Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Good Day at Work

Since I bitch liberally about the bad days, it's only fair that I should mention the rare day that makes me happy that I have my job.  I really hope that days like this will get less rare in the future.
This morning started with an exhausting meeting with a representative from third-party vendor.  The woman spent an hour (and she was going to use every last second of it) to explain to us that we have the privilege of working for the only organization on earth that seeks to pre-authorize expenditures with a strange new invention known as the purchase order.  Apparently everyone else on earth just writes her company a blank check and asks them to go to town.  But my company is revolutionary in that we seek to control expenses.  INSANE, RIGHT?  Also, this woman is evidently paid by the word.  We would ask her a simple yes or no question ("We won't pay you any money unless you have a purchase order.  When you submit your invoice, if you don't have a purchase order, it will be rejected.  If an invoice is rejected, that means you're not getting paid.  Do you understand?") and she would go ON and ON for years about how she didn't need a purchase order, but that she understood our process (a claim which was demonstrably false) and blah blah blah yakety yakety yak.  I was like, dude, some of us have work to do that doesn't involve being an intolerable blowhard with a questionable grasp of the English language.  Can we maybe skip ahead a little?
When the meeting was finally over, our new executive sponsor asked if I'd stay behind.  He was like, "I can't help but notice that you're publishing metrics that would help us quantify the benefit of this system you just implemented, and also metrics that seem designed to help us pinpoint issues with our business processes.  I was really happy to see them, and I was wondering if that's a service your department provides, or...?"  We ended up talking for 30 minutes about the transition his group is about to go through (now that we're implementing the enterprise system essentially worldwide, they will not be the big cheeses they're used to being anymore, and the days of having a system fix for every minor inconvenience are well and truly over).  We talked about the importance of strategic thinking about financial applications and about helping his group gain the perspective to rise above the petty things and target stuff that really gives them bang for their buck, and about what IT can do to help him make a case for those things in the wider user community so that he might actually get them funded.  We talked about what it takes to build an ROI for a financial application or an enhancement, and what it takes to build discipline around the ROI process.  We talked about what my job is and what it should be, how that goes hand in hand with what his department is doing versus what they should be focused on, and about the dysfunctional parts of our corporate culture that contribute to that.  And we talked about our desire to work together to fix it.
So often work feels like being in the movie "Brazil."  There are acres of forms to be filled out in triplicate, and about 90% of the forms have outlived their original purpose (or never served any true purpose to begin with, apart from the purpose of shutting someone somewhere up about something).  The process of finding meaning and transcending your situation is exhasting and perilous and it feels like there is a vast conspiracy actively trying to tire you out so that no one gets any value out of your job.  When you meet someone who really wants to change it and who has anything to bring to the party--motivation when you're ready to give up, knowledge, connections, or just a good stout rope--it's like meeting your Harry Tuttle.  It gives you a reason to fight the good fight, and motivation to keep up the existential battle of creating some value somewhere at work. I won't be thinking about the ending of the movie today....

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