Thursday, December 21, 2017

Watering the Turf

I hate turf wars.

One of my jobs back in Vicksburg is to hold a monthly discussion session with people on how to collaborate.  My team pulls people together who are struggling to work together, helps them identify a common goal, and gets them talking.  Sometimes it is easy when we have an easily definable common goal.  Other times we have competing missions that make it impossible to do so.

But my job is to start people talking and sharing resources.

An simple example of something that worked this past year:  We had a significant re-org in our office, and we were thrown into a new group.  And the time with the boss is the scarce resource, and we were competing for it without discussing the problems among ourselves. We weren't talking.  There was no hostility.... but there was no relationship.

Individually, we were talking.  Some of us, anyway. But we needed to talk regularly.  And our weekly formal briefing meetings were not cutting it.

I instituted a CrockPot Thursday.

Every Thursday, I would put some large hunk of meat - pork, beef, chicken, wild boar, venison, sausage, whatever - into the pot.  And I would put in all of the supplemental pieces of deliciousness - potatoes, celery, carrots, pasta, kale, garlic, onions, and other stuff.  Most of the time I'd make a pico de gallo to accompany it.  And the vehicle for getting it in - tortillas, baguettes; sandwich bread, rolls... and the sour cream, mustard, hot sauce - we did it all.

People would smell the food and congregate.  A plate or bowl of food in hand, and pretty soon, the conversation started.   Work.  Ducks and bucks killed, past and future.  Fishing.  Vacations.  Memos.  Regulations.  Family. Church.

Magically, we became a team.

I showed up in Puerto Rico at a time when the two offices involved in the power restoration mission were all involved in the daily battle to get things done.  When I arrived, the biggest task facing my office was to remove our office from the knife fight and survey the terrain for the appropriate battlegrounds, to give us the best chance for mission success.  We are working on programs - the big picture and money side of the project.  The other office is involved in project management - overseeing the actual execution of the tasks.  It seems like every day we are fending off one another from the turf we have carved out as our own.  GIS resources, real estate services, counsel, logistics.....

Message received: DON'T TOUCH!

When I get dropped into a scenario where there is a massive turf war going on, my instinct is to feed people.

Instead of fighting over the turf, I choose libations after work.  I choose feeding and watering the turf, so that we can fight over the important things. Fighting to bring people power.  Fighting to get electrical lines restored.

Today I am making a vegetable curry.  The office smells of cumin and cayenne, and in the shared kitchen today the turf becomes ours.  Not yours.  Not mine.  Ours.

Watered turf makes for lousy battle conditions.  And I like it that way.

Estamos aqui.  Luchando juntos.

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