Asking 4 Change
You set a goal that calls for you to change and you realized while you start down the path of change, that change is difficult.
If you decided for some reason that you need to change your life, it won’t be easy. You will disrupt yourself. I am not telling you this is a good thing. I am telling you this is what will happen. Change means altering something that you have set as a pattern. Something that you are used to. If it were easy, there wouldn’t be billions of dollars in companies, books and programs for change. Change is hard. You have to break something and breaking things hurt.
Most people don’t change the things they want to change because of fear. Truth be told, I don’t particularly like change myself. It makes me uncomfortable. That said, I change things up often in small ways and since I have been asked a lot about change in the past few weeks, I figured I would jot down a few things I tell my boys. I am also sharing a short story of how change has impacted my life and career.
- You don’t like it.. change it or shut up and live with it. My father is pretty good with advice. He simplifies complicated things by just literally keeping it simple. He is the kind of guy that says “you do what you have to do” which always seems to make sense to me beyond the words. As a father, I seek to help my kids by keeping things simple as well. I think simplification also helps us grown ups. I recognize that everything may not be perceived as simple, but it really can be boiled up or down to some guiding concept.
- You make good choices and bad choices. If you make a bad choice and you see issues or consequences, it may not be in your control to change things for the better. It is in your control on how you change your behavior to manage the result of the bad choice. As a child, I would find myself making bad choices. It was almost like, if you break the seal on a bad choice bottle, then you have to drink what is inside. If you drink the bottle, things get worse but you broke the seal! The lesson here is disrupting that line of thinking right after you break the seal and having the sense and realization that you don’t have to go down that path. Even if you start drinking, you can stop at anytime. It can also be said that making a good choice on the onset could result in a bad outcome. If that happens, the power of choice and change is with you.
- We all get exactly what we ask for.. Independent of religion or spirituality, the universe is all connected. The reality for all of us is that if we put something consciously out into the universe by thought, something will happen. There will be an answer for an ask. I believe it is very subtle. That said, small things have a large impact. So, if you ask for a pony and you get a pony, you better figure out what taking care of a pony looks like. There is a good chance, that if you ask for something, you will get it. You just have to be very careful to either be prepared for the thing you are asking for or be ready to change to accommodate the thing you are asking for.
We should ask for things, there is no doubt. We should seek to find purpose in our lives and happiness. The challenge here is the path to the solution may not be clear and controllable.
Years ago, I was working with this retired Marine officer. He would never read my blog so for those that know me well let’s call him Mike R. We were in a meeting concerning the challenges of deploying a global system across many complex networks. My position was that many things were out of our control and we had to change our approach to adjust for the things that we can’t manage. In the beginning of this journey we sought to install software on computers all over the world and deliver data to that software. The clients in which the software would reside were all on networks and systems that were managed by other forces. Mike asked why we couldn’t just get it done since we had control over our software. I explained “Mike, control is an illusion.” Just because we can buy the software and we have licenses doesn’t mean we can just install it anywhere and send the data anywhere we want. He looked at me and said “You are wrong, control is control and I have it.” He did run a tight ship in the office. People were afraid of him and he did control many aspects of work for many people. However, even with my awesome and elite computing skills, I could not overcome the complications of multiple networks and multiple domains and deliver the software and data in the way in which he desired.
Luckily, he wasn’t the person in charge. The leader of the division asked me a different question and took a different position. He asked if I could get us to the outcome of delivering software and the data across the globe. He also said, “when you give a man your trust, you don’t worry about what he does, you have faith and let things happen as they may.” I didn’t have an immediate answer for either of them other than, we will figure it out.
I realized that I didn’t have control and I had to change my approach. I realized that they got exactly what they asked for. In this case they bought licensing and technologies that could do exactly what they wanted under very specific conditions.
Accept It or Don’t
Disruption is really not a good or bad thing. It is an action or activity that causes something to stop working in the way it normally works. Once something is disrupted, you have an opportunity. You can choose to continue the path as you knew it, you can change. In some cases, disruption can force change and it may be hard to go back.
What Mike did was try to control the conditions and the outcome. He saw something globally distributed through complex networks something he had domain over. If I own something, I can control it. If I make a choice, I can control the results. I can control every aspect of the conditions. That is all an illusion. No one could do that but he had to accept it as the truth because he really had no choice. On the other hand, what the lead of the division recognized was that he had no control and in order to solve the problem, he needed to have faith and live with the consequences of his choice. He was not comfortable either but he recognized that he needed to change his approach to even have a chance to accomplish his goal.
Chain of Trust
Quick recap for us
- I was asked to do something very specific in a very specific way.
- Change was happening and it was asked for.
- The realization of the ask was revealed and the consequences were significant and required something different. This was a disruptive moment.
When the Chief looked at me (he was the lead), he gave me something that motivated me. It inspired me and stoked a fire in my belly. I knew in my heart that I didn’t have an answer to his question in that moment. I also knew that I had to take risk and that people were counting on me to get it done. When he said “I am giving you my trust” there was a personalized weight and burden that I came to share with him. He wasn’t just counting on me or trusting me per se, he was sharing the weight of his burden with me. It is the same thing if you are standing behind someone and they fall backwards and expect you to catch them. He set an expectation and he put it in my hands. Mike sat there with his finger curled on his chin, legs crossed and a scowl.
We had a timeline for the project already set prior to my involvement. My job was to meet the objective on time and on budget. Once I was given the responsibility and a clear understanding of my objectives, I went to my team and started talking about the end goal rather than the current timeline and resources. I told my team that we had a chain of trust. We all had a responsibility to keep the chain strong and we all had a responsibility to deliver the outcome.
My team had to maintain the current system which was really a prototype for the next generation. We had people counting on us to maintain and manage the old and now develop, deploy and implement the new. All sorts of other changes were involved as well. We had to consider training concerns, support, global connections and distribution, back end support of the new platform and increased demand. We had to be able to scale something, patch it up, rebuild it, support it, increase capabilities and keep the costs down all at the same time. On a glance it seemed impossible. At this time, the concept of cloud computing was mainframe, terminal and … remote desktop.
Disrupt, Accept and Succeed
The normal order of business was to hide all of our failures and only propagate or talk of our success. In order to get more funding for initiatives, we needed to show successful use of our platforms and services. My team made a decision to expose our issues and highlight our challenges. I started a series of meeting with various officers and leaders of our command and the networks and commands in which we sought to distribute our new services. I shared our situation and asked for ideas and help. I also had some ideas on ground breaking brand new scary technology to use along the way (Virtualization). I was taking a lot of risk and I spent a lot of time in meetings and writing. I was making changes in process and practice and disrupting normal operations. I asked people to help and get involved in things they would not normally engage in. I was also potentially putting the whole program at risk because I was exposing our weakness.
At many long square table meetings, people questioned and challenged my approach. They challenged the Chief and they pushed him. Sometimes, I wondered if I was letting him down because he had to tolerate so many conversations and questions. He had to take calls from others outside of his division and command as well to answer why our names were heard around the globe. All the while, he never wavered and never told me once to stop. He could not see progress, he could only see pain.
Time marched on and as meetings and milestones approached, I missed a few. The pressure was on and I was trying to do things that were never done before in the enterprise. I kept talking about the outcome and the end goals and asked others to stop looking at the activities. It was like going to the back of the kitchen and trying to figure out what the meal would like like plated.
My team came to the conclusion that not only did we have to ask for help in ideas but we also had to share the burden of our mission. We were able to get support from various people across our network. The Army friends provided licenses for part of our solution, the Navy friends provided some extra old servers they had, the Marines provided some talent to help with testing and training and the Coast Guard provided an officer named Roger who helped us connect and strategize an approach that was consistent with information assurance (before that was a cyber thing). It was change for everyone and it was passion and determination now that was driving us. We stood up the first virtual infrastructure in our command and one of the first in the defense department. There were no security controls written for it yet, we had to work with the vendor. We used older technologies to deliver world class terminal and remote desktop in order to deliver the solution. We worked with security and network teams both at our command and around the globe to help. We built a system that could scale and grow and that met the objective. Not only could this system scale, it could be moved to the cloud when such a thing came to exist. It was the power of trust and faith, collaboration and cooperation that allowed us to achieve our goals. That which seemed impossible.
We had to change our behavior and we had to change our approach. We had to change our process and practice. We had to expose ourselves and show our weakness. We had to ask for help and we had to accept the consequences of good and bad choices.
In the end the Chief aka Kenny Williams became a personal hero to me and a role model. The faith in my team and my teams faith in me. The personal weight and burden of taking the risks and disrupting myself and others was terrifying. I had a very young family and responsibilities. I had many counting on me and I was afraid. My greatest fear was that I would fail them all and my greatest motivator was seeing the end in which we could all learn and benefit.
Thank you to all of those who serve and to all of those who helped and support!