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Project: Driving Lessons*

* It's not as cool as Helen's Project Rocket-Riding Gerbil, but it's probably not as cool a project as Helen's anyhow. And it will most certainly not win me any luxury trips to Monaco with my loved one. And teaching the staff to drive is a very good euphemism for my project, so I'm using it.

Last year I was charged with teaching our entire department - some 30 people - how to drive.

I'm like your worst Drivers Ed teacher. Only with better shoes.

So, if you're going to create a team of drivers, the first thing you have to do is buy a car. And I spent a hell of a lot of time last year on the internet researching vehicles. I test drove lots of them - some by the Big Three, others by smaller independent manufacturers I'd never heard of. I ended up settling on a car from a small company out of California. Their car is made especially for people in my line of work, which was great. It had all the features we needed.

But jeez. Picking out the car was the easy part. All work required on Project Driving Lessons after that bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to my professional experience, knowledge or training.

First, I had to make a recommendation to my boss on why we should buy this particular car. And that had to include stuff about money and legalities and contracts that is typically handled by money or legal or contractual people. But you know, I was learning a lot and Big Daddy (who's done this kind of stuff a lot) answered questions for me, so I was totally all proud of myself and look how professional and successful I am breaking out into this new area of my career!

My boss agreed with my recommendation and my organization agreed to buy the car. I started working with the company to build the car exactly to our specifications. I ended up building A LOT of it myself (new job skill #2). AND I ended up REBUILDING a lot of it myself because hello? I had no fucking idea how to BUILD A CAR.

The car got partly built last year - mostly built, really, with a lot of ongoing modifications - when I was practically yanked off of Project Driving Lessons to work on a project that was actually expected to raise some money (as we are, afterall, a fund-raising organization). Project Driving Lessons gets put on the back burner; I get slammed on my performance review for not completing it on deadline.

The fund-raising project winds down and my boss informs me that I have exactly six months (until the end of the fiscal year) to get Project Driving Lessons back on track and get it implemented. Kalisah begins driving new car very, very fast and furiously.

Even though I'm the lead on this project, and it's my responsibility to make sure that the entire staff is successfully driving by July 1, the person who will eventually be responsible for the daily maintence and smooth-running traffic will be the Driving Lessons Coordinator. My boss is anxious for a knowledge transfer between me and the DL Coordinator. Kalisah secretly believes that boss is going to eliminate her once knowledge has been successfully transferred.

I create a test group made up of representatives of each of our work teams. I try to start teaching them about the car. They are completely clueless. I recommend to Boss that someone from the company come in to train our test group for a couple of days. He OKs the expense and I bring in Rick. Rick is completely unfocused and seems to be without any sort of training plan. He has no manual or step-by-step instructions. He's obviously the sales and marketing guy b/c he seems to always be trying to sell the car to us, even though we already bought it. He says, "And here's something that's really FUN..." a lot. Even though I DON'T CARE ABOUT FUN AND I JUST WANT THESE PEOPLE TO LEARN TO DRIVE. He costs our company $5,000 and everyone ends up more frustrated and confused than before he got here.

Boss threatens to cut his losses and pull the plug on the entire driving project. I argue that it's not that hard to drive and the test team could do it, I just know they could, if they would just GET IN THE FUCKING CAR AND DRIVE IT. (Anyway, we're contractually obligated. He can't "pull the plug" even though I secretly believe he wants to see me fail.) He wants to know why I haven't created any written instructions to teach them how to drive. I tell him that I figured these are college-educated people and that they would TAKE NOTES and write their own instructions. Wrong answer. What the hell do I know? I've never taught someone how to drive before. I call our company Manager of Teaching All Kinds of Stuff and ask her if she'll help me write a driving manual (new job skill #3).

The manual is just about completed. I've been feeding parts of it to the test group and they are finding that it is indeed rather easy to drive this car with these instructions. I'm a jackass for not bringing in our Manager of Teaching Things earlier in project. We schedule time in May for organized classes to teach the rest of the department how to drive.

As people begin to use the car a little bit, many more needed modifications become apparent. I spend hours on end making modifications to the car. Luckily, I had the foresight to purchase a car that I can access from home as well as at the office. Yay me. Can drink wine while working on the car at night.

So here we are, two months from turning the entire staff loose on the highway, with big tractor-trailers rocking the road and smartass teenage drivers flying around them at god-awful speeds and cops with radar guns hiding in the bushes. They are so not ready for this. I certainly have my work cut out for me.