Leadership Lessons For The Office And The Trail - Scott Trager, PMP

Leadership Lessons For The Office And The Trail – Scott Trager, PMP

Guest blog by Scott Trager, PMP

Sometimes we need to go fast,

sometimes we need to go slow.

At times we need to back up so we can

just keep moving forward.

At Bloomberg, I had the privilege to work with exceptional technology teams, automating global government data releases into news headlines and story fills.

One could say our charter was to move “As Fast as Possible, As Slow as Necessary.” Our service level agreement was to push market moving information to 450,000 Bloomberg Terminal subscribers faster than the blink of an eye. The “Fast as Possible” is evident – our clients need this information quickly in order to meet their objectives. The “Slow as Necessary” comes into play as we had to introduce safety checks to insure accuracy of the content. Our data was consumed by both humans and algorithmic trading systems that would execute large block trades; incorrect information could lead to significant money losses for our clients and impact the firm’s global reputation. With a large backlog of projects, the terrain required a fast pace but demanded precise accuracy. As my boss reminded me often enough, if we mess up just a few times we could lose that business sector and be out of a job.

Before an automation was permitted to release a headline and data to a live news wire and feed, it needed to be fully tested. Data which governments released weekly were quick to test, but monthly, quarterly or semi-annual information could require longer waiting periods to test with live releases. There were times when an automation looked great at first, only to fail consistently after the first test. When we were stuck and couldn’t figure out how to move the project forward, we would bring in other groups to brainstorm with us and gain a fresh perspective. Sometimes the fix required abandoning most or all of the current system build in favor of a different design (“back to the drawing board”). This would be extremely time consuming and costly as resources had to be allocated (again) to work on the project. If the Return on Investment (ROI) wasn’t worth it, work stopped completely, and the project was deemed a failure. When the ROI was worth it, we were tenacious and committed to understanding and addressing the root cause of the problem. Sometimes a slightly different approach would work. Sometimes we had to start over with a totally different design and move backward in order to move forward.

At Northeast Off-Road Adventures, I work with a very talented staff producing adventure themed events and educating people about recreational off-road driving.

When driving over rock or through woodland terrain, we instruct our students to drive “As Slow as Possible, As Fast as Necessary”. We teach “people preservation” and “vehicle preservation”. Driving a 4,000 lb. vehicle through tight woodland trails, over rocks, up and down steep slopes for a day of recreating is fun and full of adventure. The “Slow as Possible” is evident here as too much speed can potentially result in vehicle damage and bodily injury. That said, there are times when we need controlled momentum to carry us over some obstacles (“As Fast as Necessary”), otherwise we simply may not get past them and end up stuck.

We make it a point to get our inexperienced driving students stuck shortly after they start driving. Soon after entering our obstacle course their tires encounter large rocks which stops their vehicle from moving forward. They learn that sometimes all that is needed is to back up and take a slightly different approach to the obstacle. That new approach may be enough to provide the needed traction to get past it and keep moving forward. When a fresh approach doesn’t work, they are instructed to ask for help from our guides and work together as a team to get past the obstacle. We also teach that sometimes we may need to back up and find another path. Viewing the trail map at those times, it seems we are going in the wrong direction, away from our goals. Zooming out to look at the bigger view, however, allows us to see the detour has helped us continue to move forward. In work, school, relationships and life – getting “stuck” happens. We need to try a different approach, find another path or ask for help. If it is important to us, we need to figure out how to keep moving forward.

Scott Trager, MS, PMP, is an engineer and project manager. He has designed and built high-tech solutions for critical real-time systems for 30+ years. Scott has led global teams while reporting to various levels of management including C-Suite. From government defense to Wall St., Scott has worked at major companies in simulations, portfolio management, trading systems, media and news. He has mentored new corporate team leaders and taught project management at the college level.

Scott is founder and president of Northeast Off Road Adventures (NORA), an adventure school, tour and events company. NORA is headquartered at Milestone Ellenville, a 75-acre private off-site venue available for small group off-sites and training in Ellenville, NY. Learn more at milestoneellenville.com