Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Herding Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star

This blog post is the fifth in my continuing “Herding Cats” series (see also Herding Cats: The Art of “Managing” Knowledge Workers, Herding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist Bastard, Herding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social Butterfly, and Herding Cats 4: The "Wally" & The Prima Donna) (see also Herding Cats 6) that addresses some management challenges in the form of specific knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, and approaches that may be helpful in “managing” them. Since not all personality types create problems, this blog post addresses three very positive types.  Clearly, every knowledge worker is an individual, with characteristics that are unique. The personality types that are described here are purposely more extreme than will normally be the case, and will emphasize one specific set of characteristics, whereas most people have a variety of personality characteristics. Every situation is unique, and should be treated in a unique fashion. Further, every manager has his or her own approach, and what I describe is just one person’s view, mine.


The Solid Citizen:
The Challenge: The Solid Citizen is not a flashy person, and will not likely set the world on fire, but he/she is someone you’d like to have on your side when you’ve got work to get done. The Solid Citizen does the work consistently and ably, and has solid skills that he/she employs in a dependable and trustworthy fashion. The Solid Citizen is generally content with his/her role in the organization, usually as a solid individual contributor, not looking to take on management or administrative responsibilities. He/she works well with others in a collaborative approach. When you give an assignment to a Solid Citizen, you have high confidence that it will be done on time, with high quality, and with little fuss. The Solid Citizen is the foot soldier that is essential to a successful organization; not everyone can or wants to be a superstar.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Herding Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima Donna

This blog post is the fourth in my continuing “Herding Cats” series (see also Herding Cats: The Art of “Managing” Knowledge Workers, Herding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist Bastard, and Herding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social Butterfly) (see also Herding Cats 5 and Herding Cats 6) that addresses some management challenges in the form of specific knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, and approaches that may be helpful in “managing” them. Clearly, every knowledge worker is an individual, with characteristics that are unique. The personality types that are described here are purposely more extreme than will normally be the case, and will emphasize one specific set of characteristics, whereas most people have a variety of personality characteristics. Every situation is unique, and should be treated in a unique fashion. Further, every manager has his or her own approach, and what I describe is just one person’s view, mine.


The “Wally”:
The Challenge:  “Wally” is a character from the Dilbert® comic strip by Scott Adams. Many (most?) companies have a “Wally” (who can be a he or a she, but I will refer to “Wally” here as a he). “Wally” makes every effort (in fact he works very hard at it) to do as little as is humanly possible while trying to disguise the fact that he’s not doing anything useful. He’s full of meaningless buzzwords that he can string together into impressive sounding, but actually meaningless phrases that can mislead a less-than-savvy manager (think “Pointy-Haired Boss”) into thinking that "Wally" knows what he’s doing and is doing “good work”. “Wally” often does this at meetings, wasting significant time, but contributing nothing.  He wanders around the workplace, coffee cup in hand, striking up meaningless conversations with others, and distracts them from doing their work. For “Wally”, no job is hard for he who doesn’t have to do it (see No Job Is Hard for the Person Who Doesn't Have to Do It!), so he’ll often suggest “improvements” and “changes” for others to do that make “Wally” look good and involved, but that make the jobs of those who will actually have to implement these “improvements” and “changes” all that much harder. “Wally” will then stand around and critique the work of others, often suggesting yet more “improvements” and “changes”“Wally” is a drain on the entire organization, and requires others to both pick up the slack work that "Wally" is not doing, and to do the extra work that he has forced on others with his suggested “improvements” and “changes”.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Herding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social Butterfly

This blog post is the third in my continuing “Herding Cats” series (see also Herding Cats: The Art of “Managing” Knowledge Workers and Herding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist Bastard) (see also Herding Cats 4, Herding Cats 5, and Herding Cats 6) that addresses some management challenges in the form of specific knowledge worker (see Knowledge Is Power!) personality types, and approaches that may be helpful in “managing” them.  Clearly, every knowledge worker is an individual, with characteristics that are unique.  The personality types that are described here are purposely more extreme than will normally be the case, and will emphasize one specific set of characteristics, whereas most people have a variety of personality characteristics.  Every situation is unique, and should be treated in a unique fashion.  Further, every manager has his or her own approach, and what I describe is just one person’s view, mine.


The Boss Wannabe: 
The Challenge:  While he/she does not have the responsibility or the authority, the Boss Wannabe tries to tell everyone else what to do, and what is wrong or right about what they are doing.  He/she may act this way out of noble motives of trying to help the team by providing motivation or showing leadership that may be otherwise lacking and is needed.  He/she may be taking on a natural leadership position that has been earned by demonstrating superior knowledge, judgment, and expertise.  Or, he/she may be on a power trip that makes him/her feel superior and more powerful than peers and coworkers.  In any case, without the blessings and specific authorization of the manager, this can foster resentment and frustration; the Boss Wannabe can make others feel that they now have to answer to two bosses, their real boss and a pretend boss.  In the long run, this usually won’t work well (unless the real boss is so dysfunctional that people are starved for leadership and welcome the leadership of a pretend boss).



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Management Interruptus

There’s an old saying I remember seeing on a poster in one of my managers offices a long time ago that said, “Management is a series of interruptions interrupted by interruptions”. Unfortunately, this has always been a particularly apt saying. While it doesn’t apply just to management, it seems to be a significantly more serious problem with managers of every level. You can plan your work as best as possible, but interruptions will always come unexpectedly, messing up your well-laid plans, and unfortunately, the work of others both below and above you on the organization chart.


Let’s take the opportunity to explore what interruptions can mean to you, to those below you, and to those above you. 
  • Interruptions may force you to stop what you were concentrating on and pay attention to something else. This hurts especially if what you were concentrating on is challenging work that needs careful attention, particularly if you were in a groove in tackling this challenging effort and now have to stop that work, sometimes for a significant time, switch gears and your mind set to try to wrap your head around something entirely different. Depending on the interruption, you may find it difficult to get back into the groove you were previously in, thus significantly lengthening the challenging work you were doing before the interruption.
  • Interruptions may force you to take your eye off the activities of those below you (e.g. members of your group that need your attention and guidance). Since they are the people actually carrying out the detailed work of your group, these interruptions can derail important work and schedules, preventing them from moving forward without your concurrence.
  • Interruptions may force you to turn your attention away from critical assignments you’ve agreed to take responsibility for from your boss or boss’ boss. They are depending on you to deliver on your commitments so they can deliver on theirs’.