Superman Syndrome

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There you are, in your tenth meeting of the day. You haven’t even had lunch, just one meeting after another. You’d skip the meetings, but you are required and half the meetings are yours anyway. You finish the day without having accomplished one single thing (except a bunch of meetings). Your todo list has only grown longer and the only time remaining is after hours (because nobody can schedule a meeting then). If this is you, then you might have superman syndrome.

It’s pretty common in software development. The nicest people get sucked into it (no, really, they’re too damn nice). You are competent, eager to please, and really can’t say no. It’s a great ego boost – you are needed! Well, I’ve got some bad news: you’ve got Superman Syndrome.

That’s right, you got it bad. Now sit down. This is where we get to play product owner. Product owner of your life. Write down that list of all thing things you have to do. Go ahead, put it in priority order. That’s right, it’s not easy. Product ownership is a bitch. Good, now cancel all your meetings. I know it hurts. Do it anyway. Send some polite excuse about being behind in your work (because it’s true) and you’ll catch up with them later (maybe never).

Now take that one thing at the top of the list (it is just one thing, right?) and get to work. Here’s the new rule, you don’t get to work on anything else until that thing is done. Take comfort in the fact that you are working on the most important thing that you could be working on. No one can fault you for that. You see what we are doing is limiting your work in progress (WIP). Limiting the amount of work you take on is like kryptonite to Superman Syndrome.

While we’re at it, let’s just turn outlook off. Yeah, completely off. You have a WIP limit here too: twice a day. Once before lunch and once before you go home. That’s it. That’s all.

While we are having so much fun setting WIP limits, we might as well put a WIP limit on your meetings. That’s right, nobody can reasonably expect you to do your job AND attend every single meeting: so don’t. Set a reasonable limit (no more than 2 hours of meetings/day). That way you are available if the issue is REALLY important, but otherwise, they’ll have to just get along without you. Again, polite apologies all around.

Try that on for a while and see how that works for you. Come back and chat with me when you think you are ready to change your WIP limits.

Now to take my own advice…wish me luck.

Yours truly,
Superman

One Response to Superman Syndrome

  1. rumadak says:

    I can relate to this post! But sometimes you cannot restrict yourself to two hours of meetings a day, no apologies are accepted! Thats when I regret going to work on those days!

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