On Being Acknowledged

2020.02.12

The time has come to move out many no-longer-used books, papers, presentations, seminar notes and other such things that I have kept from those long gone days of my career.  That all ended in 2011.  There were many pieces of my work that carried my former intelligence and experience; however, they were all passé and I couldn’t think of anybody who, today, would care about what they had to offer.

Then there were my books, many of which were easy to garbage, but some I felt drawn to open again.  In fact, I now have a few by my easy chair that I plan to reread before they are moved on.

One such book is called ‘Rules for Ageing , a wry and witty guide to life’ by Roger Rosenblatt.  Besides some good advice, almost every ‘rule’ includes something humorous.

One rule is titled, ‘Expect gratitude from everybody for everything’ to which he quickly adds a note to say he was just kidding and one should work on the basis of expecting gratitude from nobody for anything.  Those few words triggered a memory from my erstwhile career.

As the manager of a department which I called ‘The Centre of Excellence for Project Management’, my team and I created many processes, reporting mechanisms, and metrics for both sponsoring and running IT projects of any size.  There were many business leaders and managers, as well as the IT project team leaders, who were critical of these instituted processes and mechanisms.  Some of those critiques were harsh—at least I thought so—but the processes and mechanisms I delivered were not intended to be rigid dogma; after all, my goal was to have the project teams ‘think’ about their project execution rather than respond to rote direction.  That is what I fed back to the naysayers and, thankfully, senior management supported me.

All the processes, templates, and forms were placed on the internal website for the appropriate people to access.  From time to time, I put on seminars and workshops to help newcomers to the company understand how to make use of these ‘tools’.  All the notes and exercises from these seminars and workshops were also made available to everyone to download.

These processes worked for some while others ignored them and I sometimes wondered whether or not I was adding value to the operation.

Then the unthinkable happened—layoffs.  Layoff packages were put in place for employees to use and contractors were given notice as per their contract.  Everything came to an end in the final days of a specific month.  On about the 27th of that month I got a call from the manager of the IT operating team who managed the use of our computer storage systems.

“Jack, I thought you might be interested to know that the files held in your team area in our storage system have been the most active of any in the whole company for the past two weeks.  A lot of people sure seem interested in your stuff.”  I smiled, because I immediately realised what was happening.  All those people who were on their way out realised the value of all the process documentation that my team had created over the previous year and a bit.  They wanted copies to take with them in case there was an opportunity to use them elsewhere to their advantage.

When I hung up the phone I felt my work had been acknowledged and lot of folk out there were grateful to be able to take with them something they clearly thought was of value, regardless of the attitude they might have projected when those processes were first introduced.  Roger Rosenblatt was right.  Don’t expect to hear anything about gratitude, but this time, peoples’ actions proved to be better than the words they would probably never say.

That evening, at home, my pre-dinner Scotch tasted extra good.