably the biggest challenge I've ever experienced.  I feel like I'm responsible for so many things but in direct control of almost nothing.  I have so many ideas that I sometimes wake up in an energetic frenzy in the middle of the night, but sadly not a lot of time to move them forward.  There are times when I feel like my team's work is stuck, and I'm the reason why. 

Some ideas to address this:
Image Credit: Ralf Steinberger, Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Being honest with myself about how much work I can do.  We use JIRA to plan our development-related work as an engineering team.  I can do about ten points of non-management work in a two-week sprint. But I want to do more than ten points worth of stuff.  So I think I have been underestimating point values in an effort to enable myself to take ownership of more tasks than I should - e.g. referring to what should truly be a 3 point task as a 1 point task. Saying I can do 10 points of stuff that's really more like 20 or 25 has contributed to taking too much on and unfairly inhibiting people who are dependent on these tasks getting done. 

Being honest with my team about how much work I can do:  I confessed on a project slack channel that I was a bottleneck.  I said if we wanted the project to move faster than I was moving it that I would need to have help with some specific tasks. And now we have a hack-hour scheduled next week where we'll attack the problem together. 

Being less responsive Several times a week, someone posts to our slack channel a quirky problem with the software or with our internal infrastructure that I want to help them figure out.  I love troubleshooting and problem-solving.  But it can also be a distraction from larger goals that I need to be spending my time on instead.  If it's an important thing that really needs to be figured out, making a note to revisit the question in an hour or so is probably a good approach.  Chances are that in that hour, someone else has probably jumped in to help without my having to spend time on it.  I've given someone else the opportunity to experience the thrill of helping to solve a problem, and spent that time on a less urgent but equally important team goal.

Is it really that bad?  I have notoriously high expectations of myself and if there's any way I can judge myself as not being good enough, that will be my takeaway.  I am probably doing at least an average job, even when I think I suck.  A concrete list of things that do get done can help me see this more objectively.