Meeting Preparation for SQL Server Projects
You have been working with a new team with a manager who does not understand SQL Server databases. You tried your best to explain things, but they do not understand the infrastructure. They do not understand the client's requirements and cannot deliver what the client wants. And instead of helping you, they pass their work on to you.
What do you do when someone else, who should be helping, is not helping? And they place their work on you? How can you get better performance and support?
When you do not know what to do in these situations, then one key is prepare for next time. Make some notes on what is missing in terms of 'understanding'. Try not to pick faults with people. Focus on understanding. Do they know how a database works? Do they understand the SQL Server security model? Do they understand the load the application will place on the infrastructure? Do they understand about delivering iteratively and failing early? Do they know what technical debt is? Do they know what impact the short-cuts will have?
Don't try to fix things in the heat of the moment. Do some reflection and prepare for next time. As you discover the short fall in yourself or in the understanding of the other team, think about what training and instruction will help. You may need to prepare your explanations for next time. By this I mean do not try to deliver a two-hour training course in one sentence.
Here are some tips to help you through the problem.
Know your own environment
As the DBA you should have studied your environment. You should understand the design and resource availability within your environment. But remember that the other team may not understand that. You will need to be able to explain it simply. See my tip Lego tip 5560. Or use Visio or PowerPoint.
Start by being calm. Being clam means you are more likely to think of words that call the others to focus and work better. See tip 4497 by Erica Woods about communication.
What core values does your business have? Can those core values help you in this process? It may help to research and think about the goal of 'excellence' and 'customer focus'. Can your own manager help you? What have they suggested previously? Discuss your options with your manager.
Try to keep a 'solution focus'. That means if there is a bottleneck, then record what training is required to equip people in that area. Don't try to fix attitudes and skill gaps in one meeting when that team or person needs a few training sessions. Move from fault focus to solution focus. See tip 5534 by Erica Woods about dealing with conflict.
Reflect on completed projects still fresh in your mind and imagine what training would have helped to oil the wheels. How could those recent projects have been improved? What worked? What did not work? Who would be best to deliver that training? See tip 4347 by Erica Woods on maintaining a positive attitude.
Resources to help
Find resources. Ask experts to give training sessions or ask HR to call in people to give that training. Even 'lunch and learn' sessions can do something there. Ask your training department to help fill in the gaps. Ask for training sessions or books. Or use an online course system. There are plenty: OpenLearning, LinkedIn learning, Udemy, Udacity, edX, Lynda.com, Khan Academy, Coursera, Futurelearn.
What is available to you? Get some advice from within your business or prepare some statements to keep other people's tasks as their tasks. But put in some work showing your support for the other team.
- Can you review the monthly report on database growth I sent you before we discuss that?
- Can you ask your manager about that before you see me?
- You are better skilled than me to do that.
If you can't think up statements to do that then build a catch all sentence like this one: 'I sense we do not have the best solution yet. I will get back to you when I have a more efficient idea.'
That way you are not a road block yourself, but you are flagging the issue as requiring more attention. You can 'align' without 'agreement'. That means you can work on the project even while you know there is a better solution.
Know your skill set
Know your skill set and where your strengths and efficiencies are. Be able to describe your skill set. Try to get the team thinking about picking the right help. A DBA needs to be working calmly not in a hurry, scattered over many skill sets. The DBA is a gatekeeper and as soon as the business employing you has the work load to justify it, make sure you are not scattered across many skill sets. Focus on what you are best at. If that is being a DBA then ask for the other tasks to be given to others. See tip 2878 by Jeremy Kadlec on DBA qualities. Prepare some statements that explain what you do.
- My skill set is a Database Administrator.
- You will find a programmer can do that task quicker.
- A data analyst will be quicker at building that chart.
- Usually I try to be flexible, but I am going to be firm on this issue.
How to prepare
Think of some slides that you could use to deliver the missing concepts to the other manager and team members. Think about what skills are missing. How would you label each skill? Create a list. Then go through it with your manager. Here is an example list:
- How to determine customer requirements
- The advantages of iterative delivery
- The power of review
- Techniques for setting goals with staff and reviewing progress
- Key performance indicators of SQL Server
Create a slide deck or think through your list. Then, in a pressure situation, you are mentally prepared. You have a few good sentences.
When the meeting is not going well and the solution is not the best then prepare for next time. A good way to keep the pressure off.
- See tip 5560 on using Lego by Graham Okely to show system architecture
- See tip 3610 on how to grow your DBA Career by Jeffrey Yao
- See tip 2878 by Jeremy Kadlec on DBA qualities
- See tip 4497 by Erica Woods about communication
- See tip 4347 by Erica Woods on maintaining a positive attitude
Last Updated: 2018-11-21
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