Browsing articles tagged with " Users"

Cats Give Warnings Before It Gets Bloody

Feb 23, 2011   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Data, Fun, Professional Development  //  3 Comments


What do you think of this picture of Annie?  Doesn’t she look cute?  She’s such a tiny cat and looks so innocent that you think you can pick her up and pet her and she’ll be all sweet and nice.  She can be nice and sweet, but she can also be nasty and bite and scratch.  The funny thing is, she turns from nice to nasty really fast.  You can be petting her and thinking everything’s fine, but all of a sudden she’ll turn and hiss and lash out to scratch.  For those that don’t know her and just try and pet her they are surprised when she turns and they aren’t expecting it.  For those of us that know her and have experienced it, we know what the signs are and can see her starting to turn.  It’s in her eyes and the way she holds her head, but if you haven’t seen it before you may not recognize it.

Last week I wrote a blog post called What It Feels Like To Be The Cat and I talked about a specific example of feeling like a cat when you’re in meetings.  In my example, the project team was surprised when I finally did “lash out” in a meeting, but they shouldn’t have been.  Just like Annie does, we all show signs when we are not happy, not engaged, ready to run, or ready to lash out.  We just have to look for the signs.  In Karen’s recent post Herding Cats The Hard Way, she talks about situations where you can be causing your users or project team to act like a cat and want to lash out, but sometimes it happens no matter what you do.  But I think that if we see the signs, we can change our actions and it can keep things from getting too bloody.

I’ll give an example of how this can happen.  Let’s say you’re invited to a normal status meeting where everything seems to have been going fine and it’s a clear agenda of things to discuss.  Now suppose that someone has found some problem that wasn’t on the agenda and it relates to your (or your team’s) work and they bring it up.  Your first reaction internally is an adrenalin rush and you get defensive.  Most of us won’t “lash out” in that meeting as a first response, but if it keeps getting discussed and we’re pushed into a corner it could happen.  But if the others in the meeting are paying attention they can see it coming and defuse the situation.  Think about it, has this ever happened to you? What was your reaction? Did you feel like the cat and want to lash out or run away and hide?

You’re actions and what you do and say are important in your interaction with people.  You can’t deliver the same message the same way with everyone and you have to watch and pay attention to the other person so you can see when their attitude is changing.    If you don’t pay attention, you could be surprised and a bit bloody.

What It Feels Like To Be The Cat

Feb 18, 2011   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Data, Professional Development  //  1 Comment

Frank as a Kitten

In her recent blog post Herding Cats the Hard Way, Karen talked about trying to herd a cat into a cat crate and that it struck her as being similar to trying to work with business users when you treat them like a cat.  Karen wrote:

The worst part was not being able to explain to Frank why all this was going on.  He had to be treated so there was no question about having to put him through this process.  Unlike a business user, though, we don’t have the opportunity to prepare him for the event with good data, analysis of the cost, benefits, and risks of going to the veterinarian.  He was blindsided by all of this.

All of this made me think of attending meetings where I really did feel like the cat and, like Frank, wanted or needed to lash out.  Over the years I have worked in a number of different areas as both an employee and a consultant and there are times when I’ve been the cat or when I’ve treated others like the cat.  We all know the meetings where someone feels like the cat…the person sits there and doesn’t understand what’s happening, they are reticent and don’t want to participate and they may get really defensive.  All the while, you’ll be sitting there thinking “What’s the problem here? I just want to make it better.”

At one point in my career I managed a contracting organization and a major client hired a system integrator and bought a new ERP system to do their work management.  The system integrator and the company justified this system to the Board of Directors based on benefits or savings and, in fact, the integrator would receive a portion of the savings as part of their contract.  Of course we weren’t privy to all of the information, but they wanted us to participate and tell them we were happy and agree with everything they did.

Frank Snoozing in the SunEvery time we had one of these meetings there was someone in there asking about benefits.   We were okay with that if the benefits were real, but we also foresaw areas where there would be costs associated with using this system.  The integrator and company would hold these meetings, lay out the process, ask about benefits, but never talk about costs.  In fact, when we asked about costs and how they would be handled we were told that was an issue for another group.

Now I can go with the flow and work through a lot of issues, but just like a cat, eventually I’ll lash out if you keep pushing the wrong way.  About halfway through the project we were having another meeting to discuss the process and I talked about how a certain part of the program should be configured.  The IROC sitting across the table with pen poised above paper asked “and what’s the benefit of that?”  My response was “I’m not going to tell you if there’s a benefit or not.”  Everyone in the meeting stopped and looked at me and I said that we would have no further discussions or meetings to discuss benefits until we actually talked about the “elephant in the room”.  The meeting was over.  Then all of the contractors and the project sponsors had to have a big meeting to talk about what we were trying to achieve and how we should work together and that it was benefits net of costs so we got what we wanted, too. 

Just like the cat, there are times when you have to lash out and make it a bit bloody for people to understand that you don’t like something.  We business users don’t want to do that, but sometimes that’s the only way to make certain people listen.

So the next time you’re going into a meeting with a business user, another department, a vendor, a customer, etc. think about it.  Have you been listening?  Have you shown the others that you understand what they want and are working to make that happen?

Herding Cats the Hard Way

Feb 17, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Professional Development  //  3 Comments

CostofHerdingcats - photo hands with BandAids

About one hour before a webinar this week we had to get one of our cats to the vet.  This is a nervous cat but we generally can use food and kind words to lure him close enough to put him in a cat crate.

This time he was sick, so he wasn’t feeling well and he was afraid.  That made the whole process take much longer than it usually does, which led to the cat fighting back more than normal. Also adding to the stress was the fact that we had to get him crated and to the doctor at a specific time or lose our appointment. Having a webinar coming up within an hour or so made me more stressed, too.

First Rob tried to get him in the crate with smooth talking as a bit of distraction.  The cat was having none of that. So next he tried it wearing gauntlet-type leather work gloves.  The gloves didn’t even make a difference, Frankie’s claws went right through them.  Next Rob tried padded leather work gloves.  Same effect.  After several horrible attempts , Rob succeeded in getting Frank in the crate.  We had the cat locked in a bathroom with two people and all three of us were miserable.  Both Rob and Frank suffered injuries in the process.

I couldn’t help think of similar situations over my career of being locked in a conference room with project team members and business users with none of us wanting to be there.  We all suffered scratches, bites, and war wounds.

The worst part was not being able to explain to Frank why all this was going on.  He had to be treated so there was no question about having to put him through this process.  Unlike a business user, though, we don’t have the opportunity to prepare him for the event with good data, analysis of the cost, benefits, and risks of going to the veterinarian.  He was blindsided by all of this. 

Every time we have to get a cat to the doctor we have to tailor the process to the individual cat. For one, we could put the crate on the kitchen floor and he’d walk in because he loved being in the crate. For others it involves some kitty bribes and distractions. They don’t like being in the crate, but they aren’t hard to distract. For others, it takes two people, several strategies and a series of missed appointments until we are able to succeed. Those latter ones are the worst – we feel bad, the cat is unhappy and generally everyone gets hurt.

But there are benefits to going through this cat fight.  What Frank taught us about meetings with business users and project teams:

  1. Sometimes you have to go to meetings that no one wants to attend, but you do it because it must be done to keep the project from failing. 
  2. Springing bad news on a business user with no preparation and no supporting evidence is treating them like cats.  It puts them in a much more stressful position and makes them want to fight back.
  3. If all your encounters with others are like crating a sick cat, you aren’t doing it right.
  4. If team members are in a high stress situation, meetings are going to be much more painful than you expect.
  5. Sometimes you have to take the scratches in order to get the job done.
  6. If every encounter you have with business users results in going through a box of bandages, you aren’t caring for your business users enough outside of meetings to mitigate their fears and stresses.
  7. You need the right protective equipment for each meeting.  Sometimes that’s just kind words and some food.  Sometimes it’s a full blown Kevlar protection system.
  8. If you wear the Kevlar to every meeting, though, you are sending the message to the team that someone is going to be hurt.
  9. You need to tailor meeting locations, agenda items and communications styles to the individual business users. 
  10. Everyone in these meetings feels as if they are the cat. 

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