Re: RFC: Organizational Changes – Engineering Service

Mike McGrath mmcgrath at
Mon Feb 8 16:12:35 UTC 2010

On Sun, 7 Feb 2010, Paul W. Frields wrote:

> On Fri, Feb 05, 2010 at 12:21:38PM -0900, Jeff Spaleta wrote:
> > On Fri, Feb 5, 2010 at 9:07 AM, Mike McGrath <mmcgrath at> wrote:
> > > The obvious flaw here is “will people volunteer?” I think they would.  I
> > > know I will.
> >
> > This is very good...and its straight out of the volunteer coordination
> > handbook I was pimping a few FPL's back.
> >
> > A few comments.
> >
> > When people sign up... don't just ask for hours a week.. ask for a
> > specific long term time a 6 month tour of duty.
> > Make a huge deal out of new people signing up for their first tour of
> > duty. Make a huger deal of team veterans reaffirming their role as
> > engineering task monkey for additional tours.  Since this team is a
> > service team and won't be as self-directed..its important to shift the
> > reward balance to overt recognition.  We tend to reward our current
> > volunteers groups with self-directed control of their area of work and
> > we can't do that effectively for a service team that reports to fesco.
> >
> > Also...try to communicate the initial skillset needed in the team. If
> > fesco could sort of roadmap what they think they'd like to see built
> > in say the next 6 months...break that down into anticipated skills and
> > manhours.. you can try to recruit for that anticipated need to fill in
> > the skill gaps for a new project.  You can't anticipate all desirable
> > skills and experience ahead of all possible tasking of course. But you
> > want to recruit a certain baseline of experience and keep the tasking
> > inside that skillset pool as much as you can. Big new tasks with
> > unanticipated skill needs can be pushed back into the next tour of
> > duty and highlighted in a recruitment call-to-arms.
> >
> > And...along the way create some opportunities to broaden the skillset
> > of team members. A service team like this could be the perfect target
> > for specialized team members only classroom skills training.
> The crux of the biscuit[1] is breaking down a task in a way that lets
> a volunteer know whether they have the skills needed to work on that
> task.  That's not impossible or even that difficult, but it does
> require some work -- which is why having someone managing that
> process, i.e. responsible for the breakdown -- is important.  Saying
> "I need help accomplishing this large task" is not as helpful as
> saying, "I need help accomplishing this large task, which consists of
> the following four procedures, listed below with the knowledge,
> skills, and abilities you'll need to have to do them."  The investment
> of time to list those elements out is worthwhile if the task is
> honestly something that really needs to be managed over a period of
> time.
> I like the idea, Mike; does this thinking jibe with what you had in
> mind?

It does.  I think for the volunteers to actually feel valuable in a team
like this they need to be given tasks they can complete on their own but
also challenges them to apply new skills.  You can't do that by dumping
some large task on them.  To judge such things communication is just as
essential as planning the parts that make up the whole task.  I suspect,
though, that there will also be lots of tiny tasks to do.


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