Who Knew Change Requires Teamwork? A Lesson Learned

In 2007, the use of an online calendar to keep organized made most go “HUH?! – I have a print calendar and agenda right here. It is with me all the time. Why would you make me change the way I do things?”

The answer arrives with one word: collaboration.

Mikelle Learned’s Fantastic Roommate Team, fearlessly led by Mother Hen Katherine Carol (Mik’s mom), started out small. In fact, it started out with Mother Hen and one helper. The two tag-teamed to cover Mikelle’s “shifts” to make sure that someone covered daily wake-up, shower, bathroom, food, bedtime. Oh yes, and lots of fun play time in-between. The schedule was kept on a paper calendar in the living room of Mikelle’s condo.

Why I Saw An Issue

However, what happens when the Fantastic Roommate Team turns in to 4 or 5 people? How do you communicate when one wants to travel for a weekend, and another wants to come home late and swap shifts? Mikelle needs to know. Mother Hen needs to know. All of the other Roommate Team members have to know! Otherwise, how do you know if Mik has had dinner? Or if someone else is arriving home before 2am to help her pick out fabulous pajamas and go through the evening giggle-fest we call bedtime?

There was a need for collaboration to communicate efficiently with everyone on the team. Everyone who knows me (and as they read this, they are probably rolling their eyes), efficiency and technology are two of my very favorite words. So, here I go, rolling out a solution at warp speed, thinking I was coming to the rescue!

What I Did About It

gcalmikelleWe moved Mik’s giant paper calendar online with a shared Google Calendar. The shared Google Calendar presented all sorts of fun-filled challenges:

2007 was pre-smartphone era. There may have been a few clunky old Blackberry’s floating around, but none of our Fantastic Roommate Team owned one. So, there was no “Google Calendar sync” to your smartphone. Do you even remember an organized life before calendar alerts?

Some of the roommates did not have reliable computers at the time. No personal computer (which today, 6 years later, we say WHAAA…?) usually means the team member was also not overly tech savvy. So now we add training to the to-do list.

Through this process, I got Mother Hen on board – she was very excited to be able to check on her daughter’s schedule from anywhere in the country (or much less, anywhere in Denver). I was super excited, since my version of “fun” is orchestrating new technology in everyday life… which I bet you figured out by now.

How I Went About It.. Totally the Wrong Way

Still reading? Well, if so, have you noticed a glaringly obvious step in my process missing?

Asking Mikelle. Oops.

My girlfriend, my roommate, my team ring leader, was not consulted. Oh, I showed it to her… after I had already tried to shove the new process down everyone else’s throats.

As I ran in to hurdle after hurdle trying to change a process in a family I was still trying to acclimate myself in, Mikelle was the one who introduced the term “compromise” to my change-happy personality. For me, adjusting to new technology is as fun as eating chocolate brownies – and in my narrow-minded blockhead, I could not imagine that ANYONE would dislike chocolate brownies.

Fortunately for me, my beautiful roommate was used to me – she read me like a book from day 1 – and she got the point across that it was her schedule, not mine. Eventually, I got Mikelle to forgive me (frappuccinos are a GREAT tool for apologies) for not consulting her and taught her to use the calendar, getting her buy-in and support that it was a better way to keep her schedule on track as a team.

to Mikelle, I’m flipping her livelihood upside down

Once Mikelle and I talked through the idea together, we decided (again, think “compromise!”) to duplicate the calendar so that it was still easy for Mik to see on paper. See, Mikelle was afraid her computer would die (which it did, regularly) with nobody around to help her get it charged, leaving her completely out of touch with her own schedule. A legitimate fear, I had to admit… she is such a smart, independent woman. You see, for me this is a matter of convenience and efficiency; to Mikelle, I’m flipping her livelihood upside down. When she gets to eat, pee, get dressed, and go for coffee (obviously the most important) all depend on this calendar, and I just decided I’d go change it around without asking. Not cool.

Ok, beautiful, thanks for teaching me that one.

What I Learned… that Has Nothing to Do With Calendars

Duplicating the calendar turned out to be a solution that went on during the period of adjustment converting the calendar to real-time. A few times when the paper calendar would mysteriously disappear, or get spilled on, the online calendar came to the rescue, gaining a larger Fantastic Roommate Team fan base every time. The popularity of smartphones with integrated, easy to setup calendar sync furthered the online calendar support even more.

Today, everyone understands Google Calendar, and Mik’s schedule is religiously updated on it from at least 25 different devices daily – tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops, Mikelle herself on her touchscreen device. Eventually my idea took hold, and it worked! The valuable lesson I learned from Mikelle was that in Mik’s house, things change on Mik’s schedule, which might just run at a very slightly (only a few years or so) different pace than mine.

I carry this with me to both the workplace and my personal life today, remembering that “my way or the highway” is not the way, and that what I view as the most efficient solution may not be the best one in the moment for everyone. In fact, they may not use it anymore… but don’t worry team, if you ever need me to set it up again, I promise I’ll ask first…

What life lessons have you learned from time with Mikelle or someone inspiring like her? Leave those for us in the comments.

If you would like to see how Mikelle’s calendar worked to communicate with everyone, let me know in the comments.