January 11, 2015

Why a Bucket List is like a Critical Path

Before I rushed off to attend a wonderful Creativity Workshop early this morning, I perused my inbox and was pulled to read an article on 'The School of Life' website explaining what the fascination is that we have with tragedy.  According to the article, we are attracted to these things because they make us realize how important it is to prioritize our own lives, how important it is to live this day as if it’s our last.

When we suddenly get that reality check – and start writing up our own Bucket List of things we want to do before we die - we can step back from the petty day-to-day things that we tend to get caught up in – Who left the dirty cup in the sink? Why did I miss my favorite TV show, or Oh no, I’m stuck in traffic on the way to work.

People at work (oops, that's most of humankind) also often tend to lose their focus on the bigger picture, and we all, especially people who feel responsible, begin to obsess about what they ‘have to’ do. This can lead to fighting for territory, making sure to retain control over that area, and losing sight of the critical path that the company as a whole has to take, in order to survive and thrive.

* * *

For me, the Bucket List and the Critical Path overlapped, many years ago, when I was working for a company called Jacada, in Israel. I was a Marketing/Customer Service Manager at the time, and I had constant battles with the Quality Assurance Manager. And both of us had a rough time with the R&D dept.  All three of us were headstrong managers, and each believed we were doing the best for the company.

However, this constant bickering about whose responsibility each dept had, and whose work had priority did little to push a bright united face out to the customer. My boss at the time, Ofer Timor, who is described in his company Inimiti as a ‘people's person,’ was very wise, and when we came crying to him to jump in and solve the issue, he sent us out to have lunch together – something you can imagine we really didn’t want to do. But that lunch made us realize that the others were just people, struggling with life, the same as we were. We learned to see each other as people, not obstacles, and to help each other by cooperating, rather than competing. Thus together we could focus on the Critical Path of the company.

* * *
A few months later, my son was diagnosed with cancer. All of a sudden, all issues at work faded away - for me - into a blur of ‘Uh, work? customers?’ Of course, for the company, the work still had to go on, and profits had to be made. But for me, all I cared about was being by the bedside of my son, in intensive care, as he recovered from the first of many operations.

The management at Jacada, I am happy to say, was amazingly supportive, and besides giving me an unlimited leave of absence, even went so far as to send me lunch, daily – delivered to the hospital. 
I, in turn, in the months that followed, gave back to the company in the way I could, by helping out in the accounting department, hunting down bills that had not yet been issued – thus helping the company recover quite a lot of money in ‘oops we nearly forgot to bill for this’ revenue.

They helped me with my bucket list – by letting me spend that precious time by my son’s side, and I helped them with their critical path – increasing the revenue.

* * *

What is on your bucket list/critical path? Are you waiting for tragedy to strike, or are you making sure to get the most out of your own life/company, right now? 

And what tips (apart from reading disaster stories) do you have to remember to keep on track? 
Feel free to leave those tips in the comments. :)