Team Building the Starfleet Way

Earlier this week I took a three-day class focusing on project management targeted at those of who aren’t capital-P capital-M project managers, but who do have a significant amount of, well, projects to manage in the course of our jobs. It was an interesting course, and my fellow students came from all kinds of backgrounds: IT, construction, grant writing, accounting, and one bicycle rights activist.

Of course, one of the critical pieces of any project is going to be forming the right team and helping them work well together. We discussed a handful of strategies for this. Among the more interesting suggestions was the use of a, and I am not making this up, “zombie escape scenario”.  This is where you and your team are locked in a room with an actor pretending to be undead, a handful of tools and instructions at your disposal, and a whole lot of stage craft. The goal is to figure out how to get out of the room before the zombie gets off its chain and you get eaten alive. Metaphorically, I’m assuming.

I know.

But it got me thinking. I love me a good team building exercise and, not coincidentally, I love me some Star Trek. (Of any variety. Yes, even Enterprise.) One of the reasons I love Trek so much is that it generally focuses on a team of smart, capable people coming together to solve the problem at hand, whether it’s malfunctioning Cardassian replicators or the explosion of the Klingon moon Praxxis.

All this to say, I have a killer idea for a stagecraft-heavy team building exercise that will blow today’s zombie fad out of the water. We’ll need three rooms: one set up like the bridge of a starship, one set up like that ship’s engineering section, and one set up like an alien planet. Everyone on your team will get in to their space clothes and pick a role: captain, first officer, science officer, engineer, tactical, etc. You’ll then be given a scenario that you’ll need to pilot your ship through, occasionally working to stop a warp core breach or taking a trip down to a planet. All of the aliens encountered, whether in person or over the main screen on the bridge will be actors whose job it will be to play the adversary but also to help your team progress along the task. Needless to say, there will be a high amount of lighting effects and computer graphics.

At the end of the day, you will have a complete, highly functional team and I will be as close as I’m ever going to come to having a fully functional starship.

That’s a win/win in my book.

Remembering Which Way is Up

When I was a kid we went to the beach every summer and, naturally, I spent a lot of time in the ocean. I’ve never technically been that good a swimmer, but I did over time get very good at messin’ around in the waves – dodging, jumping, going under, and otherwise having a blast at old Poseidon’s expense.

One day, probably after a storm, I was faced with what is still to this day the largest wave I’ve ever seen that didn’t involve George Clooney or mediocre sci-fi movies starring Matthew McConaughey. The thing was huge and I happened to be too far away to dive under it and too close to it to run away. I was, however, perfectly placed for the wave to break directly on top of me. I had just enough time to inhale and then I was tossed about, pounded in to the sand, thrown in the air, lather, rinse, repeat.

I think there were a few moments in there where I legitimately thought that I had met my end, that I wouldn’t be able to orient myself enough to find the surface. I didn’t know which way was up, so I did the only thing I could do.

I waited.

And, eventually, the waters calmed. Light from above reasserted itself. I remembered which way was up. I swam. I broke the surface. I opened my eyes and took a breath.

Which is, a little bit, how the last three years have felt.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that things are dramatically different from the last time I posted. Back then I was in a different job and was not a father. Now I’m in a new job and, well, let’s just say I know way more about Thomas the Tank Engine than I ever thought I would. Being a father (and being the husband to a mother) is one of the true joys of my life. I love it.

But… it’s also very hard. And sometimes exhausting. Ok, often exhausting. For the last two and a half years, I’ve had my head down – learning how to be a dad, re-learning how to be a partner, moving from one urgency to the next, making food, drying tears, always always doing that next thing that is need to move him out the door or get him ready for the day or ready for bed or…   Well, you get the idea. Somewhere in there (and I don’t mean this as dramatically as it will come out) I think I lost myself a little bit. Lost those intangibles that I need to make my soul put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

Writing is one of those things. This blog is one of those things.

But now, I think, I’m finally at a place where I can return some focus to the things I need for fulfillment. I’m not saying I have this whole “raising a kid” thing figured out, far from it. What I am saying is that it feels like the waters are calming. That I can finally see which way is up.

Ad it’s time to break the surface, open my eyes, and take a breath.