It was sometime last week, when I realized that I actually haven’t felt this positive about work since… well, since we moved to Amsterdam, and probably a good deal before that as well. These past two years involved a lot of frustrations, as things never seemed to go as planned, and we had to spend a massive amount of time to work around all the issues we had. There were always a lot of good intentions and great ideas on making structural improvements, but there never seemed to be enough time. When possible, I tried to work extra hours on these improvements — and sometimes I would even ignore my normal work and other people, because well… ‘I know better’ –, but progress was slow, and I was feeling perpetually tired by all the extra work and mental stress that came with it. There were plenty of times when it all just seemed pointless, and I even had fears, somewhat irrationally of course, that things would never improve, and that is something I would view as a colossal failure from my side.
In the meantime, things were always improving, albeit not as fast as I had hoped (but then again, when do things ever go as fast as you hope?). But when you are caught up in the daily operations, you often tend not to notice these improvements, and the negative feelings and perceptions tend to dominate the positive developments. But then this week my colleague Michiel was telling me about some stuff he built (it was a Business Objects universe by the way, for those of you who knows what it is) to help us in our everyday work. As I have a natural tendency towards skepticism, my initial reaction was somewhat lukewarm, at least if I remembered correctly. But as I started thinking about it the next couple of days, it slowly sank into my mind, and I realized that it is indeed a great piece of work, and it truly would make our jobs quicker, simpler, more consistent and more transparent (Speed, Simplicity and Trust, baby!). And what’s more, it is actually a result of all the hard work and extra time we have put into making structural improvements. The first results of our efforts are finally becoming tangible. And if there is something I’ve learnt in the past two years, it’s that it is much, much easier to commit other people to your cause if you have something tangible. Without this tangibility, ideas will just remain that: ideas. If ideas are to become a part of reality, you always need the support of other people – and that’s saying a lot, coming from someone like me who prefers to go solo!
There is still a long, long way to go of course, and I’m still overwhelmed by my to-do list, but things are definitely moving in the right direction. You also see that more and more people are now committed to work on the structural solutions, and even more importantly, we are now working more toward a common solution (it’s amazing how uncommon common solutions are). Looking back now, the main reason why I even decided to stay at Vodafone was because I believed – even during my many, many moments of despair – that things would eventually become better. I did seriously think about leaving at the time, but in the end I felt it was a great opportunity and a nice challenge to be in this situation. Without this belief, without this sense of challenge, I probably would have left already, so it’s nice to see that things are actually starting to work out as I had initially hoped.