CXO

Counting and Recounting

Another week down.

I've barely managed to keep my head above the waves of meetings.

The team accomplished a fair number of important tasks; for the most

part they did it with only minimal direction from me. That's a good

thing, mostly, though I suspect my not knowing whether I would be in

the office on any given day didn't make things any easier.

I'm pondering

changing the way I plan things out, at least in the short term. As a

general rule I use sliding logistical windows, critical paths, and

the assumption that each individual can accomplish his goals within

the time frame he gives me. I communicate what seem like appropriate

details (success/failure, milestones achieved/missed, and change data

mostly) in a timely fashion. I do not always go into all of the

details of what piece is where, when, and why unless it seems

important.

Some environments

rely on role-based communications in which each role produces

communications output in a specific format for use by the next role.

Others rely entirely on individual rapport, built up over a number of

years, in which each person formats his communication and approach

not based on what he does but rather on his relationship with each

person. Most organizations work somewhere between the two extremes,

allowing you to build rapport with your peers and immediate superiors

and using role-based (formal) communications with others.

My planning

tactics pretty much rely on an organization sitting between the two

extremes. I'm open with everyone, about everything, but I do not

always fill in all the details. I'm used to the idea that an

executive wants decision-making information, a manager wants metric

information, and a leader wants to have a chat. I look forward to

interacting with my peers to build rapport across the organization

and to smoothing out confusion within the formal communications

structure via proper processing of procedural artifacts.

The further

towards one extreme or the other the organization falls, the less

effective my approaches become. When an organization's executives

hold meetings to decide the technical details of a project and make

their decisions along rapport lines rather than role-based

discussions, I have little to contribute. More importantly, what I

can contribute doesn't really resonate with the people making

decisions, since it doesn't fit into the world they created.

It also leaves me

a bit adrift. Frankly I like sliding logistical windows; I enjoy the

give and take of working with my peers to guide our teams towards the

solution to knotty technical problems. I get a thrill out of working

with a diverse team of people to create solutions meeting both a

company's strategic goals and the end users' various needs.

My current work,

though, tends more towards heroics and brute force than the kind of

high-speed chess matches I favor. People of all ranks go charging

up their hills, ignoring the huge amount of incredibly dull but

important work waiting for someone to pick it up. The environment

goes untuned because, frankly, tuning and spending months tweaking

small values for an isolated marginal gain (no matter that the

overall effect of several hundred such tweaks is huge) does not

interest them.

Now I'm getting

maudlin, I suppose. I've seen this all before. About half of the

organizations I've assisted tend towards the individual hero model.

Most even inculcate it in their processes, lauding or at least

rewarding those who create additional chaos just so they can prove

their worth. Personally I'd rather fade away into the background,

quietly making things better one tweak at a time. The chaos of my

current environment comes from too much of the former and far to

little of the later.

Sometimes I wonder

if people really understand just how much we make the world we live

in. I doubt it; imagining ourselves as the creators of our world

implies a responsibility both for how it works and for its future

people rarely want to take on.

But, once you see it, how can you turn away?

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