Monday, June 2, 2014

No Yarns, No Kidding

Sometimes, the past is hard to shake, let alone embrace.

Working for Sprint for nearly 20 years, I felt my identity and Sprint's identity were blurred.

My favorite colors are black and red, the colors of the uniforms for my kids' athletic teams I coached when we had the most success.

At one point, I felt like every piece of clothing I owned, somewhere, included a Sprint logo.

In the 1990s, those reading this who worked for Sprint then know very well that it felt as though we were integral components of the building of a company, one that as a customers once said, "considered service an art."

I left in the early 2000s because the company didn't seem to have a rudder.  Over strategic planning for the business side, I was frustrated that our most senior leaders weren't addressing the strategic choices that could lead to future prosperity.

The fact that the strike price for my unvested stock options still was underwater when they expired ten years later sadly validated my decision.

For a while, feeling free, I moved from cellphone provider to cellphone provider to somehow demonstrate to myself that my identity was not synonymous with Sprint.  I long ago came back home in that regard.

I was proud of what we did there and I still have many friends who work at Sprint.  And nothing was more a part of our culture than the Sprint Quality Handbook, created in the heyday of the Six Sigma quality movement.

The book was created internally, nearly 170 pages of decision-making tools.  We loathed being forced to use them, but on our own, not so much.  I use many of those tools in our planning efforts and have decided to incorporate the way we conducted meetings into the election office's culture.

(Former Sprinters already know that meant that every meeting had to have a PAL--purpose, agenda, and limit.  "Do you have a PAL for this meeting?" was the snarky phrase used to kick off a meeting no one was excited to join).

Looking for my last copy of the handbook, I thought I'd lost it.  I contacted the "quality guy," from that era and he offered to let me borrow his last copy to scan and turn into an everlasting PDF.

Moments later, I found my copy and still plan to turn this jewel of a document into an electronic file.  It will be big, but I will figure out a way to get it to anyone who wants it.

Drivers/Restrainers, Fishbone diagrams, Workbenches, Paretos--they are all here, representing to me a past I am incredibly ready to embrace and emulate.  I've often fought the urge to Sprintify things here and now that urge is unbridled.

Election administration can benefit from the use of these tools.  There are new, cooler tools that I will be analyzing soon, from the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.  But, these are classic.

So "Go Big Red!" (Yes, Sprint's change to yellow was, well, yellow, and went in line with other poor strategic choices of that time).

This focus on decision-making tools comes at a time where it's now crunch time--filing deadline for the fall elections was today at noon.

And, further, you have just read an anecdote--a yarn--and such things are now officially outlawed here until the end of November.

We are entering a "No Yarn Zone," where interesting anecdotes have no place as our hair is on fire.  I have nothing to catch on fire, which is maybe why I like yarns.

Yarns provide context but can also be time-wasters.  And we don't have any time, for a long time.

Instead, as Larry King would say (oops, that's a yarn), "Get to the point, sir!"

The point is, project management skills are paramount now.  Military and overseas ballots go out in just 3 weeks.  Advance voting locations must be equipped.

All of our preparations are underway, and I'll hope to capture the highlights in the weeks ahead--sans yarns.