A Game Plan for 2009
Thomas M. Cagley Jr

2009 will be the anniversary of nearly everything except for the new history you write during the year. The New Year will be a time for introspection and celebration followed by action.  The first two activities are an important framework for any new endeavor or project.  Introspection allows us reflect on goals and make realistic plans to attain those goals.  Begin 2009 by celebrating, recognizing that the future will primarily be built upon past events great and small.  Embracing history does not mean we are wedded to the past. The combination of economic turmoil and the juxtaposition of the calendar provides us with a natural pattern break where the benefit of trying something new is higher (easier to stand out) than doing nothing. When the tides of change converge we are presented with the potential of living in extraordinary times, times where pursing the discontinuous (not built directly on the past) makes us more marketable or at the very least makes the future more exciting than the past.

Celebration serves the purpose of raising our spirits and helps us focus on the positive.  A positive outlook improves motivation, attitude and outlook all of which are important to beginning anything new.  Anyone that watches the news for more than 5 minutes a day needs to actively seek a positive to balance the drag the news around you can create.

I would like to recommend a couple of New Years resolutions to get you started on the right foot (or the left depending).  The first builds on Pat Ferdinandi’s recommendation in SPaMCAST 48 to write.  Writing is just one tool for getting involved in your professional community.  Constructive involvement injects energy into your professional life and into the community that you are involved with.  Join a SPIN (Software Process Improvement Network[i]) or a like associate; start a blog or comment on one: start a thread on a bulletin board or post to one: submit a presentation for a conference and give it to your colleagues at work.  As a tool to measure your progress, Google yourself and begin a campaign to refine the words everyone sees by adding to your pedigree while providing service to your professional community.

Secondly, seek the answer to the question, “how do you address the future?”  Is the future a mystery, the solution unknowable until it happens to you?  Or rather is the future a puzzle that can actively be solved?  The differences in philosophy will determine your path in 2009 (and perhaps your life).  Suggestion number two is that for 2009 I would like you to begin to view the world is a puzzle rather than a mystery.  Personal philosophies are not changed overnight. A tactic to begin the change is to approach opportunities by investigating choices, searching for answers and participating in the solutions. Paraphrasing Stephen Covey “act or be acted upon.” Let 2009 be the year of the activist in you by getting involved in your professional community.

Two conversations this weekend reminded me why change is difficult.  It does not matter whether the change is software process improvement change or personal change.  In all cases change is difficult because habits trump process.  The inertia of our day to day professional lives makes it difficult to gather and apply the leverage needed to create change.  A pattern break is required to focus the effort and will.  The confluence of the economic turmoil and the New Years can be the pattern break that is required to help you achieve change in 2009.

When times are tough you can hunker down and hope you will survive.  Alternately you can embrace change.  Set goals, embrace both the past and the future; if you don’t like what the future portends, redefine yourself.  2009 will be anniversary of nearly everything except for history you are going to write, take control of the story that is about to unfold.