Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another Awesome Day at UMB

I got up at 8 this morning and left my house by 9 so that I could walk on the beach and eat breakfast before heading out to UMB for a meeting with my Organizational Design Team. I mention this because a year ago, when I still lived in Cambridge, this would have been unthinkable-getting up at 8 on a Saturday? To make a 12:30 meeting?

But Circumstances have Changed Since Then, and while I was not crazy about them changing at the time, I'm really much better off now-even if I spend more of my life on public transportation than I did previously.

So, I caught a 10:30 commuter rail train to be at UMB at 12:30. I got there at 12 and met up with my team-mate J-who actually works there-in his office. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to find his office (even though I'd been there before-UMB is like a giant gerbil farm-I can't even find the nearest womens rest room most of the time that I'm there.) Our teammate A had class until 12:30 so he called and came up to meet us in J's office. We printed stuff out and found snacks and our favorite class room. I was a bit nervous because we'd gotten into an argument on Monday night. One of my team mates was really angry when he left. We'd all showed up at class on Tuesday and gotten along through the group exercise we had to perform (taking a bunch of office supplies and paper goods and turning them into a device that you could use to drop a raw egg from one story without the egg cracking) but that was a Structured Environment-this was just the three of us again. We did discuss the Incident after class on Tuesday and agree on ways to avoid it in the future, but I was still nervous. We had lots to do and we needed to spend several hours together getting it done.

An aside-part of why I'm so interested and fascinated by this group dynamic-we met each other a few weeks ago. I still don't know either of these guys' middle names or even why they applied to the UMB MBA program. They don't know *my* middle name either. But at the same time, I can tell you what snack foods they both like and something about how both of them work and they can tell you the same about me. We've passed a computer back and forth between us (I started rearranging the files on it-even though it is not my computer) and we have different "personal space" rules than I have with people I've worked with for 5 years. We occasionally touch each other (we had to to build the egg-dropping device) and we can swear in front of each other. We have a few of our own little jokes (or cultural artifacts as the textbook would say.) So in spite of the fact that I've only known these guys a few weeks, conflict with them *hurts* the same way that conflict with your friends hurts.

I'm pretty sure all of this is intended to happen by design by the course.

So we sat down and worked our way through stuff that needed to be done (editing interview questions we need to ask at the company we'll be researching, trying to figure out WTF we need to write for our "Team Dynamics" paper-we all agreed this was unclear, etc.) One guy left at four. The other guy and I stuck around til 7:30 working on revising a few things we had to resubmit.

When we changed modes from voting over material we had all previously reviewed and reciting updates on assigned tasks my brain turned on it's water cooled system and started over-clocking. And while all three of us can work well together, for whatever reason (lack of other commitments, enjoyment of brainstorming/process) J and I are really good at this part- where as A kind of hangs out on the side and watches. But then he makes up for it by doing things like designing us a really good logo.

I'm not really sure what exactly is going on, or why. Perhaps some of this is that J and I are working through things that A thinks he already understands (his grasp of the concepts is really good) or if the two of us just like process, refinement and finding *exactly* the right phrase. And, to be fair, since I'm the Editor for the group, I may be getting a bit of a free ride working out wording with J, but it's not just cosmetic editing we're doing. We're playing with the ideas. We've spent up to 45 minutes refining a single sentence (but damn were they good sentences-and only for important ones like "hypothesis").

So we worked through the re-write of a couple of key project documents. One of the things I've discovered about no longer being 21 and an undergrad is that it's a very good idea, if one of you is talking to have the other one writing things down. Otherwise you forget things. We've got that sorted now. J has the blackboard and I have the keyboard and someone is always taking the notes. At 6:30, the power for the LCD projector went out. With some exploration we discovered that this was systemic (At 6:30 PM on Saturday UMB shuts off power to the LCD systems in it's "smart" classrooms. apparently.) We left at 7:15. Apparently the shuttle to the T stops running at 7, so we walked. We talked about nothing but the project the entire time.

In some ways I find this a bit scary, because this is The First Course for the MBA program and it has already taken over my life. (Mon Dieu-what happens when we get further in to the thicket-away from the "entry level" stuff.) In other ways it's comforting and, dare I say it, fun. I have been *pining* for useful work-partners for years. (My ex and I didn't have a relationship that involved creating anything together and my work environment is too damaged to allow for good partnerships-even with my friends.)I now have two. We accomplish cool things together.

While the three of us were editing something today in Word I hit "Save" and the computer froze. At first I figured I could sort this out myself (after all, recovering temp files when the computerbox freezes is what I do for a living.) After five minutes of no joy, I handed it back to J (the owner of said computer) he screwed with it for a few minutes while telling A and I to keep on working our way through what we needed to edit (which we had printed out) after a few minutes A decided to weigh in on the MS Word issue. I got frustrated-because I wasn't able to help and because we weren't moving along in spite of technical difficulties so I left and went to the bathroom. When I came back they had sorted it out. I don't know exactly how but I'm pretty sure it was creative and that it was a group effort. While I was annoyed that I hadn't been able to help,I was pleased that the two of them had managed to sort this one out and make it work. In the end that matters more than my pride (or my geek cred, which took a bit of a beating as a result.)

So in spite of the fact that I spent all Saturday at UMB, had to walk to the T in the rain, barely made my 8:30 commuter whale train (the next one was at 10:15-ick) it was a Saturday well spent and I'd have no problem doing it again.

And hey, I get to go to Sugar Mags for brunch tomorrow.

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