Years ago I fled my cubicle. The work that was in the cubicle was never enough for me. I wanted to work on the things that were about the work before it got to me or about the work after it left, be that Theory of Constraints for work queuing or manuals for standardizing processes. Apparently I was working upstream and downstream, and today Seth Godin has explained the benefits of that method in his aptly titled Upstream and Downstream post.
Most of the time, we think of our job as a set of tasks that take place in a —> [box] <—.
It turns out, though, that if we go upstream and alter the stuff that comes to us, it’s a lot easier to do great work. And if we go downstream and teach people how to work with what we created, the final product is better as well. Now, it’s more of a –> [ box ] <–.
No one is coming along to bump out the walls of your cubicle and put the exciting work into the box that is your job. If you’re waiting, stop!
Take control of you upstream. Ask for the assignments that you want that you know your boss has and may never give you, or pitch the task that you want to your boss and ask to lead it.
Take control of your downstream. If you create paperwork that someone else has to use, some document that you pass along to anyone, make it your rule to call them at least once a month (or better yet visit in person if you can) and ask them how well your work is serving their needs. Don’t give them an elaborate customer satisfaction form. Start a relationship so whenever they do have a problem they call you right away and whenever you’ve done something truly great for them, maybe they’ll call you too.
Create a bigger [ box ]. Why not try?