A critical doer attacks problems and creates opportunities from the inside out
I work with a man named Jody, and he is the personification of a critical doer. I first met Jody 22 years ago. He was young, energetic, cerebral, and got things done. He’s still all those things and then some (hes’ still young, I’m not!). We only worked together for 2 years, but when I started my current position a year ago, I was thrilled that our paths had crossed again.
Jody is a software developer; he designs programs and writes code to make the applications work. He’s also a student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) where he’s finishing a master’s degree in Information Engineering and Management (IEM) and plans to start a PhD next year. The technical education alone has been worth its weight in gold for Jody and our organization; what the IEM leader, Dr. Dale Callahan, imparts to his students on critical thinking linked to action is beyond measurable value.
We’ve been working hard to improve our software development enterprise to meet customer requirements (we largely develop proprietary tools for our own operations division) with greater timeliness and higher quality.
As we get into Jody’s story, it’s important to clarify that he is not in charge of software development, but he is a leader…being in charge and being the leader are not the same. Jody took it upon himself to change the way we assess our performance in software development to get at the root causes of reworks. What he found was that we coded our software with great accuracy…but we didn’t communicate well with the customer and the customer was not communicating requirements with enough fidelity for our coders.
Armed with analysis that backed his actions, Jody took action…didn’t wait to be told, wasn’t tasked, didn’t ask for permission…and implemented a model he’d learned from the IEM program about how to groom customer requirements with enough fidelity for a coder to give the customer a product that works with the desired functionality. With a proof of concept for one customer, he taught his fellow coders how to implement the model and even conducted training for every member of our organization.
Jody not only improved the quality of our products, he improved the quality of our organization. He’s changing a culture and drawing people closer together as a team that has shared accountability of the outcome.
Jody’s story of attacking problems from the inside out is an iconic case of a critical doer. He didn’t stop at mere problem recognition; he had “skin in the game” and acted to bring about meaningful change to increase the value of our organization. We are indeed blessed to have a leader of this caliber on the team.
I’ll wager there’s a problem at home or work that you could attack from the inside out and create value for others and yourself. If so, what are you waiting for? I need you to listen to this very carefully…opportunity knocks, it does not beg. Learn from Jody and attack a problem from the inside out…it’s what a critical doer would…do!