A close friend, Sue, is trying to hire a mid-career engineer. She had a lead on a great guy, who then dithered. He could not decide to leave. (I wrote a little thread on Twitter.)
What kept him there? He felt as if he owed his team more work. (How to learn what he knew, what unfinished work he still had, and more.) He didn’t want to leave the team helpless to touch his code. In fact, he felt as if he owed his team at least four weeks of notice.
Four weeks! Not very adaptable or resilient, is that?
If you wanted to leave with just two weeks of notice, could you? If not, what might you consider now?
How I Left One Job
I wish I could tell you I was perfect. Absolutely not.
Years ago, I gave two weeks’ notice to my boss. I explained I wanted to transition my work to someone else before the last day.
That didn’t work. My boss expected me to “finish” the project I was on. On the last day (yes, the last day!), I was supposed to transfer my work to a colleague, John.
While I did question my boss, I let him decide. On my last day, John was out sick. I asked my boss who would learn about my work?
Yes, you heard that correctly. My boss chose to not allow me to transfer my work.
I spent all day writing “readme” files and documenting my work. I could have done this more carefully in the previous two weeks. However, I believed my boss when he said to only allocate one day for the transfer. (And no, I didn’t finish the project, because it was larger than we expected.)
All of our risk management was a disaster. I didn’t manage my risks of either not finishing or transferring work. My boss might have been in denial, but he didn’t manage any of the risks.
That was the last time I allowed my manager to dictate how I left. Every other time I left a job, I said, “Here’s my resignation. Decide who you want me to transfer my information to. I’ll start that today.” And I explained I was not available to work with them after my resignation.
That mostly worked. But that’s just one way to manage risks. I prefer to manage my risks every day.
Risk Management Allows You To Leave Work Every Day as If Your Last Day
Even though I mostly work alone, I leave my work every day as if I won’t be back. I use GeePaw Hill’s idea of Many More Much Smaller Steps and MMMSS – A Closer Look at Steps. I get everything to what he calls a “Ready” point. (That Ready is a step to the benefit.)
Here’s how I progress on projects that longer than a day to complete:
- Carve the work into chunks.
- Make sure every chunk gets me to a “ready” point. Sometimes, “ready” is an outline.
- If necessary, I leave myself a breadcrumb. I use the letters “XX” because they are easy to search for.
- Make sure I finish today’s work. (More on this below.)
- Plan on several iterations for almost anything.
Yes, that looks agile-ish. But notice I get to both Ready and Finish states. Ready means stable. I can work on it tomorrow. Finish means tidy.
“Finish” Means Tidy
When I think about “finish” for today’s work, I think about the state the WIP (Work in Progress) is in. I don’t leave messy work behind. Here’s how that works for me:
- I clean as I go. I don’t write “shitty first drafts” for anything. Anne Lamott was wrong then and she’s wrong now. When you write a SFD for anything, you give yourself permission to not finish. to not be Ready. That means I taught myself to spell correctly, most of the time. I’ve also integrated what good writing looks like for me.
- I don’t do outlines or mindmaps, but I do use a user/reader journey. When I start a larger effort, I often create a user journey. That journey helps me define my next step.
- Even with the user journey, I don’t commit to a large backlog. Instead, the journey gives me options to define my next small step.
I can leave any work at any time because I leave all work at a Ready point and it’s Tidy.
I choose to work like this. So can you. Make all your work Ready and Tidy. When you do, you don’t have to worry about leaving your team in the lurch, as the candidate did. You can choose when to leave.
When Is Your Last Day?
We never know when our last day at work will be. No one expected most of us would suddenly start remote work back in March 2020. Or that many of us would still work remotely now.
Worse, we have no idea when our last day on the planet is. That’s way too big for me to address now. Since that’s an uncomfortable question for me, I’m ignoring it for now.
When you leave your work Ready (at a known point) and Tidy (cleaned up), you can leave whenever you want to. On your own terms. You gain much more resilience and adaptability when you do.
That’s the question this week: What would it take for you to leave work every day as if it’s your last day?