The Element: Chapter 12


The Element: A series of articles to explore and improve the methods used for meetings between small teams striving to perform at an expert level.

The Mash Bar

Team Leader: Coach
Point-Man: T
First Defense-Man: Freelance
Second Defense-Man: Test Drive
Rear Security: Rusty

The team was touring Ann Arbor again, following T as she lead them to the meeting location. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the sidewalks were packed.

Coach kicked off the meeting as they walked and said, “Ich hoffe, dass alle das Red Wings Hockeyspiel genossen haben.”

Test Drive grinned at the thought of concealing their conversation in German, but knew that what they were about to talk about was not top secret material.

“Auf Englisch bitte,” Test Drive said.

“OK,” Coach said. “I hope everyone enjoyed the Red Wings hockey game. I think the Poke and Hope conversation added some insight as to how teams give up on their training and stop planning for their success. Just goes to show, we never know where inspiration will strike. I would have never thought that listening to the Red Wings captain talking about a disappointing team loss would add to our mission knowledge base.”

“Everyone should have received the results to Rusty’s border crossing meeting, giving us permission to kick-off the Design Thinking Ideate phase,” Coach said. “The only stipulation was to make an addition to the mission definition.”

“But we had a pretty good definition already!” Freelance barked.

“Missions can’t always go our way,” Coach said. “What if our Element Team was working in the field and someone like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson appeared, and he is in between us and our mission’s goal? He is working for a competing spy agency.”

“That’s not fair,” Freelance said. “The guy’s a beast!”

“Really?” Coach said. “It gets worse. You just knocked his hand and spilled an extra large coffee onto his white t-shirt. He picks up a 200-pound solid oak table by its leg, starts waving it above his head, and now we have to disarm him.”

“Ahhhh,” T said as she batted her eyes. “The Rock, arms and shoulders.”

“No worries,” Coach said. “We can tranquilize a him. Probably need the dose used for an elephant, but it can be done.”

“I can see there is a diversity in response amongst our team members,” Test Drive said. “While ‘T’ is offering the guy a new t-shirt so he can change it on the spot, and Coach would be fumbling with an tranquilizer gun, I would be fighting Rusty for the Rear Security position and film the carnage.”

“That is the exact reason for creating a mission definition that gets our team on the same page,” Rusty said.

“I have a good compass direction Rusty,” T said. “I am the Point-Man for this meeting.”

“You know the trail as well as I do,” Rusty said.

“How do you know about Mission Casino,” Freelance asked.

“I live with Rusty, and our conversations for the last five months has been about the categorization of knowledge,” T said.

T knew exactly which path to take the team down. She ducked into a doorway and found their way and quickly walked down some stairs that opened to the Mash Bar.

It was like walking back into a space that might be familiar to the late 1800’s, likely the time of its construction. Large pillars of cement that hold up The Blue Tractor that sits above the bar space. It was a dimly lit space, almost like a speakeasy from the prohibition era. Their nostrils were filled with the complexity of fermented whiskey scents.

They took up a corner seat, along with a healthy pour of I. W. Harper, 15-year bourbon. T extended her glass to the center of the table and all lightly clinked their glasses.

“To our mission, and our team,” T said.

T could not help but think that their mission had brought the team closer together, as their individual components mellowed together like a fine bourbon. One sip and she was ready to get to the task at hand.

“Start thinking about ideas we would pose for solutions or methods to help a 5-Man team become an elite Element team,” T said. “The ideas will not only be captured, but also ranked in the order how the information will be learned by our users. We will assemble knowledge like a road-map, allowing users to identify where their knowledge starts and stops on the knowledge continuum.”

“First-Defenseman in position,” Freelance said. “I am sorry about the earlier outburst, still struggling with dynamically making changes to a mission definition. I know from past experience that every aspect of life is continuously changing, and never working out according to plan.

“Second-Defenseman present,” Test Drive said. “Freelance brings up a very interesting point. From my years of experience managing projects, I have found a mission plan to be only a starting point. It is also used as a benchmark to measure how close we were to the initial guess…I mean…postulate. If we ever want to get better at our job, it will need to be documented, knowing and accepting that the definition will change throughout the life of the mission.”

“Rear Security here,” Rusty said. “You have heard my thoughts a million times pertaining to documentation. If it’s not documented, there is no way to improve it. It’s like our work experience has not even happened. In a couple months, we will have forgotten most of what we learned.”

“I think everyone is on board with the new definition, and ready to iterate their ideas,” T said. “It takes strength to accept change. It is a personal decision, and that personal decision will affect the team. Thank you for being honest about your feelings Freelance. I had my doubts at first, but I am starting to put more faith in you. Now let’s celebrate our accomplishment of putting another project phase in the books!”

Design Thinking [Ideate] Chapter 13 is up in our next issue.  You are on the team, so please comment on this issue to add additional experiences that can be drawn from to create a solid project definition.


One thought on “The Element: Chapter 12”

  1. You are definitely the most interesting substation designer in the world…except maybe for that guy in Russia that killed like 28 people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s