Thursday, September 17, 2009

It feels like it got out of hand

I checked in with a colleague to see how he was and how his project was going.

He said he had completed his recommendation and submitted it. When he saw it in the next phase, it had substantially changed.

"How did you feel about that?" I asked.

"Well, by the end, it kinda got out of my hands anyway. I was more just interpreting instruction than making choices for the recommendation."

Turns out, it wasn't really his project anymore. He was still holding the document, but his "superiors" were calling the shots.

That's disappointing. That's a brain underutilized, to say the least.

When the project got into this dynamic, you can guess he was still spending a lot of time revising and editing the document. However, the rules changed in terms of what he did to make it better. Sure, he still found the document could be improved if he applied his knowledge and skill, but he actually did a subtle little calculation that dramatically changes the overall outcome. He first determined if he intrinsically cared enough about the project to go through the eye rolls, the patient deep breaths and the paternal voice that tells him why they're not doing it that way. Most of the time, you can guess that he determined it wasn't worth the discomfort.

If you're a manager, please understand that taking things out of people's hands isn't done by announcing that you're taking it out of their hands. I know you've got better sense than to take that drastic step. Taking things out of their hands happens when you amend their work without consultation or you cram your expectations for the product down their throat. I know you've got pressures and deadlines. What's the emergency that justifies ripping the individuality and creativity from your employees?

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