Every year, the “mothership” of my organization* convenes a technical review board to assess our investment strategy for future program funding. Typically, it’s a two-week ordeal for the members of the review board, and about a month-long frenzy of preparation for the mid-level management-like-objects, such as myself.
Maybe it was the buzz of the recently completed Winter Olympics, but i found myself making direct comparison to the realm of athletics as we prepared, and delivered, our strategy.
Pre-Game Strategy: Our Division Tech Director was responsible for developing the game plan. He is a master of ‘strategery’ and knows the minds of the review board members (judges and referees) better than anyone else. He started working the plan a month ago. He determined the ‘line up’ of presentations**, sticking the weaker presentations just before, or just after, lunch. Start strong, finish strong…
Training and Game Prep: For the past three weeks***, the team has been slaving away. Defining strategies, building cross-organizational teams. We studied our excel spreadsheets. We practiced and practiced and practiced answers to potentially challenging questions. Cranial muscle memory must be developed!
Game Day: It wasn’t a locker room, but the break room was abuzz with quiet anticipation this morning. Everyone**** in early. Pots of coffee – “geek gatorade” – were prepared and consumed. Loads of “smack talk” tossed around. My division secretary was quite the smart ass when i showed up wearing professional attire. “Excuse me, Ma’am. Can I help you?” he queried as i stumbled around the corner looking for coffee. “Hey, i dug out the ‘big girl’ clothes today. Figured yoga pants and slippers wouldn’t help me deliver the goods…”. Yes, down to our uniforms, we were all spot on…
Good Luck Charms: Of the five tech advisors “in the game”, we all have different styles. As a result, we each have our own ritualistic approaches to delivering a big presentation. One sat down for a final flip through with the boss. Another? Frantically tweaking and tuning his presentation materials. Me? Coffee and reading the news online. Checking my trusty back up laser pointer. Stopping by the restroom en route to the auditorium to check for ‘nose goblins’.
The Pistol: And we’re off! Division Tech Director masterfully scripted the introduction, and one by one, we performed. Holding tightly to the allotted times, he looked relaxed, but he was keeping track of the clock, taking notes on questions for clarification, moving dawdlers forward, deferring tough questions til later in the day. The baton? The wireless “clicker” and laser pointer. Passed seamlessly to the next presenter. Through the entire day, we were all there – encouraging our team mates. Seeing a stumble coming – “oh, man, don’t bring that up! It’s a trap, a TRAP!” – but sitting silently because it is not an audience participation sport. We were ON!
Post-Game Wrap-Up and Analysis: There were high-fives, low-fives – everything but towel-snapping and a ceremonial dumping of the coffee pot on the head of the Division Tech Director at the end of the day. We rocked the house! Several comments from the board, thanking us for being succinct, providing just the information requested, and answering all questions. The “Beer Call” is scheduled for Friday, once we get the final report from the review board, but it looks like a sweep…
Geeks. Who says there’s no sport in research and development?
* Called the “Front Office Group”, or lovingly “The F.O.G.”
** He put me first, against my protestations. Finally he said “Look, that theatrical crap you do makes you a strong presenter. Shut up.” Ah, the benefits of cross-training!
*** One week for me. i’ve been around long enough to know that the original marching orders would change over time. Rather than get my job done, then spend many hours tweaking it and revising it? i waited. Cost me a sunny weekend, spent in the office, but net investment of time for me was waaaaaaay less than the other tech advisors. “Interval Training”?
**** Including me. Damn it.