Beth Buzz - What is Beth Agnew up to now?

A news blog to keep you up to date on the activities of Beth Agnew.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Just Because I Can

Is it better to look like a million dollars, or feel like a million dollars?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My Favorite Class

I am fortunate to be able to teach all the things I love. Technical communication, interpersonal communication, business communication, and of course technology. I am most fortunate to teach my favorite subjects to classes of top notch students.

But I have to say that one of my favorite assignments is teaching the students of the Bachelor of Software Development program. This is a hands-on applied degree program. They are VERY dedicated students. That's part of what makes it fun.

And because of my experience working in software development, and managing software development teams, I can share real-world knowledge with them. It makes our classes more meaningful for them, and a lot more interesting for me. When I talk about team conflict, I have true stories and actual solutions to give them. Sure, there's a lot of academic stuff we have to get through as well. But the real learning comes when they can see how the theory gets applied in a work situation.

These students ask great questions, too. The principle we were talking about yesterday was that to be successful in a team, individuals must put aside their personal agendas and focus on the team's agenda. A student asked, "What would happen if a team member couldn't let go of their position for the benefit of the team?"

A good example would be an individual who is absolutely committed to their personal belief that one should not work on the Sabbath. That is a worthy position and one to be respected in the workplace. However, software development teams might sometimes need to work on a day that is considered a Sabbath, in order to meet a critical deadline. How can you reconcile those two positions for the good of the team, and the good of the company?

Ideally, the manager who is on top of her game foresees this potential problem and provides options. Good project management is supposed to keep people from having to work on weekends, when they would normally enjoy their Sabbath day of rest. A team member who, for whatever reason -- religious, health, family, etc. -- cannot be present on certain days of work, may make up that time in other ways. Telecommuting. Working extra hours during the week. Creative solutions can be applied in advance. I know, because I've done this with my staff.

It is also possible for the team to willingly (or even grudgingly) accept the reduced participation of one or more of its members, and remain committed to achieving the goal. Great teams get the job done, no matter what happens. I have been part of such teams.

But the bottom line is that sometimes it comes down to having to make a choice. If the company cannot accommodate a worker's individual situation, the choice may have to be made that the company and the individual part ways. I have had to deliver this unhappy news to more than one employee, over the years.

It's important for my students to know what to expect when they get into the workplace. That's part of my job in preparing them for their careers. I like to think that my focus on communication demonstrates to them that most problems can be solved if we can just communicate with each other.