Ramblings of a SQL Hillbilly

Or, the mad ravings of a data warehouse forklift operator

Lessons Learned

This morning I coordinated a “Lessons Learned” meeting to cap off the consulting engagement I’ve had the opportunity to be the technical liason for. We talked about what we think went well on the project, what we think could be done better in the future, and gave and received feedback to/from the consulting group. I think the meeting went well, but it really drove home to me how difficult it can be to communicate criticism constructively and tactfully.

This meeting occurred first thing this morning, and I’ve had the lion’s share of the day to think about how the meeting went, what was said, and what we need to do to move forward from here. From a business point of view, I’d say that this approach can be a very helpful process towards improvement. In a group with diverse skill sets and backgrounds, it’s important to communicate those differing viewpoints so that he group as a whole knows what needs to be done to improve, or is at least aware of what needs improvement. In our case, the utility of such a meeting with a consulting group we will most likely not be contracting with again is somewhat questionable, but I still feel that it was important to raise the opportunity for reflection.

In much the same way, I believe it is important as a SQL Server professional to make opportunities for Lessons Learned moments in my own life, even where it’s unrelated to my current job. It’s very easy to be caught up in the everyday activities of completing tasks for my employer, in volunteering for my local user group, in engaging with others in the SQL Family on Twitter, the whole shebang. What is much harder is dedicating some time for reflection and introspection. What did I do well today? What could I have handled better? What could I have done differently in order to better server my fellow man? What do I need to seek externally in order to do my job better, or to be a better volunteer, or a more valuable member of the community? These are all important questions to ask ourselves, if not daily then as often as we can make time.

The most important part of a Lessons Learned session, in my opinion, is making a list of action items to follow up on. The point of this exercise is not to pat ourselves on the back (although a healthy satisfaction in a job well done is never misplaced,) nor to berate ourselves for not achieving the standards we set for ourselves. The point is to continue to do well where we have done well, and to strive to improve where we have not done so well. The thing is, personal growth involves making behavioral changes, small or large. The path to behavior change is discipline and perseverance, which means repetition. I do not know how to play the piano, not because I’ve never tried, but because I have not continually tried. I became an accomplished programmer not by divine fiat but because I continually wrote code and studied and then wrote some more. As I strive to overcome my weakness, I find myself becoming stronger not because of my effort, but because of my continued effort.

So I would encourage you to do some Lessons Learned. Celebrate your successes, determine how you can overcome your failures, and most importantly decide what is worth achieving, and then make every effort to achieve it. I’m a fairly smart guy, and I’m fairly talented, but I attribute my successes so far not to my inherent attributes but instead to my effort, my perseverance, and my willingness to amend my approach. Perhaps you too can become a data warehouse forklift operator – if you work at it.