Full-on

I feel like I’m living in a bubble. I’m working from home today, upon instruction, and every chance will be tomorrow as well, and perhaps forever after that. I also worked all weekend – about 6 hours on Saturday and 9 hours yesterday (starting at 9am and clocking off from a call at 11pm). I’m wearied by work, but there’s also all this current hullabaloo to deal with.

The reason I’m so busy is that they twigged at work that maybe we should be doing something to prepare for working from home, about ten days after I said it’d be a good idea. Most of the work to enable that falls on my shoulders. It’s a funny thing, for the last few days it feels like all roads lead to H.

The reason for that is that the alternative to phone-based customer service in circumstances like this is live chat from home. I’m the man who implemented live chat and chatbot way back when and has more knowledge of it more than all the rest of them put together. Suddenly this is the solution the business is gunning for. Up till now, there might have been about fifteen live chat agents across the organisation – we’re now looking to increase that by over 2000%.

Adding complexity to that is that we’re two entities containing very distinct and separate business units, requiring different things. For point of comparison, we recently added a live chat segment to a pre-existing team. That project was over three weeks. We’re now attempting to re-architect the whole chatbot, add 350 users, add in another two live chat sites, add some routing complexity, and hopefully complete some testing, all in the space of about five days.

I love it. I’m in my element. I was struggling a little last week, and then this came along, and I’m off and racing. My brain is teeming with ideas, I’m figuring out what must be done on the fly, making calls, sending emails, building prototypes, dealing with problems and people, chivvying them along, guiding them, assisting them, and asking for assistance.

There’s no-one else who can do this. If I wasn’t there, they’d be fucked. They’d probably get something done eventually, but it’d take a lot longer because they’d need to figure it out first, and it wouldn’t be nearly so elegant. So okay, I’m blowing my own trumpet, fair call, but this is the essence of it. I love being the man. I always have. I don’t feel the pressure. It’s all a buzz for me. All opportunity. All excitement. This is mine, let me show you what I can do. It’s very alpha.

I missed this. I was flat, and even though I had to work all weekend, it turned me around. I’ve spent all this time designing solutions and mapping out requirements and jobs to be done. I’ve sent a million emails. On Saturday, we hit an unexpected hurdle, and that gave it another dimension again – both good and bad.

It happened, and once you know what’s not possible, then you’re left with what is, so pretty quickly I framed a workaround in my head. I couldn’t just do it though, I had to go through channels. So I escalate it to my manager. When he hasn’t responded hours later, my instinct is to be decisive, just do it. But then he says fine, and rather than making a decision then he organises a telecon yesterday morning with all the executive staff. I understand why, but the outcome was the same. I explained the situation, gave them my opinion, and ultimately that’s the solution we’re deploying.

It’s true, I’m a bit maverick. Times like these, I get reminded of it. I’ve always been a popular team member, but not always what they deem a great team player because my style is less consensus and more about pitching ahead and getting things happening before dragging everyone after me. I think some of that’s old school because I figure things out quickly, though not hastily, and conclude a plan of action. Once that’s done all that’s left is to do it. Except, in this day and age, you have to follow a process and that’s perfectly understandable – except it gets in the way of me doing things. And all that was in my leadership profile the other week.

So in this there’s the good, I’m challenged and my mind whirrs and I come up with a solution and how clever am I, I think. But then I’m reminded that while I have all the knowledge I’m still not the one who makes the decisions. And I’m reminded of the invisible constraints around me. And reminded, too, of a time when it was different.

All of this has to work, of course. I might bollocks it up altogether. We’ll know within a few days, and until then it’s frantic.

After that? Well, I think the world will be truly surreal after that, and it’ll be a good and necessary thing to be in a bubble.

By then the solution I’m putting together should be working. I’ll do some maintenance, but expect a letdown.

All of this is likely to be academic because with each passing day the situation gets direr. Today I was at the supermarket by 7.15 to pick up some loo paper, but the shelves were bare already. No surprise, and at least I’ve managed to get myself on a waiting list since (who’d a fuckin thought…?). It may be months until I get back in the office, or it may be tomorrow.

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